5 Things I Learned On The Road With Drones

After a 6 week filmmaking adventure that took the Drone Dudes from Texas, up to Michigan, and all the way to New York there are a few things I learned that I wanted to pass on to you. Using Drones on the road isn’t as glamourous as it might sound at times. There’s a lot you have to think about, plan for, and account for while your on the road. Below I’ve compiled 5 things that I learned while on the road with drones.

1. Forget Sleep; Your Batteries Need To Charge!

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One of the most challenging thing’s I’ve learned in my years in aerial cinematography is that most nights you might not get much sleep. For the Octocopter we had 12 10,000 Mah packs that we kept on a charge cycle so we could keep the Octo in the air while on set. At the end of the night,  your batteries are usually all depleted and you need to spend all night charging the packs before heading back out the next morning. I’ve become accustomed to waking up every hour throughout the night to swap batteries on the chargers, as well as switching auxiliary devices that need to be charged up too.(Such as iPads, BTS Camera, GoPro’s, Computers, and Controllers) We utilized a USB Super Charge Box that helped with having a dedicated spat to charge our USB electronics. It’s all a part of the job.

2. Different Drones for Different Jobs

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Having a diverse collection of drones for different jobs keeps our workflow nice and smooth. For Scouting shots, we fly the DJI Inspire 1 to plan our flightpath and camera movements before breaking out the octocopter with the requested camera package. With less investment in the air and more battery time it lets us experiment and find the unique angles to get. Drones are a great gateway into how we can use robotics for filming, and to think about what other robots we can use to get the shot. With the recent purchase of the Freefly Tero car, Drone Dudes is constantly innovating.

3. Always Innovate

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One of the best ways to stay on top of things is to always be using the most advanced cutting edge technology that’s out there. The Freefly Tero car is a pretty new concept. For very specific shots that require a low angle it is the equivalent to a never-ending set of rails. When you’re out filming historical architecture, a low sweeping angle is about as valuable as an aerial shot outside. It’s a perspective that we don’t have in our everyday human experience and has that same excitement as an aerial shot. Wether its VR, low RC car angles, or aerial shots innovation goes a long way for the client and your public perception.

4. Always Bring Backups

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One of the 1st things I learned in the media business is always bring a backup.  Maybe even a backup for your backup. I don’t just mean duplicate copies of hard drives with two separate people, but duplicates of all your gear. When providing a service to a client you want to save yourself the embarrassment of not being able to complete the shoot due to a gear malfunction and not having a backup. This tip doesn’t go just for your craft but for every wire, connector, screw, adapter, monitor, charger, props, antenna, etc, that you might have for your gear. Chances are the one thing you don’t think you need to bring a backup for is always the one you wish you would have brought.

5. Take Lots Of Pictures & Do Daily WritingCollageOne thing I don’t see many people doing is bringing a photographer to snap BTS photos of them during their shoots. It’s time to step back and understand the value of the memories you’re making in 10-20-30 years from now. The places that some of these jobs take us are so breathtaking and to have photographs of yourself working in those environments is incredibly unique and not to mention great marketing material. I was doing BTS on the 1st part of the Drone Dudes shoot covering all of Eero Saarinen’s architectural sites around the US. On that trip it was hard to be a fly on the wall and photograph everyone while they made the show happen, but in retrospective I was a key part of the team that will cement what we did in time. What we’re doing with drone technology is history in the making and were all in the forefront, so why not document it and have the memories to share with your family in friends for generations to come.

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.

FPV: Vortex Freestyle

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The ImmersionRC Vortex is one of my favorite quads.Having been in a hard crash breaking more than half my motors I decided to upgrade to the Cobra 2204 1960Kv motors. They’re really nice, though I’m still trying to feel the difference between these and my old 1306 2300kv motors. Regardless, the performance of the Pro-Tune’d settings in the Vortex makes flying a breeze. Without worrying about PID settings, it’s going to ensure you a good flying expierence.

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.

