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Drone Girl

The perfect drone for someone looking to spend $100

Most common question I get: “I want to buy a drone that comes with a camera. What do you recommend?”

Me: “What’s your budget?”

Them: “$100.”

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^^ That was me, until I tried out udiR/C’s Discovery WiFi U818A HD+ FPV Upgrade drone, from USA Toyz. For just $139.99 you get the drone controller, camera, live video and all the other accessories you need.

In other words, udiR/C’s Discovery drone is a great deal for anyone looking to capture some basic aerial video._MG_0335

First off, I was impressed with the packaging. It’s all quite compact and well organized. I immediately realized that besides AA batteries for the controller, there was nothing else I would need to provide myself.

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BYO batteries. Otherwise, this drone provides everything you need in one compact box!

udiR/C’s Drone was built with attention to detail, providing me with the following:

  • The drone itself
  • A 2.4Ghz Controller
  • 2 sets of 350mAh LiPo Batteries
  • A battery charger (it charges through USB)
  • A portable power bank to charge on the road
  • A Micro SD Card and reader
  • A spare set of propellers
  • Spare pieces like a screwdriver for the controller_MG_0337

From there, I downloaded the udiR/C app from the App Store so I cold get that first person view — allowing my smartphone to show me a live stream of what the drone’s camera is seeing._MG_0343

The controller operates just like any other drone, offering yaw, pitch, roll, altitude control, etc. The phone also allows you to save photos directly to your camera roll. Photos and videos are also saved on the drone’s MicroSD card. Though, a smartphone isn’t required.  The controller comes with a photo and video button to snap pictures and start and stop recording.

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The battery charges through any USB port, so after giving it some juice from my computer, it was time to fly! I also loved that it came with an extra battery for additional flying time.

_MG_0344The drone itself is durable and light. The propellers are guarded, which both protects against having to replace propellers after crashes and to protect walls from being scratched by novice pilots.  The drone itself weighs 5 ounces, which means it does not have to be registered with the FAA. It’s also incredibly sturdy — this drone could take a decent beating from a beginner operator and still fly as well as it did on its first flight._MG_0445It’s easy to set up — connecting via wifi to the smartphone app and getting up in the air within seconds.

Since the drone is so light, it is very susceptible to small movements and wind. It takes much more effort and precision piloting to get it to hover than what a more expensive craft like the Phantom 4 would do. That being said, the udiR/C drone is the perfect drone for learning how to pilot. If you can master this, you could master a Phantom 4 or Yuneec Typhoon immediately.

_MG_0639It’s incredible to me how within a few years of ready to fly drones being on the market, udiR/C has developed a drone that gives you a first person view of what the drone can see in a product that costs about $100.

That being said, the video quality is not amazing — but that’s to be expected for something priced that low. The tweet below shows what the video quality (unedited) looks like, and the unedited photo shows the quality.

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This is a photo generated from the udiR/C drone.

One of the things I loved most was how the photos ended up in my phone’s camera roll immediately. No more waiting to go home and sort through my memory card looking for a photo to upload to Instagram. It’s already there!

_MG_0514This drone was easy to fly and a fun way to get my friends interested in drones. It’s light enough to carry over and bring to a BBQ, and I feel comfortable letting anyone fly it. It’s a great party trick — and it actually shoots photos and videos too!

_MG_0345udiR/C’s copter is set apart though from other drones because of the attention to detail. I love that the designers opted to give bonus accessories like a portable battery charger, meaning I didn’t have to stress about running out of battery.

_MG_0477For someone interested in drones but not ready to commit more than a couple hundred dollars, this is a great introduction. It would make a fun gift for older kids or for someone who wants an aerial view of their life but isn’t ready to commit a lot of money to it. It’s lean, easy to use, and a great introduction to the world of drones.

If your budget is $100 and you want a drone with a camera on it, you won’t see any face palms from me anymore. Just get udiR/C’s drone!

 

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Flirtey’s delivery drone gets a spot at the Smithsonian

This is an excerpt of a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the full story here.

The Smithsonian Museum may be home to the Space Shuttle Discovery, Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird and the first aircraft operated by FedEx — but it’s about to get a new resident.

The drone that made the first FAA-approved delivery in the U.S. will get a spot at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The drone, made by drone delivery startup Flirtey, is known for delivering medication to a rural clinic in Virginia in July 2015.

“Flirtey’s delivery was the ‘Kitty Hawk moment’ for the drone industry and it is fitting that our delivery drone will now be part of the same institution that displays the Wright Flyer,” Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny said in a news release.

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Haunting drone footage shows a rare glimpse of Chernobyl today

A fire and explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant on April 26, 1986 led to the world’s worst nuclear accident.

