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Meet Elios, Flyability’s Newest Drone Designed to Crash and Keep Going

While DJI has sensors in its drones to help them avoid collisions, Flyability’s Elios drone was designed to crash and keep on going.

And its design reflects this fact:

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But why would you ever need a drone that can crash and keep going, you might ask?

Because certain tight spaces—like boiler rooms, or the site of a nuclear reactor after a grave catastrophe—may be packed full of rubble and rife with unpredictable conditions, making collisions unavoidable, and also making the need for a remote view crucial to keeping people from harm.

Switzerland-based Flyability’s drones have showed so much promise as a way to keep people from harm that they won the UAE Drones for Good prize in 2015, which, along with the prestige, comes with $1 million dollars in cash.

Read on to learn about their journey, and how they became the first company to create a drone that can crash without being forced to the ground.

The Flyability Origin Story

The tsunami that hit the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 is what first led to Flyability’s co-founders imagining a drone that could explore dangerous, unknown spaces instead of humans (or faulty robots that weren’t up to the job).

Flyability co-founders Adrien Briod and Patrick Thévoz were students at the time of the tsunami, studying robotics.

As they watched the coverage of the nuclear disaster, they saw land-based robots attempt to roll into the site to gather information, but they continued to get stuck and crash.

They thought that there had to be a better way to use robots in disaster scenarios, where information was desperately needed about the condition of hard-to-reach, dangerous places.

Adrien began his PhD thesis around the idea that there must be a way to create a robot to address these scenarios. The result, several years later, was the Elios, the drone that can crash and keep on flying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s96Q2GXgoeE

How Flies Informed the Creation of Elios

After deciding to create a drone that could do the dirty work of inspecting tight, dangerous places, it took several years of experimenting and tinkering to find a design that actually worked.

Initially Flyability designers considered creating a drone that could avoid collisions altogether, which would use sensor technology similar to what we see on current mainstream consumer drones.

However, after testing and research, it became clear that collisions would be impossible to avoid in the kinds of scenarios for which these drones were being made.

So if collisions were unavoidable, how could a drone be created that would be collision tolerant? It would mean finding some way for a drone to crash without the props being hit or affected—a tall order, which would require some creative thinking.

Flyability’s research took them down an unlikely but promising path. It turns out that insects are really good at tolerating collisions (they’re also good at avoiding them, but in case they do happen, they’re built to survive).

A fly, for instance, can hit a glass window and still find its way back to a stable position in the air without crashing to the ground.

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Image source

To mimic a fly’s collision-tolerant design, the Flyability team first experimented with adding a fixed cage to the drone to protect it. This didn’t work— when the drone hits a wall with a fixed cage attached, the drone tilts forward, flipping over from the force of the collision. This points the propellers straight down, shooting the drone crashing into the ground.

To be crash tolerant the drone needed to have a way to absorb force within the cage, which wouldn’t impact the drone itself. Somehow the cage had to be detached from the drone.

The solution ended up being a completely decoupled cage, which you see in the Elios. The cage can rotate on three axes, with each part of the cage completely independent from the interior, flying part of the drone.

That is pretty darn cool.

Applications and Use Cases

The Elios was created exclusively for inspections, but its use cases are many.

Boiler Inspections

One of the most common uses for the Elios is boiler inspections, which are dangerous, and occur in hard-to-reach places.

As Marc Gandillon of Flyability explained to us recently, the alternative to using a drone for a typical boiler inspection, where the boiler is situated 300 feet or so off the ground, could involve weeks of preparation at a cost of $100,000 or more for building the scaffolding that would allow a person to climb up the boiler.

This approach is dangerous, since the scaffolding could collapse or something could go wrong during the inspection. Using a drone avoids all of these dangers for people, and cuts costs by a huge amount—just another instance of drones doing good in the world.

Research

Back in May the Elios was the first drone ever used to explore the area of a cave for scientific research. Without the Elios, the information gathered would have been impossible to access safely.