A Good Day for FPV Racing

   The Drone Racing League 

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Today is a great day for drone racing. This morning, the news that Stephen Ross, Miami Dolphins owner, just invested $1 million into The Drone Racing League. With such a substantial investment into the technology, people are bound to take notice and really give drone racing the respect it deserves. But everyone is wondering, who the hell is The Drone Racing League? I cannot seem to find any information about them, which makes me worried about the structure of their events. With people in the space like MultiGP who have been doing timed races for over a year and many chapters all over the US, a lot of people are hoping The Drone Racing League doesn’t screw up potential investment opportunities for other leagues int he future.

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We’re right at the pinnacle of Drone Racing becoming a sport. At the Drone Nationals held in Sacramento at the California State Fair, there was light talk about FPV racing becoming a ‘sport’ with the word ‘sport’ being thrown around by some of the pilots in the pit. I remember being on the live stream at Drone Nationals and using the word sport to define FPV racing for the 1st time. I don’t know if it will blow up to a major league televised sport, but with the mix of engineering and tech behind flying FPV its something that is going to gain traction for spectators to spend a day watching the fun.

S0480058_1One of the things everyone was keen on seeing was  if there were going to be any spectators in the stands at Drone Nationals. Wether it was the 105 degree heat, the week days at the fair, or no shade in the stands, I think we all know that theres a few more steps we have to take to get spectator attention retention up. Josh from LA drones has been working hard to fix that exact problem.

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The Flycaster displaying and recording 4 different 5.8 Video feeds for viewing and instant playback.

To try and get spectators and audiences interested, Josh Sharfi developed the FlyCaster; a display that shows multiple 5.8 FPV video feeds on one screen. Not only is this awesome for people to watch who aren’t flying, but the video is always being recorded. If theres any discrepancy over who hit who or who crossed the finish line 1st we’re able to instantly playback the video feeds from all the drones at the same time to see who was right. With future plans to add a local network and much more, the future of FPV spectating looks bright. Once you use it its such an essential tool for any race crew who takes things serious that you won’t want to go without.

Percepto

Mark Cuban and Richard Parsons have announced that they have invested $1 Million into Percepto during a series one round of funding. Percepto is a drone Computer Vision accessory that enables the drone you already have to see a computer vision overlay on your video. Instead of building their platform for one specific use, they built a platform that developers can develop apps on. While that seemed like a good idea in the planning phase, I’m really interested who is going to build on top of an existing platform instead of building something custom for their exact needs. At a retail cost of $600, or $400 on their IndieGoGo campaign, I think it will be very hard for them to break into the consumer market and will be geared more towards industrial applications.

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.

Quadcopter Surfing; A thrill or a horrible idea?

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Quadcopter Surfing; A thrill or a horrible idea? 

Yesterday I was cruising the canyons on one of those sunday-drive with no destination type of days. I stopped and found a few cool flying spots, but nothing beat the beach. I’ve flown at the beach before, but never with a mini quad so I naturally wanted to rip it up. I’ve never really had the trust in my solders and my equipment until now, where I have a trust with my equipment. This was filmed with the Immersion RC Vortex and a GoPro Hero 4.

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.

XHover MXP180 FPV Maiden

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The XHover MXP180 is quickly rising to the top of my favorite-to-fly list. It’s small footprint is a huge part of making me make that decision. If a 180 flies the same as a 250, why would I fly the 250? The 180’s size reduces chances of crashing in small gaps but still maintains the ability to carry a GoPro Hero4.

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.

Drone Nation: An Inside Look into Drone Racing

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Drone Nationals Live Stream @ Drone Dudes

A Drone Nation; Something to be excited for, or extremely scared of? In this two part series Fusion TV takes you into the world of Drones to see who’s cashing on on this ‘gold rush’. 1st, we meet the Drone Dudes. Drone Dudes is a full service creative studio out of Downtown Los Angeles providing complete ground and aerial filmmaking solutions, as well as an online shop with expert help if your looking to get your own drone. If you haven’t checked them out before watch part one of Drone Nation. After, go to their website  and look at their work. It’s phenomenal. (Disclaimer: I might be a little bias, as I took the majority the photos on the website and worked the last 8 months at the studio)

Also featured in part one of Drone Nation is the Aerial Sports League. The ASL is run by the guys who founded Game of Drones, a company that makes an indestructible transparent airframe. Their claim to fame is aerial combat, where two drones enter a cage and only one drone leaves. You have three lives. If you are brought down, you have 90 seconds to repair your quad and enter the next match. I’ll be reviewing one of their airframes sometime soon stay tuned.

