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Parrot Bebop: Here’s a drone with first-person video that costs less than $500

The Parrot Bebop drone flying around the UC Berkeley campus
The Parrot Bebop drone flying around the UC Berkeley campus

All my friends who know The Drone Girl exists: “Hey Sally, I’ve been seeing drones everywhere lately! I want to buy one! Which should I buy?”

Me (Drone Girl): “What’s your budget? Including camera?”

Friend: “Under $500.”

This is the dreaded question. And I get it way too often.

Well, it was a dreaded question, until I took the Parrot Bebop drone for a spin myself.

Taking the Bebop out for a test flight.

For $499, the Parrot Bebop  is an impossibly cute little drone that’s ready to fly out of the box. It has a surprisingly powerful 14-megapixel camera mounted in the drone’s nose that shoots 1080p video.

Batteries are uncomplicated and connect to the drone, tucked in with a velcro strap.

Batteries easily connect by way of Velcro strap and a machine that turns on and off with the tap of a power button, (rather than disconnecting the battery). Each battery lasts 11 minutes and you’ll receive two — for more than 20 minutes of flight time in one go.

It’s lightweight and quite small — ideal for packing along during a hiking trip to take that video flying up the side of a cliff or waterfall, or great for throwing in your car for the road trip to the beach.

The Bebop is highly durable — and predominantly foam (with optional foam bumpers), so the Bebop is (mostly) safe for the kids to use — and for you to not fear crashing.

The $499 version of the Bebop is controlled through an app made for your mobile device that functions similarly to a traditional RC transmitter.

The drone syncs with your mobile device through its own wifi.

But like all things in life, you get what you pay for with the Bebop.

It’s unfair to compare the Bebop (and its problems) with other drones like the Phantom or the Typhoon, because you’re paying less than half the price for the Bebop. And for someone coming from a history of flying more powerful drones, there are problems with the Bebop.

Not using the $900 package with Skycontroller? You’ll be using your mobile phone (like my friend Curtis, pictured here).

The $499 model doesn’t come with an RC transmitter, so you have to use the mobile app. With that, you risk losing battery on your phone, the signal cutting out, and not being able to Snapchat and/or Periscope your flight (kidding on the Snapchat one, sort of) since your phone is in use. The phone also doesn’t allow as precise a control as you would with a typical controller.

Your phone shows you the view from the Parrot's camera in a first-person-view.
Your phone shows you the view from the Parrot’s camera in a first-person-view.

If you want the Skycontroller, you’ll have to pay $900 for the whole bundle (while still using your phone as a way of viewing the live video feed). The controller is large and clunky, defeating the Bebop’s charm of being lightweight and affordable.

The RC transmitter is quite large, like holding a laptop. There is a strap to hold the transmitter (not pictured).

The Parrot drone doesn’t seem to have any apparent, broad practical applications that make it worth the time for someone looking to use their drone commercially.

But for someone looking for a hobby drone and who doesn’t want to drop $1,000+ on a flying camera to tote around just for family vacations, the Parrot Bebop is a no-brainer. It’s pleasant to fly. It’s light, small and sold at a low price.

Parrot is a unique company with an interesting backstory. Five years ago, they were the first to introduce a “real, ready-to-fly” drone to the consumer market with its $299 AR.Drone. Some say the French drone maker has been eclipsed by behemoth DJI, maker of the “Phantom” drone which is now used for search and rescue missions, crop monitoring, advertising and more.

Parrot's MiniDrone  was announced in June.
Parrot’s MiniDrone was announced in June.

But Parrot has found a niche — low-cost drones that are clearly toys. In June, the company even announced a lineup of $100 mini-drones for users who enjoy flying but aren’t interested in the 1080p video. Unlike its competitors, which often state that their products are not intended for people under the age of 18 or for use indoors, Parrot admits they’re creating a drone that is intended to be a toy — and market to families, hobbyists and even kids.

