Time Inc. – This Is What It’s Like to Fly the World’s Best Personal Drone – April 8, 2015

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In follow up to my prior post about the DJI Phantom 3, here is the article by Alex Fitzpatrick of Time, Inc. in which I have a couple of quotes.

Me and Mr. Cheng with the Phantom 3 – April 6, 2015

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I had the distinct pleasure on Monday to spend the day with DJI’s Director of Aerial Imaging, Eric Cheng. With their new product debut a couple of days away, I was tasked with sourcing a private flying locale and aiding in press demos.

Eric is shown above piloting the new Phantom 3 – click on the image to see our very special “dronie”

Below, Eric is speaking with Alex Fitzpatrick of Time Inc. about the new features of the Phantom 3 and below that a screengrab of the aerial “etch a sketch” feature of the new DJI Pilot Tablet App. Just kidding – the Phantom will trace its route in an inset window that you can enlarge to show its flight path. Eric skillfully flew the Phantom 3 to spell the word “Time” for Alex.

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What an impressive piece of equipment. You’ll no doubt read much more extensive reviews so I will boil it down to the most salient features:

4S Battery with more powerful motors makes this the fastest and most responsive Phantom yet. The enhanced GPS capability makes GPS lock very fast and very stable. I mean like you are parked in the air stable. In the wind. No drift at all.

Borrowing many features from the Inspire 1 such as built in Lightbridge technology, bottom facing sonar for super stable flight without GPS, and sonar based landing assistance with absolutely no ground effect perceived at hover inches above the ground.

Price points are as incredible as the performance – the Phantom 3 Professional has a 4K video camera and captures high quality stills in DNG Raw format – priced at US$1259.00. The Advanced version has a camera capable of 1080p 60fps and the same quality stills at US$999.00. Both use an aspherical fixed focal length lens that boasts distortion free imagery, it will live stream to YouTube, log flights, and features Director- an automatic video editing system based on moments you mark in real time.

The democratization of the skies continues as operating one has never been easier. This copter is stable, fast, and fun!

Thanks so much to Eric and DJI for giving me the opportunity to see it in action (and fly it like I stole it!) and to provide support in the NYC area leading up to the product launch.

CNN International – New Rules For Using Drones – Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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Scrub to 2:36 for my interview, worth watching from the top though.

I liken Amazon’s goal of delivering packages as the commercial UAS Industry equivalent of the Moon missions of the 60’s. Without that far reach, innovation will not be moved forward at the pace necessary to innovate.

I’d like to see the FAA grant Amazon access to testing space or, better yet permit them to test at their facilities in the US. Pardon the pun but this is all “pie in the sky” unless industry is permitted to use the NAS in very proscribed ways.

FAA NPRM Conference Call February 15, 2015 – Notes


For those that were unable to get through to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making Conference Call, here is a summary and impressions:

FAA will create a new class of license for sUAS, there will be no medical examination requirement.

The test will be a written proficiency exam and testing will take place in multiple convenient locations. Licensed pilots will be required to take this test in addition to prior certifications.

In this class of 55 lbs and under there will be no airworthiness certification required. The FAA realizes the time it takes to go through airworthiness procedures and it would be too long based on current technology advancement rates.

There will be safety parameters indicated and all vehicles must operate with them. This is unclear as to whether this means a mandatory lost link Return To Home feature and/or other failsafe mechanisms.

The speaker addresses the 2 kilo/4.4 lb Micro sUAS Proposal and welcomes commentary. Insofar as the NPRM addresses most of the micro UAS class in this sweeping proposal of rulemaking, I would say that the remaining tasks of the micro UAS Proposal would revolve around beyond Line of Sight, First Person View restriction.

The question was asked as to how long before the NPRM would be adopted in some way. A timeline was not offered but we have at least 60 days to respond in writing. It is my knowledge that our/your response is desired but not in the manner of a form letter. When responding, presentation of data and its analysis is welcome and desired. It was clear that those responsible were interested in acting quickly from this point forth.

Key points were that FAA acknowledges that operating a UAV presents different challenges than operating manned aircraft.

No ruling on hobbyist activity. FAA states that as already regulated provided flying is done under the “Know Before You Fly” guidelines.

FAA stresses Education and Safety as paramount. Stated that they are performing “aggressive” research into beyond LOS UAS rulings

Emphasis on the NPRM as part of an evolving and iterative process.

I think it’s safe to say that I am not alone in feeling somewhat relieved by this NPRM as most expected something far more stringent and limited. I believe the New York City Drone Users Group and its more commercially driven members are now presented with an opportunity and responsibility to become more involved in rule making and to continue to act as ambassadors of the this growing industry.

I will be posting a response to the NPRM soon. Please share your thoughts and comments.

Washington Post – January 26, 2015

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This story running in the Washington Post is in response to a hobby scale quadcopter landing on the grounds of the White House. I’m quoted about 2/3 into the story.

While this incident is likely to cause legislators to tap the brakes on UAS integration, the fact is that ship has sailed. The technology is easily accessible, and relatively reliable at the hobbyist level. The operator that performed this stunt, at 3:00a no less, is in violation of many laws and should be prosecuted in my opinion.

Hopefully the GoPro camera onboard captured some pre-flight images of him or her about to be very stupid.