What’s even cooler is that the expedition was primarily meant to train astronauts in an environment that replicated extraterrestrial conditions.

https://youtu.be/yLs3BJE6_Ls

Mining

Mining inspections present another use case for the Elios , where a huge drill might be stymied by large rocks deep within a massive tunnel.

The Elios can provide information on easier routes for the drill to take, and help identify the best path forward in a systematic manner, as opposed to the random approach taken in the absence of first-hand footage of what’s in front of the drone.

Search & Rescue

The Elios was recently used to explore a crevasse as part of a research mission in partnership with the Zermatt Mountain Rescue team.

The mission was made to test the idea of using the Elios for Search & Rescue missions. Looks like a win to us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vklo_ng1hv8

The post Meet Elios, Flyability’s Newest Drone Designed to Crash and Keep Going appeared first on UAV Coach.

Kicking Off the 2017 FPV Racing Season: An Interview with Drone Racing League CEO and Founder Nicholas Horbaczewski

The Drone Racing League has seen meteoric success since the launch of its 2016 season.

Last week they announced a $20 million Series B funding round, along with new partnerships with Amazon Prime Video, Swatch, and Allianz. They also shared the news that their 2017 season will be broadcast in 75 countries this year, up from 40 last year.

We were excited to have the opportunity to speak with DRL CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski about DRL’s amazing success and the 2017 season, which starts today.

Read on to learn about how DRL was first started, the incredible technology that makes FPV racing possible, and the future of drone racing.

Want to tune in to the 2017 season? Races will be played live on ESPN every Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm EST starting tonight—learn more about ways to watch here.

Begin Interview:

UAV Coach: The Drone Racing League has seen insane growth in a very short period of time. Can you tell us the story of how the company was created, and how you’ve achieved so much success?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: The story really begins with drone racing itself.

Drone racing as a sport and a hobby has been around for five or six years. It started in places like Australia and France, where people were first building high speed quadcopter drones and putting an FPV camera on them. People were exchanging information on message boards, meeting up in parking lots to have these underground amateur races, and by the time I came across it in early 2015 drone racing had spread around the world as a global underground hobby.

I was first exposed to FPV racing with a group of people who fly in the New York area. I was out in a field in Long Island watching them race, and I just thought it was incredible. It reminded me of science fiction and video games, and I thought it had the potential to become a major mainstream sport.

I began an investigation into why even though drone racing had been around for several years, and had clearly gained a global following, it hadn’t gained more ground as a mainstream spectator sport. And that initial research is really the origin of the Drone Racing League, which was in the middle of 2015.

What we discovered as we began the journey of trying to build DRL into what it is today was that the main roadblock was technology. The drones being raced at that time used consumer, off-the-shelf tech that was simply not reliable or robust enough to really elevate drone racing to the level of a true sport.

So we had to build all of that technology, and really figure out what was needed to make FPV racing happen.

We launched publicly in January of 2016, and showed the potential of what drone racing could be. We had our first season in 2016, and off we went.

UAV Coach: Describe what the Drone Racing League does in one short sentence.

Nicholas Horbaczewski: We are the global professional circuit for drone racing.

UAV Coach: How did you first get involved in the drone industry?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: Prior to DRL, I was the Chief Revenue Officer at Tough Mudder, the mud run series. But before that I was the Chief Information Officer at a company that sells consumer products to the law enforcement and military space.

We were the first to begin selling portable quadcopter drones to law enforcement and the military for various reconnaissance purposes, and this was long before you saw drones on the shelves and heard people talking about them. We sold hundreds of thousands of different products, but I still remember the glowing feedback we got from everyone about how powerful drones were as tools.

So drones have always been on my radar, and it didn’t shock me when I saw them explode onto the consumer scene, and people adopt them with such passion.

