The Drone Racing League raises $1M

12 Aug , 2015  


It seems like Drone racing is on its way to becoming a legitimate sport, or at least more mainstream. The Wall Street Journal reports that the owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross, invested $1M in The Drone Racing League.

RSE Ventures, a venture-capital firm co-founded by Mr. Ross, is providing $1 million to the first round of funding for the Drone Racing League, a New York startup that is planning its first public race later this year. The League intends to make money through sponsorships, media and ticket sales.

One of the challenges, is to provide spectators with live streams and more data, but it seems like they’ve got that pretty much figured out, from The Verge:

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.

What do you think? Do you think this will help change people’s perceptions about drones? What about the legal aspect? It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.


A speaker might be more effective than a bullet

5 Aug , 2015  


Researchers in Korea have developed a method to throw off the gyroscopes that keep a multirotor in the air using sound waves. From ComputerWorld:

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejon, South Korea, analyzed the effects of resonance on a crucial component of a drone, its gyroscope. Their paper will be presented next week at the 24th USENIX Security Symposium in Washington, D.C.

A gyroscope keeps a drone balanced, providing information on its tilt, orientation and rotation, allowing for micro-adjustments that keep it aloft. Hobbyist and some commercial drones use inexpensive gyroscopes that are designed as integrated circuit packages.

The team has been performing small scale experiments and have the able to disrupt the flight of a quadcopter using a speaker at a distance of 40 meters, or about 130.

Based on this research and experimentation, in the future, we might be able to keep pesky “drones” out of sensitive, private or secure areas using soundwaves. Head on over to ComputerWorld Australia for the full article.

Sounds can knock drones out of the sky – Computerworld.


Detecting multirotors using their sound-print

20 May , 2015  


Alsok, a Japanese company, also known as Sohgo Security Services, is developing a service that can detect incoming multirotors in the sky using their sound signature. This comes after a multirotor landed on Japan’s prime minister’s roof in April.

For this service, Alsok will use U.S.-made audio sensors that can capture sounds within a radius of 150 meters. For a building the size of the prime minister’s office, three of the sensors will be able to cover the entire area.

When the audio sensors pick up sounds, the system checks a database of audio fingerprints to determine if a drone has approached and to identify the type of drone. For added precision, image sensors can capture the shape of the drone. A warning is then sent to security personnel.

Their services is set to cost a couple of thousand dollars a month, but that is cheaper than using human eyes and ears to detect incoming “drones”. The question is, once it is detected, how will security handle these “threats”?

Securing the skies: Japan's Alsok to warn when drones invade – Nikkei Asian Review.


Hydrogen full-cell powered quad flies for up to 4 hours

20 May , 2015  


Horizon Unmanned Systems, a company based in Singapore, just announced a new type of quadcopter that runs on hydrogen instead of regular old lipos (lithium polymer batteries). The Hycopter uses a fuel cell to convert hydrogen into electricity and they claim that it can fly for up to 4 hours on a single charge of hydrogen gas. The tanks a built-into the frame and the fuel cell can be shifted to accomodate up to 1 kg of cargo, with a reduced flight time of 150 minutes.

Unlike any other rotorcraft, HYCOPTER makes use of its frame structure to store energy in the form of hydrogen instead of air, eliminating energy storage weight. With less lift power required, HYCOPTER’s ultra-light fuel cell turns the hydrogen in its frame into electricity to power its rotors.

This technology sounds great but I would like to see an actual demos and not just a WIX-powered website and a PDF. Check out their website for the full details.



Going to Cuba? Leave your Multirotor at home

15 Apr , 2015   Video

If you are planning on traveling to Cuba, now that the US-Cuban relations are thawing, and you are thinking about packing your favorite UAV to get some amazing aerial footage, do yourself a favor and leave it at home. From The Verge:

Dane Christensen was entering Cuba in February when a customs official pulled him aside: he was carrying a DJI Phantom, which the officials viewed as a kind of contraband. The drone was seized at the border, and stored at customs until Christensen left the country. “It was my full intention to use my drone to get some amazing shots of the beaches and Cubanos surfing,” Christensen says. Unfortunately, without the drone, all Christensen’s footage had to be handheld.

Hot tip: Do not bring your drone to Cuba | The Verge.


3DR Predictions for the April 13 2015 Annoucement

7 Apr , 2015   Video

Here are my predictions (and educated guesses) for the upcoming 3D Robotics announcement on April 13, 2015, and this is solely based on their teaser video above:

They are going to release a new, all black, plastic uni-body, quad, with a sexy name and tout it as being so easy to fly, that even a monkey can do it. 3DR replied to my comment thread on YouTube. More…


New Announcement from 3DRobotics

7 Apr , 2015  


3D Robotics, the San Diego-based UAV company, who recently announced a $50 million round of venture funding, just released a teaser video featuring what seems to be a new quad, and from what I gather, it is so easy to fly, even a monkey can do it. Please, 3D Robotics, don’t make these things “idiot proof” or attempt to market them as such. Sure, you want to sell a ton of these and DJI seems to be eating everyone’s lunch, but, being the open-source pioneers that you are, also focus on educating those who want to fly. The last thing we want is more fly-aways because of bad GPS locks. Technology won’t solve the problem with newbs trying to fly multirotors out of their window and stright into the White House lawn. More…


Episode 4: Episode 4: Drones over Paris, The FAA harrassing a UAV enthusiast and his Youtube channel, DJI and 3D Robotics raising venture capital and UAviators.org

13 Mar , 2015  


In this episode of the podcast, I break down “drones over Paris” incidents with a timeline of the events. I explore the media frenzy over a letter that a UAV hobbyist received from the FAA where they equate his monetized YouTube videos as a commercial endeavor. I interview the aforementioned hobbyist Jayson Hanes to get a first-person account of what really happened.



The “Drone” industry will only get bigger

12 Mar , 2015  


The Verge is reporting that everyone’s favorite drone-maker (har har) is flush with money: DJI is about to become the first billion dollar consumer drone company. They are in the process of raising additional capital, Silicon Valley style:

And The Verge has learned that the company is currently in talks with Silicon Valley’s top venture capital firms to potentially raise a new round of funding. Sources familiar with the negotiations say DJI reported around $500 million in revenue for 2014, roughly four times what it did in 2013, and is on pace to do about $1 billion in sales this year. The potential valuation of the company would be a healthy multiple of that, several billion dollars, although no deal has yet been finalized.



The FAA is NOT taking down YouTube videos about Drones flying

12 Mar , 2015   Video

Jayson Hanes, a UAV enthusiast, is in the middle of an FAA-induced controversy. He received a letter [pdf link] from the FAA telling him that they received a complaint about his commercial use of UAVs and it appers to be valid because he has monetization on his YouTube channel. He does’t do commercial aerial photography, in other words, he has never been hired nor is he for hire for your next wedding. He simply flies his DJI Phantom Vision around, records the sights and posts the video on YouTube. Ah, he is also enrolled in YouTube’s monetization program, so ads show up either before you watch his videos or a small banner is shown. More…