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7 Key Takeaways from InterDrone Las Vegas 2015

interdrone drone conference 2015

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend InterDrone 2015, the world’s largest commercial drone industry event.

I represented the good ‘ole UAV Coach team, one of 150 media partners present. Tack on another 75+ exhibiting companies, three days of speakers, a film festival, and 3,000 attendees, and you’ve got yourself a whopping-fun get together of drone geeks.

Wanted to give a quick shout out to some folks I spent time chatting with. Was nice to meet you all in person and look forward to our paths crossing again soon. Best of luck with each of your respective companies!

7 Key Takeaways from InterDrone 2015

interdrone drone uav conferenceAlright, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the conference.

What’d I learn?

Don’t Skip the Fundamentals

If you’re serious about getting into the UAV industry, it’s important to understand the fundamental technology and hardware components at play.

Kevin Jenkins in his Build Your Own Drone session walked the audience through all the decisions you’d make if choosing to build your own unmanned aerial system.

  • Are you building a one or two-operator system? In a two-operator system, one person is flying, and the other is controlling the gimbal and camera.
  • When evaluating transmitters, 6-channels is the practical minimum you’d want to buy. Futaba and Spektrum are two of the more robust transmitter manufacturers.
  • You should always land with 25% of your LiPi batter voltage (V) and/or capacitance (mAh) remaining. Also, use a balanced charger to re-charge your LiPo batteries, and be careful how you store and travel with them!

U.S. Regulations are (New and) Messy

As Jim Williams pointed out in his keynote address, FAA Regulations: Past, Present & Future, the goal of the FAA’s proposed regulations, issued as NPRM Part 107 back in February 2015, is to create a new, more reasonable kind of pilot’s license class for commercial drone operators.

Until that happens, commercial UAV operators in the U.S. need to petition for a 333 exemption grant. The grant holder is allowed to break existing regulations and fly under the auspices of a blanket COA and set of struct guidelines as laid out by the FAA.

Hot topics?

Line-of-sight and the pilot’s license requirement. Flying direct line-of-sight would make first-person-view (FPV) technology illegal to use if you’re the primary drone operator, which doesn’t sit well with companies like Google and Amazon. Fortunately, the Pathfinder Program is a step in the right direction.

And, even though you can get a 333 exemption for yourself or your company without satisfying the pilot’s license requirement, the pilot-in-control (POC) in any given mission needs to hold a valid airman’s certificate.

Many folks choose to go through sport pilot license training, which can be completed in as short as 2-3 weeks and costs about $5000-$7000 all-in. Others are choosing to build their business around partnerships or contractor relationships with licensed pilots. There’s already about 600,000 licensed pilots in the U.S., and many of these guys are looking to get in the drone industry themselves as evidenced by the number of pilots I spoke with! Definitely lots of opportunities to partner up with the right people.

Pick Your Market

Don Weigel’s session called Putting Drones to Work: Meeting the Needs of Enterprises was particularly helpful. From his course description:

Commercial applications for UAVs range from infrastructure inspections and construction site surveys to environmental monitoring and search and rescue. While the applications for drones are ever increasing, businesses looking to operate drones face common challenges to scaling operations to realize the full value of aerial data.

This session will cover UAS businesses requirements, including commercial-grade aircraft, sensors, hardware and software applications to enable enterprises to safely operate drones at scale and seamlessly integrate aerial data with existing business processes and systems.

In this class, you’ll learn how to build complete enterprise-grade solutions, including:

  • Selecting the right commercial-grade vehicle
  • Selecting best sensors, hardware and software apps
  • Bringing it all together with an operating system to help businesses meet regulatory and insurance requirements, integrate with existing business processes and systems, and scale operations.

Don walked us through what an enterprise-level UAV program workflow should look like. Ultimately, thinking through each angle of the flight to final report processes and checks and balances and being able to operationalize them in a scalable and safe way is what makes or breaks UAV technology in the enterprise.

Really enjoyed Don’s presentation and methodology!

At the end of the day, you can’t just be a good UAV pilot and expect to make money. You need to pick your niche, evaluate your market, know how to market and sell to clients, and how to conduct your operations in an efficient and safe way.