And a fine toy  the Bebop is. If you want to get into drones as a hobby and want to spend less than $500, the Bebop is the one for you. Buy the $499 Parrot, skip the Skycontroller (and stick to your mobile device to control it) and happy flying!07

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Sony’s drones will have a different mission

MW-DQ618_sony_d_20150722165551_ZH-1This excerpt comes from an article originally written by Sally French for MarketWatch.com. Read the full story here.

Sony is the latest company to get into drones, but not in the way that you would expect.

The company likely won’t use drones to film its upcoming emoji movie, and they probably won’t go the route of GoPro in introducing a quadcopter drone.

Instead, Sony’s drones will look for data.

Sony Mobile Communications Inc. SNE, -0.25% announced Wednesday it is collaborating with Japanese robotics firm ZMP Inc. to develop and launch autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles for image capture combined with cloud-based data processing. The two companies are jointly founding and owning Aerosense Inc., which will use data from drones for measuring, surveying, observing and inspecting.

That means a farmer may use Aerosense to monitor discoloration in her crops, or an insurance company could use drones to inspect a building.

“Sony Mobile is proactively engaging in new business creation initiatives, with a particular focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) sector,” according to a Sony news release. “This joint venture represents a part of this push into IoT, as Sony strives to provide its customers with additional value by developing and managing total package cloud solutions.”

A Sony spokesman told The Wall Street Journal it would sell services using drones, but not the drones themselves.

“Aerosense devices will be equipped with Sony image sensors, a core product for the company used in Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Samsung Electronic Co.’s Galaxy,” the Journal reported.

For all the fear surrounding drones mounted with guns or skepticism about whether Amazon’s delivery drones would really work, it seems that using drones for data may be the future.

“If drones are going to change our society in the very near future, it won’t be because we got our Kleenex delivered from the air instead of by truck,” New American field analyst Faine Greenwood wrote in an article on Slate. “It will be because they democratized access to information.”

Read the rest of this article on MarketWatch.com.

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Meet Abby Speicher, CEO of DARTdrones

Women make up just 14.6% of executive officers nationwide. In Silicon Valley, women account for just 9% of executive positions in information technology, according to American Progress. But here’s one young woman who is not only a CEO, but making huge strides in drone education. Meet Abby Speicher, CEO of DARTdrones.

CEO Abby Speicher, Photo courtesy of DARTdrones

Drone Girl: So from what I know about you, you seem to be a serial entrepreneur.

Abby Speicher: My family is very entrepreneurial; my dad is an entrepreneurship professor. I ended up starting a social enterprise where we made purses in Ghana; I started that when I was 17 and worked on it through college, where I realized that I loved running a company and learned how to pitch a product.

DG: Where do you go to school?

AS: I went to Babson College’s MBA in Entrepreneurship program.

DG: So what changed there?

AS: I was desperately looking for a new type of company to start. That’s when I met my cofounder (Chris Costello), who was at the Army National Guard for 30 years. He was in charge of missions using Raven drones. That’s when the two of us entered a business competition together.

DG: What were you pitching?

AS: We were pitching a general drone services company. At first we thought we would do all types of services involving drones — selling, repairs. We had a plan, but we didn’t have a business.

DG: So what happened?

AS: Well, I had never actually flown a drone until the pitch competition. I ordered a Phantom and I flew it in front of the judges; it was my second time ever flying it. It got out of control and went over the judges. Papers were flying everywhere. My dad was in the audience and tried to catch it. It was terrible. It almost crashed.

DG: Oh dear.

AS: But that’s the point I realized I needed a training course. And so we decided, ‘alright, let’s just make a drone training school.’ Today, we have a Section 333 exemption, 5 pilots on staff and 6 additional employees.

DG: So how long have you been in business?

AS: It feels like it was 10 years ago, but it was only a year and a half ago.

DG: What are you primarily teaching?

AS: We offer Phantom 3 and Inspire classes. DJI has a huge part of the market, and it seems like everyone is flying one. We’re eventually going to add a class for 3DR and GoPro’s drone, when that comes out.