But I do have some of the same challenges other people have on the consumer side. Drones are really cool, but if you’re not using them as a flying camera, what is the purpose of having a drone?

That’s one of the things I love about FPV racing. Flying is the purpose—you fly the drone for the pure enjoyment of it.

UAV Coach: How can people reading get more involved in drone racing? Do you have to spend a bunch of money just to try it out?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: Here is what I’d recommend for people who want to get involved with racing drones. The first step is to watch DRL’s 2017 season on TV, which will give you a sense of how incredible drone racing can be. The 2017 season starts tonight at 8pm EST on ESPN, so you can tune in and learn more there.

In addition to racing, we spend a lot of time educating people on equipment, techniques, and different aspects that make drone racing challenging.

Once you’ve seen drone racing, the second step for getting involved is learning how to fly. One of the challenges with drone racing is that it’s a relatively high skill activity, with a steep learning curve. For most people, the first thing that happens after buying a drone is that you crash.

To address this problem, we’ve built a brand new simulator called DRL High Voltage, which will take you through the basics, all the way from having never flown and up (the simulator is available on Steam).

The simulator will get you reasonably confident with flying a drone, and that’s really important because it allows you to focus on actually flying when you first pick up a drone, instead of figuring out how to fix it when you crash.

The third step is to get a real drone. We have a drone coming out in the next few months that we created with our partner Nikko that’s a durable remote control drone. It’s a toy and meant to be a starter drone, but it’s real FPV flight. It comes with goggles and a controller, and we think it’s the best drone on the market for learning how to fly.

Once you’ve gone through that learning curve—watch it, simulate it, actually do it—from there, there’s a whole world of amateur drone racing that you can get into. You can find a local community and go out to fields and start racing with a performance craft.

UAV Coach: How close to real life is the simulator?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: The simulator is a lot of fun and like a video game, but you can also use it to learn how to fly.

Actually, you can even use it to try out for DRL and get a pro spot and contract. Last year we ran a tryout for the 2017 season with the simulator, and that’s how one of the pilots competing this year won his spot.

Even if you don’t make it all that way, when you’re done with the time you’ve put into it you’ve developed a really useful skill, and you can walk outside and put that skill to use flying your drone. It’s hard to think of another video game that’s so immediately applicable to the real world beyond the screen.

UAV Coach: DRL’s 2017 season is kicking off today. What are you most excited about this season?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: The races you’ll see this season take place all over the world—in the U.S., in London, in Munich. We’re racing our new, dramatically improved drone the Racer 3, which just completely ups the level of play and allows us to do racing on a scale we’ve never done before.

We’re also introducing a number of new partners like Amazon Prime Video, Swatch, and Allianz.

But for me, what I’m most excited about is the racing.

It is just epic, white knuckle, photo finish racing. We have the 16 best pilots in the world battling across six enormous, elaborate race tracks using ultra high performance drones.

It’s just wild. I find the racing gripping. I’ve been at all these races, and I’ll still watch them again on TV because it’s just great sport.

UAV Coach: Where do you see drone racing going in the next five to ten years?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: Often when people ask me about drone racing they’ll analogize it to another sport. They’ll compare it to Formula 1 or UFC or eSports, but one of the things that gives me a lot of passion for what we’re doing is that we are trying to build a new, unique sports entertainment ecosystem.

What I think you’ll see in the future is that we will benefit from the fact that we’re not a traditional sport, which creates restrictions on what you can do.

So we don’t try to put too fine a point on what the future is going to look like. Our vision is to build a major sport around the world of drone racing, and the world of drone racing keeps evolving. And that’s what makes it fun, and it’s also what our fans love.

We’re going to stay incredibly innovative. Every season you’ll see us improving and changing the technology, and the scale on which we do the races. We are extremely open minded about continuing to evolve the sport. It doesn’t need to look exactly like it does today forever in the future.

We change the technology on the drones between every single race, and every time we change the tech it creates possibilities we’ve never seen before.

