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Drone Racing League Receives $1 Million Investment

Source: The Verge
By: James Vincent


Does drone racing have what it takes to be a sport? Billionaire property developer and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross thinks it might, and has invested $1 million in the first round of funding for New York startup The Drone Racing League via his investment firm RSE Ventures, reports The Wall Street Journal. Like similar organizations, the League races small drones that can hit speeds of up to 70 mph and are flown with the aid of goggles that transmit a live video feed from the craft to the pilot (also known as FPV or first-person view racing). The startup has already held a small trial run with six pilots in a warehouse in Yonkers this summer, and is planning to hold its first public race later this year, collecting revenue from ticket sales, sponsorship, and media deals.

Both Ross and The Drone Racing League have experience in coordinating new sporting events. Nick Horbaczewski, the League’s CEO, previously worked as chief revenue officer for endurance race company Tough Mudder, and RSE Ventures currently runs the International Champions Cup — an international soccer tournament that plays host to teams such as Manchester United and Real Madrid.

“I felt [drone racing] could be a sport that resonated with people because it touches on the heritage of racing, but also brings in the benefits of new technology,”

– Horbaczewski told the WSJ.

The Drone Racing League isn’t the only organization trying to shape what is currently a niche hobby into a more mainstream sport. Earlier this year, a two-day event called the US National Drone Racing Championships took place at the California State Fair, attracting 120 pilots and offering $25,000 in cash prizes. Similar, smaller races have also been held in France, Australia, and the UK.


However, big challenges remain for organizers, including making the sport more spectator-friendly. Videos of drone racing on YouTube may rack up millions of views, but at the two-day competition in California only an estimated 60 spectators showed up to watch. Although this was partly blamed on the heat, watching drone racing in person is difficult because of the small size and speed of the aircraft. RSE Ventures, however, might have a ready-made solution. The firm has already developed a service named FanVision that gives NASCAR spectators access to live video feeds from race cars on their smartphones. Using this technology to offer drone racing fans access to pilots’ video feeds could help the would-be sport attract interest on the ground, as well as online.

The post Drone Racing League Receives $1 Million Investment appeared first on UAV Coach.

FAA Approves Commercial Use Of Drone Paper Airplane

Source: Forbes
By: John Goglia


The PowerUp 3.0 smartphone-controlled paper airplane (Image from PowerUp Toys)

In a possible sign of how seriously FAA is taking unmanned aircraft operations in national airspace — or maybe just a sign of how absurd matters have gotten — the FAA yesterday approved the first ever toy powered paper airplane to fly commercially in U.S. airspace.

The applicant granted the so-called Section 333 Exemption (named after the section of the federal statute authorizing it) is Peter Sachs, a well-known drone advocate, lawyer and commercial helicopter pilot. His exemption allows him to “conduct aerial photography and videography” with the powered paper airplane so long as he meets dozens of conditions specified in the exemption and attached certificate of authorization. I asked the FAA for comment on whether granting the exemption indicates that the FAA considers a powered paper airplane an unmanned aircraft system, or UAS. An FAA spokesperson responded that “Mr. Sachs submitted a valid petition for exemption, and we granted the requested relief.”

The toy paper airplane Sachs was granted 333 Exemption authorization to operate is a Tailor Toys PowerUp 3.0. According to the manufacturer, it “transforms ordinary paper into smartphone-controlled flying machines.” The powered paper plane has a 180 foot/55 meter range and is capable of sustained flight for 10 minutes on its battery. In response to a request for comment on how he intends to use his new commercial authority and what steps he has to take to operate it, Sachs responded that unfortunately, although he has been a commercial helicopter pilot and advanced ground instructor for over 30 years, he cannot himself fly the paper plane commercially at this time because he not “current” to fly. That is, he is not current to fly manned aircraft, although he has a valid commercial helicopter pilot’s license.

This means that to fly his paper plane commercially, he would either have to spend thousands of dollars to become current — renting a helicopter and flying with an instructor to re-demonstrate his pilot proficiency — or hire a current pilot with at least an FAA sport pilot license. As with all 333 exemption holders, Mr. Sachs would need a visual observer at all times, in addition to a licensed pilot manipulating the controls; he could only operate the paper plane line of sight during daylight hours and in good weather conditions. In addition, he would have to abide by all the requirements of the FAA’s blanket certificate of authorization, including the requirement to file a NOTAM (notice to airmen) with air traffic control of any proposed operation 24-72 hours before flight.

According to Sachs, while he is pleased to have gotten the exemption, he is also embarrassed that a commercial paper plane operator requires one. “With this grant, the FAA has abandoned all logic and sensibility by declaring that a 19-gram paper airplane is legally an “aircraft.”

While I understand the FAA’s safety concerns with integrating UAS into the national airspace system, requiring toy airplanes to comply with excessive and cumbersome regulations meant to ensure manned aircraft safety certainly defies logic. And is likely to continue the trend I’ve observed of large numbers of commercial UAS operators flouting FAA requirements.

The post FAA Approves Commercial Use Of Drone Paper Airplane appeared first on UAV Coach.