While I was working at the Drone Dudes studio in Downtown Los Angeles I meet the team from Fusion TV as they stopped by to film us for their half hour special on the drone

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Getting ready to Live Broadcast @ Drone Nationals

industry called “Drone Nation.” We gave them a tour around our studio, showing them different drones that we use for filming, some examples of our work, and lastly they wanted to learn more on Mini Quads. I mentioned that there was the 1st ever Drone Nationals race at the California State Fair, and they asked me if I was going.

At 1st I didn’t want to go to Drone Nationals. I felt intimidated, unworthy, andunprepared. The more experiences I have in life the more I realize when you are uncomfortable doing something you should probably bite down and just do it. At this time I just got my second mini quad, a XHover MXP230, and thats when you start pushing the limits. When you have just one, you’re scared to fly really hard because you want to make sure you still have a quad to fly the next day.

In my suburb outside of Los Angeles, it was hard to find people into mini quads one year ago. Now, theres a thriving community of pilots who are meeting almost daily and I’ve seen friends just starting out excel in the drone racing arena in just a short amount of time. It’s been amazing to watch.

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The set up I used at Drone Nationals. Taranis, Xhover MXP230, and Fatshark Dominator V2’s

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Brendan and I at the entrance of Done Nationals

In part two of Drone Nation you will meet the government side of Drones used for border security, as well as the segment on Drone Nationals. The Drone Nationals was so fun, and is something that I would absolutely recommend for everyone to enter into an official drone race at least once. The pressure of racing in front of so many of your peers, spectators, and the pressure to win might make you nervous. But learning how to deal with that pressure is what made Drone Nationals such a great experience for me. I felt as if I walked away from Drone Nationals as a much better pilot because of leaning to deal with stress management. Since Nationals, I’ve been flying better than I ever have before because I was so inspired to refine my skills and become a better more competent pilot afterwards. I felt a huge shift from pre-drone nationals to post-drone nationals.

Though I did not “Place” at the drone nationals, I believe I am the winner because I had the most fun. Creating community was the best part about it. Meeing people who you’ve interacted with on the internet and putting a face to the name was really cool. The event was not only about the racing. They had daily events after where everyone would get drinks, chat, and dream about what the future of Drone Racing would be. I’ve never been a part of a community like this, and I hope to be able to spread the joy that it has given me with many more people to come.

(Big shoutout to Scott Refsland from Flying Grounds International. Scot planned, organized, and executed the Nationals with extreme professionalism. He brought in the FAA, the AMA, and the FCC to figure out hoe everyone could cooperate to create a smooth event. For the 1st event of its kind, it was a pleasure to be a pilot.)

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Also, I am embedding a podcast I did with Joe Strandell from The Joe Strandell Show. Joe and I talk about Drones, Life, Spirituality, Business, and much much more. I have a feeling a part two is going to be soon in the future so stay tuned!

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.

Why FlyBi is Set Up For Failure

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 3.31.36 PM 1The FlyBi drone. At first I ignored this concept when I saw it about a month ago. I don’t understand who exactly FlyBi’s is trying to market to, which is a little off-putting. The company is using flashy words like “VR” and “Autonomous” to gain traction while sporting a very high promise of features mixed a very low project funding goal goal. I find it hard to believe they will deliver the on the features they are promising. I give my comprehensive review and explain why I think so. Lets take a look at the features FlyBi is promising.