DG: What does a class look like?

DARTdrones cofounder Chris Costello (left) teaches a student how to fly a DJI Phantom. Photo courtesy DARTdrones

AS: We offer a 1-day class right now — that’s basic training. We have a maximum of 8 people in each class, plus one of our flight captains, who all have a private pilot’s license and are a certified flight instructor for manned airplanes. It’s a mix of indoor classroom study and then getting a chance to fly outside.

DG: What was the biggest challenge in launching your own business?

AS: There’s a lot that goes into it. The business side took a lot more than I expected.

DG: How so?

AS: Each of our drones is insured as an airplane. And it’s pretty expensive to hire instructors who have a private pilot’s license. And then it’s just challenging to keep up with the industry. We built our whole set of slides on the Phantom 2 to perfection — almost 200 slides — and then the Phantom 3 came out the next day. Part of our team is focused solely on what’s changing in the industry. The answers continue to change on a daily basis.

DG: Training is a huge industry, it seems.

AS: Yeah, it’s important to make sure one idiot doesn’t ruin  it for everybody. It’s all user error. The drone is not crashing at the White House. The person is crashing the drone at the White House, and that person should have taken a class. With all the press that that got, the positive uses of drones don’t get any press. That bothers me a lot — I’m sure it bothers you too.

DG: What type of people take your classes?

AS: We’re finding a lot of hobbyists who fly but take our classes because they just want to learn how to be safe. There are older, retired gentleman who are looking for a new hobby to bond with their grandchildren. Then there is a huge portion of people really seeing the commercial use for them and are applying for 333 Exemptions in real estate, photography and construction. But so far we’ve only had three female pilots come through — and two of them were in the class today.

DG: Wow, just 3 women? How many students total have you taught?

AS: About 200.

DG: So why so few women?

AS: Well, the first time I flew, I had such a fear of it. It’s so public. People see you if you crash it into a tree. After my crash, I was so cautious and learned every single thing that could possibly happen.

Part of the reason that women are nervous is we want to do things right. The women in our class are really good. They’re thoughtful about it and they want to know every possible thing that would go wrong. But often the best pictures come from women because they are so thoughtful about making every shot.

DG: What’s it like being a female CEO in the tech industry?

AS:  I’ve gotten High Fives. I spoke at a conference earlier this month, and though I’m usually not a good public speaker, so many people came up to me asking me to talk to their daughter because they say we need to get more women in engineering. People are proud to hear I’m a  CEO. There’s no reason why a woman can’t be a CEO.

DG:  What advice to you have for other leaders in drones?

AS:  At business school they talk about having the wind at your back, having the industry going the right way for you. Otherwise you’re just pushing a ball up a hill. There are a hundred million purse businesses. But the drone industry is taking off and there aren’t enough compaies to meet the demand.

DG: So you would say there is room for more drone business?

AS: Everyone seems to have success and people are hardly competing against each other. Someone was literally giving away his business because he could not take the demand for it. Everyone is excited about the industry and cheering each other on.

Here’s a treat for Drone Girl readers. Sign up for a class using coupon code DRNGRL10 to get 10% off your next DARTdrones class.




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Christmas in July: a guide to this summer’s newest drones for sale

Most of the major players debut their new drones around CES (think  DJI’s Inspire, the Nixie wearable drone and the Hubsan X4 with parachute).

But even with conference season at a lull, a few new drones have hit the market this summer.

Here’s a look at this summer’s new drones:

Typhoon Q500 4K
Typhoon Q500 4K

Typhoon Q500 4K

The new model is an improvement on the Typhoon Q500, boasting a 4K camera and introduces a unique feature know as ‘Steady Grip’ that turns the Typhoon into an “Air and Ground Imaging Solution.”

The drone, made by Yuneec International, has smart features including:

  • 3 Axis Gimbal Camera
  • Geo-fencing
  • Speed Control
  • Follow Me and Watch Me 

Cost: $1,299

Flytrex Sky
Flytrex Sky

Flytrex Sky

Flytrex released what it dubbed “the industry’s first personal delivery drone.”