Industry Innovations and Projections

I particularly enjoyed hearing Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and former editor-in-chief at Wired Magazine, speak in his keynote address on Wednesday.

Some of my favorite quotes:

  • “We’ve democratized remote sensing.” We’re now putting powerful tools in the hands of ordinary people, and as a results countless applications are beginning to manifest. Hop on Google and start typing drone + INSERT INDUSTRY, and you’ll get a sense of how widespread UAV technology is becoming.
  • “Drones will become more like sprinklers.” Sprinklers were the first smart-home element, and eventually UAV technology will get to a point where we have aerial systems running automatically, in the background, sending us data and what not.
  • “Drone are not airplanes without pilots. They’re smartphones with propellers.” Other than an automobile, a drone is one of the most complex consumer products ever made.
  • “In 2016, any drone that’s not running Linux on-board will be seen as a toy.” Step it up, drone manufacturers!

We’re an International Community

With conference attendees from all 50 U.S. states and 40+ countries, InterDrone showed us how international the UAV community really is. I met pilots from Colombia, Mexico, France, Germany, and Australia, and I barely scratched the surface of geographies represented there.

dji inspire fly zoneMore and More Industry Players

It’s not just DJI and 3DR.

There’s Ehang, creator of the GHOST Aerial Drone, who just landed $42M in series B funding. And then Intel just pumped $60M into Yuneec, who coincidentally launched their Tornado H920 drone at the conference.

And countless others. Drones just for search and rescue. Turnkey software solutions just for precision agriculture applications. Insurance providers!

The UAV ecosystem is in hyper-growth mode, and it’ll be interesting to see which companies and services last over the next 12-24 months.

Need for Education and Training

Despite positive trends, there are still plenty of buffoons out there giving the UAV industry a bad rap. (Yes, this NYC teacher wrecked his drone at a U.S. Open tennis match.)

It’s not just up to the FAA.

It’s up to all of us to not only follow best practices, but to also push others to do the same.

Whether it’s going through the 333 exemption process, learning to fly a drone safely, or knowing how to take raw footage and turn it into powerful images, video, or data models for your clients, opportunities abound for the aspiring professional drone pilot.


The post 7 Key Takeaways from InterDrone Las Vegas 2015 appeared first on UAV Coach.

FAA Names Two New Officials To Lead On Drone Policy

By: David Morgan

A police helicopter

A police helicopter flies past a UAV drone Quadcopter which in west Baltimore, Maryland May 2, 2015.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday named two new officials to lead its effort to incorporate commercial unmanned aerial systems, or drones, into the U.S. airspace.

Hoot Gibson, an aviation expert who has been involved in development of a next-generation air transportation system for the United States, was named as the agency’s UAS integration senior advisor — a new position responsible for external outreach, education and interagency initiatives.

A former U.S. Air Force career officer and executive director of the FAA-sponsored NextGen Institute, Gibson will report directly to FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker.

The agency also named FAA official Earl Lawrence as director of its UAS Integration Office, an existing position responsible for crafting new commercial drone regulations that are expected early next year. Lawrence, who joined FAA in 2010, previously led the agency’s Kansas City-based Small Airplane Directorate, which is charged with regulating small aircraft, airships and balloons.

The appointments are part of an agency reorganization that was first announced in June by Huerta [ID: L1N0YP2IZ], who said FAA would create a new senior advisor position to handle the crush of private sector interest in drones and allow the existing UAS office to concentrate on rulemaking.

Under pressure from Congress and industry lobbyists, the FAA has been working to accommodate commercial drones as a new and potentially lucrative frontier for U.S. aviation.

The agency is expected to miss a congressionally mandated Sept 30 deadline for new commercial drone regulations but has pledged to publish them by next June — months earlier than anticipated. The rules would allow for widespread commercial drone use for the first time.

Over the past several months, the agency has also accelerated its process for allowing commercial drones on a case-by-case basis. The FAA, which had exempted only a handful of companies from the current near-ban early in the year, has since given the green light to over 1,500 private sector applicants, according to an FAA official.