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VR Glasses with Head Tracking  

This is the first feature that I believe people will be let down by. They are promising a smooth VR experience, but no where does it say anything about how they are transmitting video. In the consumer market, the customer will naturally assume that it will be an HD unobstructed stream. They do mention that the goggles have HD capable screens, but I’m almost certain that it’s on a 5.8 frequency which means the quality will be SD. Not only that, it will produce glitchy video as 5.8 analog is subject to interference. While this is normal and expected in the R/C world, the average consumer will not understand this and will be let down. Also, it will not be a truly smooth VR experience like people have experienced before. They will move the camera using servos based on how the goggles move. You can view a demo of the technology here. 

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Wearable Wrist Remote I could only imagine how this one went down in the meeting rooms. “Maybe we could make our drone a ‘wearable’ and it would appeal to a larger audience!” While I appreciate the desire to innovate and create something new and interesting, I don’t think this will work well in practice. The joystick is for forward, back, left and right control. There are two spinning circles that go around the joystick. The 1st level one will control altitude, with the second controlling yaw. The integrated screen will have to be analog 5.8 and exist without an antenna which will produce non desirable results. I also think this wrist strap won’t fit everyone, and will make it harder to control the drone to get the shots you want.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 6.04.41 PMHD 1080 Camera  The integrated camera on the FlyBi looks to be a fatshark 600TVL. While they could upgrade it in the future to a better sensor, using the fatshark module in the marketing is misleading. Also missing is the a true electronic motor gimbal. This ‘Gimbal’ pictured is a 2 axis servo controlled mechanism. No, this gimbal won’t take out the shaky movements from your quadcopter, and in fact might even exaggerate them. With technology like this already existing for years in Fatshark goggles, I don’t find this to be a new and innovative feature. View the existing Fatshark head tracking feature here.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 3.32.15 PMHelideck Remote Charging The next over promised feature we have the Helideck. The Helideck will supposedly act as a backpack, rolling case, and homing beacon for your FlyBi. In addition, while using the Helideck they say you will never have to change your batteries yourself. Simply let the FlyBi land in the Helideck and let it change the batteries for you!(supposedly) While this sounds very cool, it is yet another feature that will make the FlyBi more complex, heavy, and subject to failure. Lets face it; people who fly drones should know their machines inside and out and this also means knowing how to charge and maintain your batteries yourself.

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Very Small Funding Goal This is the most concerning part. FlyBi has launched on Kickstarter with a funding goal of only $35,000. How in the world do they think they’ll be able to fund R&D, production, and marketing with 35k? For reference, Photokite launched their Fotokite Phi by exceeding a their $300,000 goal. Zano got about 12,075 pre-orders, generated just over $3,000,000, and just delivered the 1st 200 units to their 1st backers. The DreamQuii Plexidrone raised $2,243,986, about 1,000 times their projected goal (and since have done a complete re-design). There are a lot of new technologies involved with the FlyBi, injection molds, electronics, and FPV screens that would require much more money than $35,000 to produce. Furthermore, when using a crowd funding platform like IndieGoGo, you retain the funds regardless if you reach your goal or not. To me, projects on kickstarter are more reputable. If your goal is so low, why not go onto a more reputable platform like Kickstarter?

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 9.31.49 AMThis is going not meant to say that crowd funding on one platform is better than another to start your drone company. There are many success stories like ZanoPlexidrone, Fotokite, Ghost Drone, Micro Drone, Hexo+, Airdog, CyPhy, Game Of Drones, C-MiSprite, and I’m sure we’ll see even more in the future! With so many success stories, it’s also good to remember that not every crowd funded drone project doesn’t go so well. Projects  like the Pocket Drone don’t have such a happy ending. The team was not expecting as many orders as they got, about 1,946 for a total investment of about $929,212. The owners were not prepared and had to invest their own life savings, and even go into debt to fulfill R&D and production of the product. After all pre orders were fulfilled AirDroids, the maker of the Pocket Drone, closed shop for good.