UAV Coach: Can you give us some examples of advances in technology that have pushed drone racing forward and opened up new possibilities?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: DRL is first and foremost a technology company. We sat out to build a race league, and discovered the tech didn’t exist for it, so we began building our own tech, and we remain very focused on the development of novel technology.

On our new Racer 3, the improvements to the onboard avionics allow it to fly with incredible precision, and improvements to things like ESC technology allow us to drive more power through the power train more reliably.

A lot of our innovation at DRL is around radio systems. We just held a drone race at Alexander Palace with more than 2,000 people in the building. We raced six drones through a complex three dimensional space, with multiple rooms where the drones were a kilometer away from the pilots. To do that on a radio system is a massive accomplishment.

People take this for granted now, but in the recent past drone racing was limited to the shadows because if you put too many people near the radios it really interfered, and could take down the entire system.

This has been a step-by-step process for us, where we’ve gone from barely reliable radio systems with a limited range to bullet proof systems that allow us to have thousands of people in the audience, with six drones racing at once on tracks that are massive in size.

UAV Coach: One tech-related issue that comes up a lot with drones is battery life. Are you doing any work at DRL to extend battery life?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: Battery life is an issue across the drone world.

When we moved from the Racer 2 to the Racer 3 we moved to an entirely custom-designed battery, which gave us significantly more flight time. We’ve managed to find improvements, but those improvements fit within the bounds of existing battery technology. We’re being smarter about power extensions on board, and smarter about design.

But what people are really looking for is a step change—something that will double battery life. We don’t know where that’s going to come from, but we certainly think there’s more optimization to do in the racing world within the existing Lipo tech.

UAV Coach: We’ve seen a lot of changes in the drone industry recently, with companies like Parrot, Autel, and GoPro going through massive layoffs, and construction and FPV racing emerging as solid verticals in the market. Can you share your thoughts on the future of the industry, as well as where you think we might be headed regarding regulations?

Nicholas Horbaczewski: I think the drone world is evolving. A lot of my feelings about the consumer market is related to what I said a little bit ago—drones are very cool, and whenever we talk about drones people crowd around. Right now in New York there’s an exhibit on display at the Intrepid Museum on drones, and it’s drawing huge crowds.

So the fundamental interest is there. But I think what we’re catching up to now as an industry is that fundamental interest needs to translate to some sort of purpose. I think racing is just one example of a purpose. Racing drones isn’t about a type of drone, or a type of technology. It’s a description of a use of drones.

With some of the recent layoffs we’ve seen, it seems like there was a little too much of just putting a drone out there and saying to consumers: here’s a drone. There wasn’t a lot of effort made to say what the drone should be used for, beyond it just being a flying camera.

So I think we need to be talking about drones more in that context going forward—really asking, what is the use of each particular drone for a consumer?

I think what we do with racing drones is great, but there’s a lot more that can be done, and I think we’ll see consumers finding more and more applications.

Regarding regulations, we aren’t so impacted by the regulatory environment. We have a great relationship with the FAA and with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as international agencies like the CAA (which is the equivalent of the FAA in the U.K.).

But I think drone regulations are a little bit of a red herring when it comes to looking at the future of the drone industry. I think regulations have basically moved in the right direction, and that we’ll continue to see them move in the right direction. These are thoughtful, smart people that want to see progress continue in a safe way.

Don’t forget to tune in tonight for the first race of the season in Miami, FL.

Here are some pictures of the course, to whet your appetite. We can’t wait!

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The post Kicking Off the 2017 FPV Racing Season: An Interview with Drone Racing League CEO and Founder Nicholas Horbaczewski appeared first on UAV Coach.

The State of Drone Regulations: A Look at the Future

In anticipation of our webinar tomorrow with Real Tour Vision entitled The State of Drone Regulations & Real Estate Marketing in 2017 we’re publishing a short series of articles that will look at how far we’ve come in the drone industry over the last year, and where we’re going next.