Ready to fly out of the box, (though you’ll want your own GoPro), this drone is unique for its “loading bay” which allows for small packages to be mounted to the drone.

The drone relies heavily on the Skytrex Pilot app, which supports manual and auto pilot features, auto-takeoff and landing, return to home and more features that makes flying fun and simple.

Cost: $749

Who needs Amazon Delivery when you can have your own delivery drone?


Parrot MiniDrones

Parrot’s lineup of drones is one you can actually afford. Parrot’s new MiniDrone line conquers air, water and land with rover, aquatic and aerial drones.

The Hydrofoil ($179) is perhaps the most unique in Parrot’s new lineup. It does everything the Airborne drone does, but it also comes with a hydrofoil, allowing it to skim across the water. It is the first water-oriented drone in the consumer market, according to Parrot.

Cost: $99-189

Are you purchasing a drone this summer? Which one do you have your eye on?

Related posts:

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SkyPixel’s Perspectives Gallery — a must see for Bay Area dronies

Anders A Bildreportage AB, SkyPixel
Anders A Bildreportage AB, SkyPixel

SkyPixel’s Perspectives Gallery is a must-see for anyone who has ever taken a picture with a drone (or wants to).

SkyPixel (an offshoot of leading drone maker DJI that serves as a photo-sharing community with an emphasis on DJI products), is currently touring worldwide with a gallery featuring members’ photos, called Perspectives.

San Francisco’s gallery opened Friday night and will run through July 19.

The gallery is situated in a magnificent little space, tucked into a corner street just between San Francisco’s Financial District and North Beach gallery in a lofted boutique.

About three dozen photos are printed on canvas — resembling fine art rather than the Instagram shots from GoPros that most consumers of drone photography are used to seeing. Printed on Epson Signature Worthy Exhibition Canvas Natural Gloss media, the photos have an exhibition quality that makes it hard to believe they were shot on a drone — a fact that would be believable except for the obvious clue that all these photos are aerial shots.

Finely curated from some of the world’s top drone photographers including Stacy Garlington, Smithsonian featured photographer Laurie Rubin, DJI’s Director of Education Romeo Durscher and Jeff Cable, the images set a new standard for what drone art really means.

It’s no longer enough to post an aerial shot that gets 100 likes on Facebook simply because it’s an angle people have never seen before. Perspectives has set the bar much higher.

Garlington’s “Autumn in Illinois” shows the transition from fall to winter as colorful red and orange fall leaves sit on the ground, scattered around a tree. But the leaves are just the background, framing the photos’ subject — the spindly branches of a maple tree, indicating that winter has arrived.


Chico Lima’s “Shadows in Copacabana” provides a new take on shadows as they turn larger than life in true profile form. From his aerial view, the shadows take the form of an undistorted human, while the humans themselves are mere decorations, disguised by the tops of their heads from an overhead view. The shadows tell the story — one woman holds a purse, another scratches his head, leaving the viewer to come up with the story left up to the imagination with only silhouettes as a clue.




The show is proof that aerial photography is a new genre of art. There is so much to be played with in the contouring of lines, in colors on the ground, in capturing life and emotion but from a distance.

All prints will be auctioned off throughout the week in a silent auction with proceeds to benefit Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay Area.

Not in San Francisco? The  show is touring in:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • New York
  • Hong Kong SAR
  • Beijing
  • Seoul
  • Singapore
  • Tokyo
  • Berlin
  • Barcelona
  • London
  • Paris
  • Milan

Visit SkyPixel for more information about the show.

Here's me (left) with Ellen Johnson at 'Perspectives.' Bid on some art! (Just not the one I bid on).
Here’s me (left) with Ellen Johnson at ‘Perspectives.’ Bid on some art! (Just not the one I bid on). Photo courtesy: Jeff Foster

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