Crowd funding has become a great way for entrepreneurs to gain capital to create new and innovative products. We’ve seen some great drone products come out of crowd funding programs such as Zano. I personally backed the Zano project, and once I get mine I will probably buy a few more to explore their swarming feature and to give as gifts(assuming it works as they said). To me, it really seems like the ideal platform that I’ve always been dreaming about. I’m not expecting it to shoot the best video, have the furthest range, or fly in much wind at all. But to have a small flying camera that will take photos of you and your friends is something I’ve been looking for. As I live my life, I’m starting to see where Zano could be integrated. It happens quite often.

There seems to be a recipe for successful drone crowd funding campaigns. The first factor being an entertaining video that tells the story of where the inspiration for the product came from. The video shows people using the product, and sometimes what the product can produce. The second strategy is media support. It has become a custom to put all the media outlets and reports you were featured in on your Kickstarter page to show what brands believe in your vision. Third you need a detailed project timeline showing what has already been accomplished, future challenges, solutions for problems you are encountering at the current state of your project, and the willingness to over-communicate with your backers. Communication with your backers and creating a personal relationship with them is the most important. Zano used Reece to have a relatable person with a great personality talk with and let the backers know what is going on. I talked to Reece at CES, and had to compliment him on his video marketing strategy. At the moment, Zano is on email update #45 since January which equals about 5 updates per month. While they didn’t deliver on their initial shipping goal, they’ve kept backers updated about what’s going on and that makes them feel good about their investment.

Other companies like the Lilly.Camera took the same marketing ideas as the kickstarter campaigns utilizing a high quality video that shows features, use cases, and the lifestyle you can live with the product, in this case the Lilly. They went to media outlets before their release date and made content with them so on their release date the internet blew up about their product. Not only is this great for marketing, but great for sales too. All of Lily’s sales have been private, and that might attract more capital investors as opposed to a crowd funded project in which the figures are public.

Anytime there is a democratization of an industry, innovation happens at an exponential rate and that gives the big manufacturers pressure to innovate and create something more technology advanced. However, don’t take everything for its face value, and use your best judgement before putting your money into a crowd funded drone project. People have been let down before, and I would hate to see more people be let down again in the future.

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.

CAUTION: Risk of Jail Time For FPV Flights in Los Angeles

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Want to fly FPV in Los Angeles? There is a new proposed ruling by the LA city council would completely ban all FPV flights including those done with a VLOS spotter and even in AMA sanctioned flying fields. If you are found flying FPV in Los Angeles you risk a $1,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail. Brendan Schulman, the Drone Lawyer, explains what the proposal would mean below.

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@CineDrones @ericgarcetti Criminalizes children playing in backyards, doesn’t actually track FAA regs, outlaws the new drone racing sport…
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In the words of Mike Fortin, CEO of FAA Exempt filmmaking company Cinedrones, he states:

“While I believe there should be rules and laws in place I feel as though the City of Los Angeles has taken a misinformed approach to trying to regulate a technology they know little about. No public hearings or consultation was made in regards to the new ordinance and therefore leaves much to be desired by those of us who want regulation but want it the right way and by people that have all of the information.

Sadly an ordinance like this effectively disbands any and all FPV racing events being held in a sanctioned and approved location. Furthermore if the letter of the law is followed this essentially criminalizes kids playing with “toy drones” that may be flying in their back yard.”

Lets take a look at the bill which can be viewed here. The city has taken FAA suggested rules and added even more restrictive legislation on top of that to the SEC. 56.31. UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS proposal. Below I am focused on section (b)3. Section (b)3 states:

11742648_10153541289549162_3987653498295120127_n3. No Person shall operate any Model Aircraft within the City of Los Angeles
beyond the visual line of sight of the person operating the Model Aircraft.
 The operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the Model Aircraft. People other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight. Visual line of sight means that the operator has an unobstructed view of the Model Aircraft. The use of vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles or other devices designed to provide a “first-person view” from the model, do not constitute the visual line of sight of the person operating the Model Aircraft. 

The City of Los Angeles explicitly states that First Person View flying “with the assistance of goggles or other vision devices” is explicitly illegal and can result in a $1,000 fine and/or 6 months jail time.