30 years later, a drone has captured video of the nearby city of Pripyat and the nuclear facility, which are both still uninhabitable due to high radiation levels.

The video was shot by Philip Grossman of ExploringTheZone, a former architect who grew up about 11 miles from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, which had a partial meltdown in 1979. He was in third grade when the accident at that plant happened.

“It left an indelible mark on my interest in nuclear power and engineering in general,” Grossman wrote on his website. “With that experience always in the back of my head…and then I learned that my ancestors’ last stop in Europe before emigrating to America in the beginning of the 1900s was the Ukraine…it seemed like an obvious decision. I should document the Chernobyl Nuclear Zone.”

Grossman made six expeditions to the area in order to complete the project, and spent 100 days there total.

The drone shows a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, churches and homes. It also depicts the symbol of the former Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle, standing rusted atop an apartment block.

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DroneHangar’s ‘Lite’ case offers the most for your money

_MG_0393*Want to win this case? Scroll to the bottom of this article to learn how to enter!*

Don’t have a drone case yet? If you’re the kind of frugal dronie (like me) who is looking for the best quality case for the least amount of money, this is the one you need.

Custom Case Group relaunched its DroneHangar product line with a new set of drone cases called the DroneHangar Lite, a soft-sided, lightweight carrying case fitted with a water jet cut foam cushioning system customized for drones including the DJI Phantom ($109), DJI Inspire 1 ($136) or Yuneec Q500 ($129)._MG_0354

The cushion system is designed to fit the drone itself, RC transmitter and other various supplies you need along with the drone.

DroneHangar’s signature Pro case is a premium Pelican case customized for drones used in more rugged environments, such as on-location filming, disaster areas and military zones. But for a hobbyist or someone looking to have a less bulky, lighter means of transporting the drone, this is a much better solution.

I loved how the case closed without having to screw off the propellers, and had room to fit other accessories.

_MG_0348So how does it compare to other drone cases? Much more inexpensive while offering the same quality, which is a key to why I would recommend it.

I love LowePro’s drone case because it’s the smallest of the cases I’ve ever reviewed. Being a small person myself (I’m 4’10”), I appreciate not being dwarfed by a bulky drone case. It has backpack straps, so it’s easy to take on a hike or carry down the steps to the beach. (DroneHangar’s case offers a shoulder strap). But while I love the aesthetic of it, I’m not sure it’s worth paying more for. LowePro’s DroneGuard CS 400 currently retails for $149.95 — about $40 more than DroneHangar’s.

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Think Tank’s Backpack (left) and Drone Hangar’s Case (right)

I also love Think Tank Photo’s Phantom Airport Helipak. It’s a large backpack, about the same size as DroneHangar’s case. I do like the Think Tank Photo Helipak because each of the cell foam dividers are removable and customizable. If you decide to switch drones, you can simply rearrange the dividers to fit the size of your new drone. With DroneHangar, you would have to buy a new backpack if you were to transfer between Yuneec and DJI products. Though, I do think DroneHangar’s dividers are sturdier, and Think Tank requires you to remove propellers before zipping the case. Think Tank also scores bonus points for having backpack straps while providing lumbar support. Again, at $199.75, someone looking to save money would be better off with DroneHangar Lite._MG_0423

DroneHangar Lite is highly recommended. It’s budget friendly, incredibly sturdy yet lightweight, and fits Phantom and Yuneec drones perfectly without having to screw off the propellers. While in my ideal world it would have backpack straps and a way to reconfigure the layout of the drone inside, it’s not necessary. It’s the most inexpensive of the drone cases I’ve ever reviewed, yet it lacks nothing in its value.

Happy flying, or traveling!

*You can win this case!*

Simply ‘follow’ me on Twitter and RT the tweet below before 9 am ET on May 2 for a chance to win. One winner who RT’d the tweet will be chosen at random. You will be contacted via Twitter Direct message for shipping information. If you haven’t responded within 72 hours, a new winner will be contacted. Winners must follow @TheDroneGirl to be eligible to win.

 

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Kokam’s new drone battery stores more energy than a Tesla

This is an excerpt of a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

When it comes to a drone’s life, it’s all in the battery. Battery power dictates how much weight a drone can carry (and how big of an Amazon Prime delivery it can make), and how far it can go.

South Korean battery maker Kokam on Tuesday announced a battery for military, commercial and industrial drones, which has an energy density of 265 watt-hours per kilogram. The typical drone battery has an energy density between 150 and 200 Wh/kg.

For comparison, Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA, +0.41%   uses Panasonic cells with about 210 Wh/kg for its vehicles — which Kokam notes is 20% less energy density than its battery.

Read the rest of this story here.

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