Today’s post will look forward at the future of drone regulations and the industry, with a close look at some recent developments.

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Image source

We’ll publish the third and final article in this series next week, which will address questions that come up during the webinar and look at real-life scenarios commercial pilots in real estate and other sectors face on a daily basis when it comes to regulations and other aspects of running a commercial drone operation.

Sign up for the free webinar now: The State of Drone Regulations & Real Estate Marketing in 2017.

The Future of Drone Regulations

Right now the drone industry, and drone regulations, are at an inflection point here in the United States.

On the one hand, we have productive partnerships taking place between the FAA and private companies in the form of the Pathfinder Program’s initiatives and the LAANC, as well as NASA’s partnerships with companies to create a viable Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system. Over 220 drone pilots are receiving licenses every single day on average, and drone applications are growing like crazy across various sectors, from construction to real estate to agriculture, and much more.

The regulations we have in place work much better than the ones we had a year ago (think 333 exemptions vs. Part 107—there’s just no comparison). And those things that are still slow and clunky, like the process to request a wavier or airspace authorization, are being improved, with real, concrete progress being made.

But on the other hand—and this is why we are at inflection point—we have bills like Senator Feinstein’s Drone Federalism Act being proposed, which would put drone regulations in the hands of individual states, coupled with the findings of a recent study from Bard College’s Center for the Drone, which found several state laws that would jail you for federally permissible flights.

In addition, President Trump recently proposed privatizing the Air Traffic Control system, which could impact FAA partnerships with private companies working on UTMs for the ATC, but could also fast track the process for making drone deliveries and automating airspace authorizations.

Finally, the FAA reauthorization bill is up for a vote in September, which is crucial to determining whether the FAA will continue at all (though surely it will, in some form—but the vote is sure to stir up some loud voices in both pro- and anti-drone factions, as well as other arguments about the ATC and related topics).

In fact, the last 30 days have seen such a flurry of activity around the FAA and drone regulations that Christopher Korody of the Drone Business Center recently wrote an in-depth article called 7 Forces Transforming the FAA and the UAV Industry about the particular moment in which we find ourselves, and how all of this might shape the future of drone regulations.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Future We’d Like to See

Last week we wrote about the progress the FAA has made this year in its partnerships with private companies, through both the Pathfinder Program and the newly formed Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system.

One of the goals of the LAANC is the automation of granting airspace authorization to commercial drone operators seeking to fly in controlled airspace.

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Image source

The recent release of airspace authorization maps represents a significant step toward achieving this goal, since UAV pilots can now use these maps to get immediate insight into the criteria that will be used when determining their authorization request. The implementation of this automation is seen as a precursor to a UTM system that NASA is developing, with plans to hand it to the FAA by 2019.

In addition, the FAA has been working for years through its Pathfinder Program on researching scenarios where flights can be made that are currently prohibited under Part 107. Recently we’ve seen the FAA approve some Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BLVOS) flights, as well as flights over people.

None of these permissions were made on a permanent basis (as they have been in some other countries, like Denmark and Switzerland) but the fact that they’re being granted at all represents a step forward.

Given all of the above, we’d love to see a regulatory future in the U.S. where UAV pilots can automatically apply for and get airspace authorization; in which drones flights in controlled airspace are managed by UTMs, keeping skies safe for passengers on airplanes; and in which the process to obtain waivers for BVLOS, flying over people, and night flights is automated, or at least streamlined.

These regulatory improvements would enable commercial pilots to run their operations predictably, knowing when and where they can expect to fly. People would feel safer about the freedom commercial pilots have to operate in controlled airspace and in situations that are currently prohibited, because UTMs would ensure safe operation near airports, and avoid the nightmare scenario of a rogue drone taking down an airplane (maliciously or accidentally).

The Other Side of the Coin

Government programs currently in place make the future detailed above possible to imagine, but there have been a lot of developments recently that make it seem like things could change, and suddenly.