S0480058_1The proposed law in Los Angeles completely disregards the American Modeler Association’s rules that have been able to self regulate safe model aircraft aviation for the last 79 years. The AMA Document #550 Section 3(b) states “All FPV flights require an AMA FPV pilot to have an AMA FPV spotter next to him/her maintaining VLOS with the FPV aircraft throughout its flight.” People in the community are happy to follow AMA rules. We all love the hobby and will do whatever it takes to preserve these new traditions for generations to come.

The racing organization IDRA, or the International Drone Racing Association, hosted their 1st race in Los Angeles and is one of a few organizations organizing FPV events in the greater Los Angeles area. This ban would in effect take their races to the surrounding counties. View the latest episode of That Drone Show that highlights the most recent IDRA race in Orange County.

Charles Zablan, COO of the IDRA explains it like this:

S0349186“New technology especially ones with such great potential should not be feared for the negative uses that it could bring, but we should embrace the good that it could do. Robotics of any kind could greatly enhance our everyday experience. Whether it’s aiding in search and rescue, building and agriculture inspection, to drone racing. Aerial robotics, and drone technology has so many useful applications. Institutions such as the AMA exist to keep the technology safe. The potential for growth is greatly stunted by unsubstantiated fear mongering.”

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This is not only a set back for the FPV racing community, but for the advocation of STEAM education. FPV is by far the most immersive and inspiring way to get young people involved in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Every child who see’s an FPV racing quadcopter flying in the air is in complete awe and wants to learn more. FPV flying is commonly referred to being like a ‘real life video game’. This type of activity has the ability to get kids out of the house from behind the computer screen and out into the world. There are many bright young minds out there and we will be missing this opportunity to inspire the next generation of innovators.

The sustainable future of FPV and anyone who wants to fly a drone in Los Angeles depends on this bill being vetoed. Please join with the FPV community in contacting the Los Angeles Mayor’s office and address your concerns in a constructive, nice, and educated way.

Mayor Eric Garcetti
200 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 978-0600
mayor.garcetti@lacity.org

Twitter: @ericgarcetti

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The participants of the 1st IDRA FPV race in North Hills, Los Angeles, California

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.

Why The Intel Aero Is A Big Deal

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This week in San Fransisco at IDF (Intel Developers Forum) Intel released their newest development platform, the Intel Aero. When thinking about drones and their uses, hardware is subjective. The aspect that makes the drone useful for different applications is the software that is paired with the hardware. Having a drone that you can fly is great. Having a drone that can fly its self and navigate obstacles while flying autonomously is a huge deal.

The Intel Aero with Intel Realsense Technology will be the 1st open source Smart Vision development platform that is available to customers in an (almost) ready to fly package. (The Flight Control board is available now, with a RTF version coming before the end of Q4.) For reference, the DJI Matrice 100 featured a ‘guidance’ system that features 360 degree Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 5.43.37 PMultrasonic sensors that could sense an object, but could not 3D map its surroundings. This means that the Inel Atom is the 1st development drone with intelligent computer vision
and makes it the most most important development platform on the market today.

The possibilities with Aero are endless. For starters, imagine while flying a drone inside it
creates a 3D map of everything inside and is able to localize its indoor position based off the 3D map it generated and the IRS sensors. This will immediately make flying drones inside more safe and consumer friendly.

Another extremely valuable use case would be a racing drone that is incapable of crashing into gates, trees, or any other obstacles. Programming the IRS to know the size of the drone and to be capable of calculating the size of a gap or gates you need to fly through in real time is now a possibility with Intel Aero.

The launch of the Intel Aero is undoubtedly one of the most important releases in the drone developer space. The ability to develop on an existing flight control board that runs Dronecode, has Airware no fly zone support built in, and an Intel Realsese Technology add-on is going to open new doors for drones, developers, and in the end will benefit  the general consumer. With the most important aspect of a drone being the software,  I look forward to the day when I can fly a drone that was developed on the Intel Aero Platform.

Also shown at IDF was the Yuneec Typhoon H with Intel RealSense Technology. The Yuneec Typhoon H sells for $1,899 and can be bought here

SOURCE: Quadcopter Guy – Read entire story here.