Flying Your Drone in Populated Areas – What You Should Know

The following is a guest post from David over at BeginnerFlyer.com. Want to write for us? Click here.

If you live in a sparsely populated rural area and love flying drones, then consider yourself lucky- you can fly as much as you want without worrying about harming other people or commercial property.

However, if you’re like most people, you probably live in an urban area that’s surrounded by homes and commercial property- and this can be a big problem when flying drones! While we can’t ask you to pack up and move to a different city, we can provide you with a few tips that you can use to cope with your surroundings. With that said, let’s take a look at a few tips that you can use when flying your drone in

Tips to Keep in Mind

Here are the best tips that I could think of for flying in populated urban areas:

  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings: It may sound trivial, but the simple act of being aware of your surroundings can dramatically decrease the chances of a crash. In cities, things like buildings, pets, and people are everywhere. Do your best to NOT fly over people, and if at all possible,never take your eyes off your drone while it’s in the air.
  • Announce Landings and Takeoffs: I know it sounds cheesy, but you should always announce your landings and takeoffs to people within the vicinity. For example, loudly shout, “Landing my drone!” when you’re landing, and “Drone taking off!” when you’re ready to hit the air. It’s synonymous with golfers who yell “Fore!” when their ball begins to steer towards other people.
  • Purchase a Lightweight Drone: If you’re still in the market for a quadcopter, I would recommend purchasing a light model (like the Syma X5C or the UDI U818A). Why? Because lighter models won’t cause as much damage should they fall on someone or something. Just remember that lighter drones can be tricky to fly in stronger breezes, which is an additional reason to fly away from people.
  • Respect Your Neighbors: In populated urban areas, most flyers resort to flying in their backwards. If you’re flying a drone with a camera attached to it, your neighbors might feel a little uneasy about you capturing footage of their property. If they express concerns about the matter, I would respect their wishes to fly elsewhere. Think about it: would YOU want someone flying their quadcopter over your backyard if it bothered you?

If you’re not confident about your flying skills, try purchasing a cheaper indoor quadcopter (like the Cheerson CX-10 or Syma X12) first. Then, once you become more proficient behind the controls, feel free to move up to a more expensive model.

Your Actions Affect the Drone Community’s Public Image

Remember this important tip: each time that you do something irresponsible with your drone, you make the entire drone community look bad (not just yourself). So definitely keep this in mind while you’re in the air. When flying your drone, always be thoughtful, courteous, and inviting to those people around you. Good luck, and fly safe!

Author Information: David is a drone enthusiast who loves quadcopters and wants to see them embraced by the world. To check out his latest RC drone reviews and tutorials, visit beginnerflyer.com.

The post Flying Your Drone in Populated Areas – What You Should Know appeared first on UAV Coach.

Geospatial Veterans Launch Commercial UAS Mapping Company

TORONTO, Ontario (August 30th, 2015) – A group of geospatial veterans have identified the need to address the global commercial UAS/drone mapping market and have formed The GPS Group to meet the needs of this rapidly expanding segment within the geospatial and mapping industry.

uav geospatial mapping

The GPS Group takes a unique approach to delivering custom image processing services. Many companies are supplying products derived from “black box” solutions that don’t permit operator intervention or incremental editing of the results, The GPS Group goes a step beyond and provides fully customized products and solutions using commercial-grade photogrammetry software products.

“Drones offer a timely, high resolution alternative to conventional imaging platforms and have the ability to get very high quality geospatial information in front of decision makers quickly and affordably,” said Mike Agnes, managing partner of The GPS Group “However, what must also be considered as part of a successful UAS implementation are the techniques and tools used to create those products”

Although The GPS Group is a new company, its founding partners have well-established track records in the industry. Each member of the team brings complementary and extensive geospatial experience to their clients projects, including commercial UAS operations, remote sensing + GIS, consulting, and geospatial software solutions.


In addition, the company provides coaching and managed services to meet the unique needs of its target market. “UAS professionals and those thinking about embracing this technology, with all of its nuances and special needs, require the same level of sophistication, if not more, than the rest of the commercial mapping industry; we strive to provide these services from a single trusted source,” adds John Dobson, partner and technical operations manager at The GPS Group, “ By providing option of managed services, this gives our clients the ability to leverage our expertise and experience at a fraction of the cost of implementing them alone.”

The GPS Group brings a deep understanding of the photogrammetric process and are excited to apply their knowledge to the UAS community. In fact, the partners view their service capabilities and market knowledge as having significant value to anyone seeking to establish a UAS solution within their organizations.

Being a good corporate citizen is also important to the company. Hence, The GPS Group plans to devote a percentage of its available resources to supporting non-profit groups who are seeking to incorporate UAS for the betterment of their organization’s goals.


The post Geospatial Veterans Launch Commercial UAS Mapping Company appeared first on UAV Coach.

California UAV Legislation: Listen Up, Folks

Live in California? Watch the below video from this Academy of Model Aeronautics post, and read the below article to understand why many UAV enthusiasts think this legislation is unreasonable and overly restrictive.

​You can let Governor Brown know what you think, but only up until September 12th. The legislation is sitting on his desk until then.

