Finding Beautiful Places to Fly and Photograph with your Drone


Bought your new video/photo drone? Check!
Read the Manual? Check!
Run the flight simulator program or practiced with some toy quads? Check!
Watched some of the online Videos relating to your model? Check!
Made your maiden flights at a large open field (school or similar field) to test the setup? Check!

Now it’s time to find some more varied places to fly your quadcopter and take some stunning still pictures and videos. Don’t be tempted to use your front and back yards and local neighborhood as regular flying grounds they probably aren’t that interesting and you’ll be quite embarrassed if you need to retrieve your new machine from the neighbor’s pool. Worse yet, you could damage cars, property or injure people.

Finding suitable and photogenic locations can take some effort but the results will be worthwhile. Here are some hints and tips which may help you find some safe

Know Where you Are!

Study local maps carefully ideally on Google, Bing or Apple Maps Satellite view. Once you become familiar with your locale, locate large open (usually green) areas. During a recent trip to Florida, I noticed that a large fairgrounds was just a few blocks away. This area provided a great view of the city and surrounding area and was very safe for flying.

Example of Map View

Example of Map View

I founds some large abandoned areas near some railroad tracks which provided an amazing view of a local park as well as the center of town. [Read more…]

Drone Sales Forecasts released by CTA

Drone Boom Chart

July, 2016

The CTA (Consumer Technology Association) has released their projections for the US and worldwide Drone market for the years 2016-2020. was proud to provide essential data and consulting to the CTA (produces of the CES Show in Las Vegas) in order to help them provide the most accurate projections possible.

After studying their new report we conclude that they did a fine job in comparison to their earlier models. Here are some of the highlights and some editorial on their projections and the market in general.

Highlights – and some of our opinions!

The US represents approx. 25% of all Consumer Drone revenue worldwide. This figure is probably lower than the former 30% as the ROW (Rest of World), especially China and Europe, increase in sales and importance.
[Read more…]

Best Selling Camera Drones (Amazon), July 2016

The following, ranked by order of sales, are the top sellers in the Camera Drone category on Amazon USA.
Note -the Phantom 3 Advanced hit first place due to a Lightning Deal which reduced its price for one day.

DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone with 2.7K HD Video Camera
DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter
DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter 4K UHD Video Camera Drone
DJI Phantom 3 4K (White/Gold)
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone with 4K Camera, 1.2-Mile HD Live View & Hard Case (Orange)
DJI Inspire 1 V2.0 Quadcopter With Single Remote
DJI Phantom 2 V2.0 Quadcopter
Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter Drone RTF with CGO3 Camera, ST10+ & Steady Grip
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Quadcopter – Jungle
Parrot Bebop 2 – Red
Typhoon H 4k Collision Avoidance Hexacopter w/ Battery, Charger, ST16 Controller

We publish a list of the best selling GPS Camera Drones once or twice a month. Our data comes from various rankings on Amazon – the best category being “Camera and Photo”. However, this data has to be combined with other rankings as drones are often classified in differing (and incorrect) categories.

The list provides a peek into the mid-range consumer electronics Camera Drone market.

HK 251 Whirlwind Brushless Quadcopter Review

XK 251 Brushless Quadcopter

The XK 251 is a RTF (Ready to Fly) mid-sized (250 mm diagonal) quadcopter featuring brushless motors and carbon fiber arms and landing gear. Brushless motors are more efficient and more powerful than the brushed variety typically found on toy-grade models. They also have a much longer life span.
Here is an FAQ relating to the difference between brushed and brushless motors.

The XK 251 weighs in at 215 grams meaning that no FAA registration is needed. It is powered by a small 2s (7.4v) battery.

Audience for the XK 251

I would describe this XK model as a “light sport” quadcopter which would appeal to many types of pilots. It would serve as a good learning platform for newer pilots wanting to step up their skills from toy-grade models. More experienced pilots may enjoy flying it with or without add-on cameras, FPV or other modifications. While it may not be as fast or powerful than heavier racing drones, it will satisfy most who desire a “go fast” machine and cost MUCH less both initially and for upkeep.
[Read more…]

Best Selling Camera Drones in June 2016

Phantom 3 Standard - #1 in June, 2016

As a new feature we are going to try and report the best selling GPS Camera Drones on a regular (monthly and possibly weekly) basis.

The data is from (US).

New this month are the inclusion of the Autel Robotics X-Star and the Yuneec H – both new entries into the Camera Drone Category.

Without further ado, here is the list:
#54 DJI Phantom 3 Standard –
#120 DJI Phantom 4 –
#153 DJI Phantom 3 4K –
#242 DJI Phantom 3 Advanced –
#353 Autel X-Star Premium –
#362 DJI Phantom 3 Pro –
#450 Yuneec Typhoon H –

Others models which are selling fairly well are the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 (and oldie!) and BeBop (various) Models.

Phantom 3 Standard - #1 in June, 2016

Phantom 3 Standard – #1 in June, 2016

Notes on this Data – It is very difficult to pin down Drone sales on Amazon due to miscategorization of many models – that is, Amazon may have one Drone under “Quadcopters”, another under only “Camera and Photo” and yet another under “Cell Phones” or other improper category. Also, some models have multiple listings/sellers, so we have to add up the 2 or more rankings. Due to these and other factors, the data is not exact…however, it probably represents the “best guess” at this specific point in time.

How Video and Photography Drones Work

Animation of Electronic Gyroscope

How Video and Photography Drones Work
For Beginners and those who want to know the basics behind these miracle machines.

Drones are in the news almost daily with millions being sold and flown. However, many are not familiar with the mechanics of how they work. This article will provide a basic explanation of the systems that keep a modern Camera Drone flying.

Is it Magic?