In one scenario, Feinstein’s Drone Federalism Act passes, and we see a regression to what FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has called a patchwork system for regulations. In this scenario each state, and even each city or county, has its own individual UAV regulations, making it almost impossible for commercial operators to know how to be compliant, and potentially killing the possibility of being an individual commercial operator entirely.

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There are a number of other developments that have occurred recently, which could lead to drastic (and potentially negative) changes in the UAV regulatory scene:

  • The outcome of John Taylor’s lawsuit was that hobbyists no longer have to register their drones. This could lead to openings for new regulations to be pushed forward, or could lead to more reckless flying (which could in turn lead to new, anti-drone laws).
  • The 2017 FAA Reauthorization Bill could present some unexpected wrinkles, since privatizing the ATC may be at odds with reauthorizing the FAA. The bill will be up for a vote in September, which is right around the corner.
  • Privatization of the ATC could fast track the creation of a UTM for the entire country, and lead to a better regulatory scene for drones—or it could lead to high fees and low outputs, with even more delays.
  • The proposed Drone Security Bill would give the government the ability to track, seize control of, and destroy any UAV it determines may pose a security threat. This bill would certainly limit, or encroach upon, the FAA’s current authority, especially because security threats could be interpreted as extending to flights over the natural resources held by private companies.

The Reality

The reality is that this is a time full of change and uncertainty when it comes to the FAA and drone regulations, and it’s hard to say what will happen next.

When you read the list of bulleted items above, it looks like the FAA may have its authority chipped away from all sides.

But none of this is likely to happen right away. Even pushing forward the privatization of the ATC will not get rid of the need for the FAA, and any changes that happen seem like they will most likely be slow and incremental.

Don’t forget to sign up for our webinar next Tuesday with Real Tour Vision: The State of Drone Regulations & Real Estate Marketing in 2017.

The post The State of Drone Regulations: A Look at the Future appeared first on UAV Coach.

Boom! Drone Racing League Raises $20 Million in Series B Funding

The Drone Racing League (DRL) recently announced that they raised a whopping $20 million in a Series B funding round.

Wow. That is a lot of money, and says a ton about the confidence investors feel in the future of FPV racing.

Drone Racing League

At a time when many consumer-focused companies like Parrot, Autel, GoPro and others have faced major layoffs, leading to big pivots in their focus—such as Parrot’s launch of their prosumer line—it speaks volumes that the DRL is seeing so much fundraising success, and especially after only two years in business.

We’ve written a lot recently about how construction is the next big wave of the drone industry, but it looks like FPV racing will also be a huge contender when it comes to where we go next.

Who Are the Investors?

The $20 million financing round was led by Sky, Liberty Media Corporation (owner of Formula 1) and Lux Capital, joining existing partners including Hearst Ventures and Miami Dolphin’s owner Stephen Ross’s venture-capital firm RSE Ventures, which participated in an $8 million round in 2016.

In addition to Liberty Media Corporation, DRL added new investors Allianz (its global Title Sponsor of the race circuit) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Other partners that joined Sky and Lux in the round include Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Courtside Ventures. DRL has also added CRCM Ventures, supporting DRL’s expansion into China. LionTree Advisors acted as a financial advisor for the company and Morrison Foerster was the company’s legal advisor.

“We’re incredibly proud to announce new partners and investors aligning with DRL to solidify drone racing as the sport of the future.”

– Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO and Founder of DRL

DRL on Monday also announced a partnership with the Amazon Prime Video series “The Grand Tour.” Videos from the race will be released in August and September, ahead of “The Grand Tour” Season 2 later this year.

The DRL 2017 season begins on June 20 on ESPN, and will be broadcast in more than 75 countries with broadcast partners including Sky Sports, ProSiebenSat.1, Disney XD, and OSN.

Watch the video below to learn more about FPV racing and the Drone Racing League’s 2017 season, which is just about to kick off.