More information about this situation from The Guardian below:

Source: The Guardian
By: Halima Kazem

Drone no-fly zone in California will stifle innovation, say industry advocates

If bill is signed by governor, it will be a trespass violation to fly unmanned aircraft or drones over private property below 350ft without consent of owner or tenant.

california drone uav legislation

California lawmakers have sided with privacy advocates to pass a bill that bans drones from flying lower than 350ft (106m) over private property.

If the bill is signed by Governor Jerry Brown it will create a no-fly zone and make it a trespass violation for someone to fly an unmanned aircraft or drone over private property below 350ft without the consent of the owner or tenant.

SB 142 passed a third reading on Monday in the California State Assembly despite pressure from drone users and manufactures who say the new law will stifle innovation in the growing industry.

“People should be able to sit in their backyards and be in their homes without worrying about drones flying right above them or peering in their windows,” said state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who authored the bill. “We need to balance innovation with personal and societal expectations.”

According to the National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL), in 2015, 45 states considered 156 bills related to drones, and 18 states have passed legislation.

In May, Florida passed SB 766, prohibiting a person, state agency or political subdivision from using a drone to photograph people on their private property without their consent.

Jackson was inspired to propose the bill when she was vacationing in Hawaii in December and sitting on a friend’s private balcony.

“A neighbor’s drone flew right onto the balcony and was recording our conversation. It was very unsettling and so I started researching this issue,” said Jackson, a former prosecutor and the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill doesn’t affect the “lawful activities of law enforcement personnel, employees of governmental agencies, or other public or private entities that may have the right to enter land by operating” a drone within someone’s private property.

But drone industry advocates say the bill is too broad and lumps together hobbyists and commercial drone users.

“There is a growing commercial drone industry and companies are developing legitimate uses for drones. This law leaves very little room for a commercial drone corridor in the sky,” said Mario Mairena, senior government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), a drone and robotics advocacy organization based in Washington DC.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requires the governmental agency to establish a regulatory framework for safely integrating drones into the national airspace by 30 September, 2015.

Currently the FAA allows small aircraft, weighing less than 55lb, to be flown for recreational purposes without a permit, below 400ft and at least five miles from an airport.

The federal law doesn’t differentiate between flying over private and public property. This means that under SB 142 hobbyists in California would only have 50ft – from 350ft to 400ft – to fly their drones.

In February, the FAA proposed a new framework of regulations to allow the use of drones at up to 500ft for non-recreational use. The flights have to be during daylight and require the UAS pilot to maintain a visual line of site with the drone at all times.

This framework affects Amazon and Google, whose officials have announced that they are in the process of developing drone delivery systems. Under the new law small commercial drones that don’t need permits will be able fly between 350 and 500ft in California.

While the FAA continues to work on the Small UAS policy, according to its website, it has granted 1,277 certificates authorizing certain drones to perform commercial operations like aerial photography or agricultural crop surveying.

“States should not be regulating airspace. That is the FAA’s job,” said Mairena.

But a slew of drone-related state bills have come up this year, including SB 168 by California senator Ted Gaines, which proposes to give immunity to firefighters and other emergency responders who take down or damage a drone that is intruding into areas where there is a fire or other type of emergency. The legislation came after drones interfered with firefighting activities in various parts of California this summer.

On Friday, the FAA released a new list of pilot, air traffic and citizen reports of possible encounters with drones. According to the data there were 765 possible encounters between 13 November, 2014 and 20 August, 2015. 171 of those occurred in California. Additionally, more than 275 pilots reported seeing drones at altitudes of up to 10,000ft.

“Because pilot reports of unmanned aircraft have increased dramatically over the past year, the FAA wants to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal,” said the FAA report.

SB 142 would allow drone users to fly in public spaces like parks and roads below 350ft.

“Companies can still deliver packages to someone’s front door using a drone as long as they are allowed by the FAA and fly along public roads. They must enter your property the way a delivery person would,” said Jackson.

According to a May 2015 report by CB Insights, a New York city-based research firm that tracks venture capital and start-ups, six of the top 10 drone manufacturers that have raised the most venture capital funding are based in California.

CB Insights reports that Berkeley-based drone manufacturer 3D Robotics leads the top 10 and has raised $99 m in disclosed venture funding.

San Francisco-based drone software maker Airware has raised more than $40 m and Skycatch $21 m.

“We should be looking at if a drone flies over someone’s private property, is it actually invading someone’s privacy by looking into their backyard, taking pictures or recording video. This shouldn’t be just about flying over private property,” said Nancy Egan, 3D Robotics general counsel.

3D Robotics recently came out with the Solo, a sleek black drone built to hold a GoPro camera and features a wireless high-definition video feed.

Egan says the Solo, which costs about $1,900 for the drone, controller, gimbal, and camera, is largely used by hobbyist drone users who take photos of extreme sports or landscapes like mountains or beaches.

“With drone and camera technologies rapidly advancing, safeguarding the right to privacy is more critical than ever,” Jackson said.

The post California UAV Legislation: Listen Up, Folks appeared first on UAV Coach.

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