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

For our more logical minds, it may help to rename magic to “sensor fusion” which is defined as:
“combining of sensory data or data derived from disparate sources such that the resulting information has less uncertainty than would be possible when these sources were used individually.”

Some fancy words…for sure! An example might help. Most modern automobiles have anti-lock brakes which use various sensors and computers to acheive a better result than a human driver would. Based on the slippage of the tires, the steering angle and other such inputs, the anti-lock systems makes decisions which help your car stay on the road. It is only the combination of these sensors (sensor fusion) and the proper programming which makes the system function as intended.

Modern camera quadcopters, such as the Phantom 3 or Phantom 4 series, need to have control of multiple systems:

The flying machine itself
The camera/gimbal combination
Radio Control between the ground and the drone.

Keeping the drone AND the camera steady and under control results in the desired end – butter smooth video and stunning photographs.

Multirotor Flight Control Sensors and Instruments [Read more…]

FAA Opens US Skies to Drones and Business!

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.52.28 PM

In what is probably the biggest (and best) news of 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration has finally made a decision on how to integrate drones into the national airspace.

Rather than rehash the gory details, here are some basics and a summary – as well as links to other articles and announcements.

Here is an announcement from DJI – the largest manufacturer of Camera Drones.

Here is a detailed, but technical, news story from one of our industry orgs.

The Past

Up until now, business use of drones was difficult – only hobby use (no payment received) was allowable under the existing rules. This meant that farmers, photographers, surveyors and other uses were off-limits to anyone except a special few – you needed to be a actual REAL pilot and apply to the FAA for a specific license.

The New Rule

The new rule opens up the skies to most all of us! Budding drone pilots will have to meet some basic requirements and take a test to prove their knowledge. To qualify for business use:
1. The person actually flying a drone must be at least 16 years old
2.To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, an individual must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center
3. The TSA will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuance of a certificate.
4. Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only – Daylight operations only. Other conditions such as not flying over people, maximum speed, etc. will apply.
5. Certain types of accidents must be reported.

The Rule will go into effect in 60 days (mid-August, 2016).

Get Ready for the Boom

This is the ruling that has been awaited for a year or more and will result in BILLIONS of dollars of new economic activity. Buckle your seat belts – Uncle Sam has finally come around and the gears of our economic engine are about to be engaged.

Did your Drone Crash? Maybe it’s not your Fault!


Did your Drone Crash? Maybe it’s not your Fault!

“Learn how to fly”
“RTFM” (read the friggin manual).
“you didn’t know how to operate the product you bought”
“Too many drone pilots rely on GPS and have no experience flying a quad in manual”

These are just a few of the “blame the customer” type of comments that I read on various drone forums. The comments are often directed at fellow pilots who come onto those forums to report crashes and ask what they may have done wrong. Getting past the rude behavior of the respondents, let’s discuss crashes of modern drones and who or what may be at fault.

Toy Drone, FPV Racing Drones, etc.

First, let’s dispense with the very basic quadcopters typically priced from $20-$250. These are not truly “drones” in the proper use of the word since they ARE manually controlled by the operator. Reliability of these types of devices varies greatly and the unskilled operator is likely to crash…early and often!
It can be summarized that, in most cases, the crashing or loss (fly away) of this class of machines are due to one form or another of operator error. This may be a lack of judgement such as flying on windy days and/or in close proxity to obstacles…or simply a lack of basic piloting skills.
The same logic applies to most DIY (building a drone from parts) situations. There are too many variable involved in the parts, labor, design, etc. to hold the manufacturers liable for the mishaps.

GPS Camera Drones

The more sophisticated consumer drones available today sell for $300 – $2000+ and usually contain a stabilized camera as well as number of sensors and flight aids including GPS. Here is an article explaining the basics of what makes a camera drone fly. These machines are flying robots…a combination of computers and mechanical devices which, when properly combined, can make safe and reliable flight a possibility.
[Read more…]

Eachine Falcon 180: Plus Performance in a Tiny Package for under $110!

Falcon 180

Racing drones continue to gain in popularity and diversity, with sizes ranging from about 330 mm all the way down to about 120mm. The prices are all over the board as well. While generally cheaper than their AV Drone cousins, a high end racing drone can still cost $600+ in a ready to fly or a plug and fly (add your own receiver) configuration. Eachine for the most part has been targeting the value side of the market, offering low cost racing drones that offer pretty good performance at bargain basement prices. The Falcon 180 is their latest entry into this market, a scaled down Falcon 250 with some new configuration options, and a few familiar warts as well. So what does the Falcon 180 bring to the table that might make you want to buy it? Read on to find out (and skip to the bottom to see the Falcon 180 in action)!

[Read more…]

5 Reasons Why DJI GO Only Scratches the Surface of your DJI Drone Potential

Closeup of First Mission

By: Kevin Mukai –

DJI GO is the primary application that many DJI pilots use to fly their drone. However, while DJI GO is great for most users, it often does not sufficiently satisfy the many tastes diverse pilots around the world yearn for.

Thanks to DJI’s SDK (Software or Solutions Development Kit), there are now other applications that DJI pilots can easily install on their mobile device for a completely different (and many times, superior) flying experience. It’s not uncommon to hear pilots say that they don’t trust 3rd-party applications – for the record, I don’t blame them. Your drone is a big investment and you don’t want to risk anything happening.

With that said, the top 3rd-party DJI apps have thousands of users and substantial flying hours and testing under their belts. I’ve had conversations with many pilots who trust these 3rd-party apps more than they trust DJI GO because of better connectivity, control, and other factors that I’ll outline below.

Without further ado, here are 5 reasons why DJI GO only scratches the surface of your DJI drone’s potential. [Read more…]