About the Drone Racing League

The Drone Racing League launched in January 2016 as the only global professional drone racing organization, hosting five professional races in its inaugural season.

DRL’s ‘16 season reached more than 75 million fans around the world (which is insane!), with more than 30 million broadcast viewers and more than 45 million views of its digital content.

How Can You Get into FPV Drone Racing?

FPV Racing is a new and rapidly growing sport that’s getting commercialized by organizations like the Drone Racing LeagueU.S. Drone Racing Association, MultiGP, and events like the World Drone Racing Championships. If you’re already an FPV hobbyist you can learn more about how to get into actual races, or read on to find out about FPV racing itself.

The first time we flew FPV was on the Drone Racing League’s free simulator.

The software is free to download, but we bought the FrSky Taranis X9D Plus 2.4GHz Telemetry Radio & Aluminum Case Mode 2 Transmitter to be able to fly with real joysticks. It was easy to set up and came with a rugged silver case (which made us feel special 🙂 ).

fpv drone racing simulator

If you’re looking to get into FPV drone racing, we definitely recommend Force1’s racing kit. We’ve had great luck with their instructions and support team on multiple products of theirs over the last few years.

Check out our review of the Force1 kit to see if it’s a good fit for you. If you do end up buying it, make sure to use the code DYSCOACH to get 20% off when you buy it on Amazon.

FPV drone racing kit

Also, if you’re thinking about getting into FPV racing make sure to check out our full guide to FPV systems for more information on how you can get started, and recommendations for what to buy to get you up and running.

Want to buy the Force1 kit? Remember to use the code DYSCOACH to get 20% off the Force 1 DYS Drone when you purchase it on Amazon.

The post Boom! Drone Racing League Raises $20 Million in Series B Funding appeared first on UAV Coach.

The State of Drone Regulations: A Look at the Last Year

In anticipation of our webinar next Tuesday with Real Tour Vision entitled The State of Drone Regulations & Real Estate Marketing in 2017 we’re publishing a short series of articles that will look at how far we’ve come in the drone industry over the last year, and where we’re going next.

Today’s post will look back at everything that’s happened in the world of drone regulations over the last year, and the next post, which will come out on Monday, will look forward at all we can hope to see in the next year and beyond.

state-of-drone-regulations

Image source

Finally, we plan to publish an article after the webinar to address questions that come up during the presentation, and that will look at real-life scenarios that commercial pilots in real estate and other sectors face on a daily basis.

Sign up for the free webinar now: The State of Drone Regulations & Real Estate Marketing in 2017.

The Last Year in Drone Regulations

The last year has been nothing short of incredible for the drone industry.

In the U.S. we saw the rollout of the FAA’s Part 107 requirements, a development which has led to huge growth in the number of licensed commercial pilots, and which (thankfully) replaced the antiquated 333 Exemption process.

We’ve seen the FAA growing its partnerships with private industries through the Pathfinder Program and the LAANC to conduct UAV-focused research, with the ultimate goal of opening up the regulatory scene for types of flying that are currently prohibited (like Beyond Visual Line Of Sight flights, flying over people, and flying at night), as well as streamlining airspace authorization requests and waiver submissions.

Internationally we’ve seen huge strides made in drone laws, with Denmark and New Zealand announcing permanent BVLOS permissions for private companies and dozens of countries launching or beefing up their drone regulations, with the goal of professionalizing this burgeoning industry.

Let’s take it from the top.

The Launch of the Part 107 Exam

Almost exactly one year ago, on June 21, 2016, the FAA released its highly anticipated rules governing the operation of small UAS for commercial purposes. The rules went into effect two months later, on August 29.

The rules required that commercial UAV pilots pass a test entitled the Aeronautical Knowledge Test for a Remote Pilot Certificate (or the Part 107 exam) in order to be certified to fly commercially.