The post FAA Names Two New Officials To Lead On Drone Policy appeared first on UAV Coach.


High-end aerial and ground capturing solution pairs perfectly with the all-new CGO4 professional gimbal camera.

LAS VEGAS (September 10, 2015)Yuneec International, the world leader in electric aviation, today announced the launch of the Tornado H920 hexacopter and the CGO4 professional gimbal camera.  The Tornado H920, the first release from the highly-anticipated Tornado series, is an aerial photography and videography platform designed with the professional user in mind.

The Tornado H920 aircraft features an ultra-lightweight carbon fiber frame, retractable landing gear, folding arms & 5-Motor failsafe mode, making it the solution of choice for professional users. The built-in capability to hold three rechargeable batteries provides consumers with a flight time of up to 42 minutes depending on payload.

Additionally, the Tornado H920 has several smart features that ensure safety and ease of use, which consumers have come to expect from Yuneec International products.  Features such as Return-to-Home, auto landing and five-rotor flight safety are built into the Tornado system.

“The Tornado H920 has been specially designed for the high level photographer and is the perfect aerial photography solution for use in multiple verticals,” said Tian Yu, CEO of Yuneec USA. “Professional photographers will get a valuable tool that will help them with work opportunities such as inspections and project surveying and hobbyists alike will enjoy a remote hexacopter that can film everything from weddings to birthday parties to sporting events.”

The ST24 personal ground station, a 24-channel all-in-one transmitter, is powered by an Android operating system and features a 7-inch touchscreen that displays telemetry data and a built-in flight simulator. Consumers will also benefit from the GPS receiver that is the top of the line in its class.

The Tornado H920 is compatible with a variety of independent high-end professional aerial and ground capturing cameras including the all-new CGO4 gimbal camera. Specifically developed for the Tornado H920 copter, the CGO4 incorporates a true Panasonic GH4 micro four thirds camera sensor with a 3x optical zoom lens, an integrated 5.8 GHz video link module designed to capture the highest quality aerial photographic and video imagery, conveniently housed within a precise and ultra-stable 3-axis gimbal system.

Additionally, the Tornado H920 also pairs with Yuneec’s V18 professional gimbal stabilized camera with 18X optical zoom and for further convenience, the Tornado H920 is also compatible with the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7Rii using the 360-degree panorama capable GB603 gimbal.

The ready-to-fly (RTF) Tornado H920 package includes a travel case, the ST24 personal ground station, Proaction grip for stable ground footage, two batteries and a premium two-port charger for the suggested retail price of $4999.99USD.  Camera accessories are sold separately for additional costs. For more information visit www.yuneec.com.


About Yuneec International

Founded in 1999, Yuneec is the world leader in electric aviation. With hundreds of patents held, Yuneec’s core technologies power manned aircraft, Typhoon and Tornado drones and its market-leading line of radio controlled aircraft for the hobby market. With offices in North America, Europe and Asia, Yuneec manufactures over one million units a year that are sold under OEM/ODM brands as well as the Typhoon brand of multicopters. The company’s achievements include the introduction of the industry’s first “Ready to Fly” radio controlled electric powered airplane, and the design and manufacture of market-leading radio controlled helicopters and microcopters.

The post YUNEEC ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF TORNADO H920 AT INTERDRONE 2015 appeared first on UAV Coach.

3D Robotics Launches New Academic Sponsorship Program, “3DU”

Source: 3D Robotics

New Academic Sponsorship Program-3DU

The end of summer always sees students lined up outside of college bookstores, preparing for the fall semester. But at the top of this year’s class supply list might appear a new item: a Solo drone by 3D Robotics.

3DR, North America’s largest consumer drone manufacturer, has launched its new academic program for drones in education—called “3DU”—to support the numerous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) programs taking flight at schools across the country. The 3DU program offers hardware discounts and sponsorships to help prepare a new generation for the emerging UAV industry. 3DU is open to students, clubs, courses and schools at the K-12, university, graduate and postgraduate levels.

“In the past, drone research and teaching tended to be restricted to aerospace or engineering departments,”
“But this is quickly changing.”

– says Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics.