The June release was a huge step forward for the industry. Commercial pilots no longer had to endure the months-long wait and potentially high costs previously associated with pursuing a 333 exemption.

Now, they simply had to pass a test. Talk about streamlined.

Part 107 Stats

In the first 15 days after the Part 107 exam was implemented, 5,124 pilots took the test, and 4,503 passed.

Two months later those numbers had almost doubled, to 9,796 having taken the test, and 8,649 having passed (as of October 14, 2016).

Fast forward to the present (well to March, the most current date we have data for). As of March 21, 2017 there have been a whopping 37,579 licenses issued by the FAA, and that number has surely grown in the last three months.

Using the March number, we know that there have been about 1,565 pilots passing the test every week since it went live, or about 223 pilots passing every single day. That’s a lot of drone pilots.

We also know that there are about 800,000 hobbyists who have registered with the FAA as of March 27, 2017, which is a little under double the number we saw at this time last year, when there were about 460,000 drone owners registered. (To clarify, 800,000 is the total of all registered drone owners, not new owners since June, 2016.)

FAA Partnerships—the Pathfinder Program and LAANC

In the last year, the FAA’s Pathfinder Program launched its Drone Detection Initiative (actually it was launched in May of 2016, but we figure it’s close enough!).

This initiative is a partnership between the FAA and Gryphon Sensors, Liteye Systems Inc. and Sensofusion with the goal of aggressively pursuing technology and strategic planning around how to identify and control rogue drones, whether they be accidentally or intentionally present in controlled airspace.

Since then, Gryphon Sensors released their Mobile Skylight Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system at AUVSI XPONENTIAL, a system for detecting and managing drones that will help keep our skies safer. Many tests and lots of research have been done to build UTMs over the last year, including work being done by NASA, and we know that the outcome of all this work will be safer skies, and a more organized system for flying drones commercially.

In addition to the Pathfinder Program, the FAA recently launched the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system, a partnership with private companies that has as one of its primary goals the automation of granting waivers and permits to commercial drone operators seeking to fly in controlled airspace.

Now that is an exciting idea. Check out how the LAANC is actually pursuing this goal in the section below.

Improvements in the Airspace Authorization Request Process

The FAA recently released the first round of UAS Facility Maps, which show commercial pilots the information used to determine whether an airspace authorization request gets approved or denied.

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Image source

The release of these maps is a huge step forward for the airspace authorization process, and the first (and we should add a quick) win from the LAANC when it comes to moving toward a fully automated system for granting waivers, permits, and authorization.

By using these maps, pilots can immediately see if the area where they want to fly will be granted authorization. The guesswork is removed, adding more certainty not just to the authorization process, but to the industry as a whole. This is a huge step forward for the industry, and one to applaud as we look back at the last year.

Now all we need is a process to streamline applying for waivers to fly over people and other types of flights prohibited by Part 107 . . .

International Regulations

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Image source

When it comes to international drone regulations there have been so many changes and updates, and so much positive growth, that we could devote a series just to discussing them.

For now, we’d suggest checking out our in-depth BVLOS article, which highlights new BVLOS regulations in 13 countries. (Denmark and New Zealand are at the cutting edge, as we noted above, but there are many other countries hot on their heels when it comes to opening up the skies to types of flying that were previously prohibited.)

We think BVLOS waivers are a bellwether for how progressive a country is when it comes to drone regulations, and how organized and intentional they are about supporting the growth of the industry. Of course, they’re also an indicator of the country’s size—for a country the size of Denmark, sorting out regulations is just a different animal than it is for a country the size of the U.S. or Canada.

What an amazing year it’s been for drone regulations. Don’t forget to check in on Monday to read about where we’re headed next.

Also—don’t forget to sign up for our webinar next Tuesday with Real Tour Vision: The State of Drone Regulations & Real Estate Marketing in 2017.

The post The State of Drone Regulations: A Look at the Last Year appeared first on UAV Coach.

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