While 3DR will continue to sponsor UAV projects and team competitions with their open-source autopilot, the Pixhawk, they expect the demand for ready-to-fly vehicles to rise quickly, and across many disciplines and grade levels. To enable these new initiatives, the 3DU program will also offer academic discounts on ready-to-fly vehicles, including their flagship product, Solo, the world’s first smart drone.

“These schools realize that UAVs will become a multi-billion dollar commercial industry,”
“Consequently we’re seeing massive adoption of our drone platforms in education. The diversity and creativity of these programs is astonishing, from archaeology to cinematography to precision farming. We’re seeing the shape of next-generation industry taking form in these labs, and we want to empower them.”

– says Anderson.

The 3DU program provides discounts for both students and faculty on 3DR’s groundbreaking smart drone, Solo, as well as discounts on the rest of the hardware on their online store, including all other Solo accessories. Solo is the ideal drone for academia as it’s pedagogically intuitive—easy to fly with built-in safety features—and as an open platform that runs on dual 1 GHz Linux computers, it enables hands-on development; students can experiment on the software side as well as the hardware side, tapping Solo’s open accessory and gimbal bays to support different cameras and sensors. Because Solo is so open to innovation, schools will have the confidence that they can invest in the right technology for a variety of needs and won’t have to completely retool every time they offer a new course.

The real future of UAV education, however, lies in software applications, and to that end 3DR has an open app development platform called DroneKit that students can use to learn about, experiment with and create drone apps. “We want Solo to be the number one developer platform for academia,” says Brandon Basso, 3DR’s vice president of software engineering. “We enable development on Solo, for Solo and for the cloud.”

The 3DU program isn’t alone in supporting schools; it is partnering with a growing number of companies to provide educational discounts on additional products. These companies Panoptes, who makes a quadcopter eBumper sonar system for sense-and-avoid courses.

In addition to classroom and curriculum support, 3DR also sponsors select schools, programs and clubs. The company has already sponsored several university UAV programs, including Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

“Recently 3D Robotics donated hardware to SUAVE, Stanford’s UAV Club,” said Trent Lukaczyk of Stanford’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (uav.stanford.edu). “The donation included DIY quadcopter kits, batteries, and much needed spare parts. We used the equipment to grow and upgrade the SUAVE 101 Course: an intro course that mentors students with zero drone experience into autonomous flying heroes.”

“Even for college seniors, the task of designing and assembling a functional system in a three-month period is challenging,” said Tom Clark, Development Engineer, Mechanical Engineering Department, Cal Berkeley. “With 3DR’s donation of a set of drones, as well as continued support from their engineers, our students can spend less time learning about drone technology currently on the market, and instead focus on developing their own applications or hardware that builds on that technology. We are grateful for 3DR’s support!”

To highlight the revolution occurring in the academic drone space, the 3DU program will publish a regular academic newsletter. “Every day we’re discovering so many new uses for drones popping up across so many new fields,” says Dr. Greg Crutsinger, director of the 3DU program. “We want to make sure the world knows education is being transformed from the sky down.”

You can learn more about the 3DU program and fill out an application by visiting 3drobotics.com/3DU

The post 3D Robotics Launches New Academic Sponsorship Program, “3DU” appeared first on UAV Coach.

Watch This Guy Fly In A 54-Propeller Super Drone

Source: TechCrunch
By: Drew Olanoff

54-Propeller Super Drone

Flying drones are all the rage right now. The latest DJI Phantom is smoking hot. But sitting in your very own one and flying it? That’s uncharted territory…until now.

Check out this dude in the UK hovering above the earth in a contraption with “54 counter-rotation propellers and six grouped control channels with Hobbyking stabilization.”

It’s hard to tell just how far he got off of the ground. Maybe 15 feet or so. It’s still pretty cool.

Notice this car roll by, stop and back up once he sees this thing:

54-Propeller Super Drone-2

Here it is unmanned (albeit not as cool):

To quote our very own Travis:

“It’s like that movie “Fly Away Home,” but instead of geese it’s just a nerd trying to get home to his mom.” It is just like that.

The post Watch This Guy Fly In A 54-Propeller Super Drone appeared first on UAV Coach.

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