At CES, a whole new flock of fly-high, fly-fast, fly-bad drones were introduced and now the category is suddenly destined to be the next monstrous consumer category. Some were so small they fit in the palm of your hand. In fact, I think I stepped on one in the show’s crowded aisles … but it might have been popcorn. I couldn’t see with all the folks mobbing the show floor, but I distinctly heard a crunch. Speaking of crunch, just in case you missed the “hot” news, Bezos’ Amazon drone delivered some guy a box of popcorn and suddenly the postal and every delivery services are facing extinction? [Read more…]
In a surprise move, DJI has announced the termination of production of many of their Phantom quadcopters. Here are the units they claim to have discontinued:
Phantom 3 Pro
Phantom 3 Advanced
Phantom 4 (original)
The communications from DJI do not mention the Phantom 3 Standard, however they do mention this:
“The (DJI) consumer drones will be limited to the Mavic Pro, the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro Plus.”
If we take them at their word, this would mean DJI isn’t going to produce models at the very low end of the price range ($400-$700). Given current prices, this would mean: [Read more…]
Is Parrot the Canary in a Coal Mine…or, simply a bird that failed to fly properly?
Recent news stories such as this one at Marketwatch have reported sagging drone sales and massive layoffs at the French Drone maker Parrot. In this article we delve a little deeper in the stories behind the story.
Parrot was my first love. Back in 2012 I heard about these “drones” and watched an online video of the AR Drone flying out of one window of an office building and back into another. I was hooked – and, in fact, started in the hobby as the result of seeing what this drone could do…
Or couldn’t do – which turned out to be the case. Sadly, the story of Parrot and their consumer drones is turning out to be a classic tale which perfectly reflects our own personal experiences with the brand. The French company announced today that it was laying off about 1/3 of its employees after poor drone sales in the latest quarter. One story (at the Verge) mistakenly references “due to industry downturn” – where, in fact, there is no such case. The Consumer Drone Industry is booming and sales are expected to be up 50 to 80% in 2017. The problem for Parrot is that those sales are being made by DJI and to a lesser extent by Autel and Yuneec.
Our Personal Experience with Parrot Products
As mentioned above, the AR Drone was the first flying robot I lusted after – and, so, I plunked down my $300 and bought one direct from the Parrot online shop. After receiving it. I read the manual, charged the battery, downloaded the operating app and headed outside for the maiden flight. I set the drone down on the sidewalk and hit the “takeoff” button on the app – the motors fired up and the drone took over and hovered at about 3 feet high – while I stood there marveling at it’s intelligence. Never before had I seen a craft just hover in the air under computer control – so this was like the Holy Grail to someone who flew model rockets and was a HAM/Computer/Tech freak for decades!
That, unfortunately, was the high point in my Parrot Drone experience. I spent the next couple of days chasing the AR Drone around the neighborhood trying to make it land – even using the emergency shutoff (didn’t work) when it flew away. The upside is that I got a couple pictures from REALLY high up. The downside was that it completely failed as a consumer device. If you had to give it a 1 to 10 rating it would be a 1 or a 2 – 2 being generous. [Read more…]
The vast Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has always had a reputation for hype. After all, it’s the largest show of its type in the world and the resulting PR filters out for months afterwards. When it comes to drones, however, CES may soon be irrelevant. Read on….
Many years ago, massive companies like Apple, MicroSoft and IBM famously stopped attending and displaying at various large Computer and Tech shows. This was because of various reasons – for example:
- The companies were moving quickly and offering up new and improved products on their own schedules – therefore didn’t want to have to stick to a timeline set by yearly shows.
- The companies didn’t want their brands and message mixed in with that of thousands of other firms and products – from small to large.
- The companies often had many of their own shows and large meeting – for example, Apple did “Macworld” conventions and still does WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference).
- With the rise of the Internet it’s possible for a brand or company to disseminate information immediately and inexpensively.
- Many large trade shows are/were built around a certain buying cycle. For example, CES in in January so that new products can be introduced by April or May and the pipeline can be stocked for the Back to School and Holiday Selling Season. Some companies don’t follow this sales timing model.
2017 will be an exciting year for drones but less so for CES/Drones. Here is a quick overview of what the major players and some new players are showing at CES – as well as some outlook and opinion on consumer drones. [Read more…]
As 2016 draws to a close, we are presenting our opinion on the biggest drone stories of 2016. Please leave your opinions and comments below the article:
FAA Part 107 and Ramifications for prosumer and light commercial space.
News: FAA moved on both registration…and then commercial use of small uAS (sUAS – also called Drones or Small Unmanned Aerial Systems).
Why we Care: This opens up the door to more uses of “drones for good” and assures that the industry won’t be left in limbo.
Link or Links – Here is our short piece explaining FAA Part 107
Total or Partial Failures in the Industry
News: Total or Partial Failures of most Drone industry would-be competitors – 3D Robotics and GoPro are the most well known, but a number of other efforts have failed completely or largely.
Why we Care: An industry saying goes like this “Drone are Hard” – and this has been proven over and over again by the failure of other companies to deliver successful consumer products. While it would be great to have more competition in the drone industry, most of these failures were due to lack of understanding what is involved. It’s safe to say the Next Big Thing in Drones is not going to come out of Kickstarter or a garage. Large amounts of talent, capital and a long term plan is needed to succeed in this endeavor.
I’m curious about the business strategy DJI is demonstrating by shipping the remote control of the latest version of the ever popular Phantom series with a built-in (optional) android based tablet. This is the first remote across the entire DJI platform which will incorporate a native screen. Early specs indicate the built-in screen will be brighter than an iPad and have a slightly higher resolution, but comparing the hardware specs in not my goal here. [Read more…]
Here’s How to Make Money Flying Drones – FAA Part 107 Information and more
Up until August 2016, flying a drone commercially required special exemption called a Section 333 which was quite difficult to obtain. In most cases, a real pilots license was required, putting it beyond the reach of most would-be drone pilots. With the new FAA Part 107 Rule, a certificate allowing commercial use of a drone is now available to the general public. Whether you intend to take photos and videos of real estate or do tower/line or structure (roof, etc) drone inspection, you will need to get the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. Hobby users (not doing actual work or taking money) need not be concerned with Part 107…all they need to do is to register their drones with the FAA (if over .55 lbs) at this link.
Your Drone (model) Registration is NOT the same as a Part 107 sUAS Pilot Certificate.
To obtain a certificate, you must be at least 16 years of age and read, write and understand English. A number of other restrictions apply such as daylight-only flying. You will have to learn about all of these restrictions and there WILL be a test! The test must be taken at an FAA approved testing center (just like real pilots do!) and will cost $150. If you fail the test, you will need to pay another $150 to take it again.
Let’s start at the beginning. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s unlikely anyone new to flying (drones or otherwise) can Go for the Gold (take the test) without numerous hours of Education and Experience beforehand.
The new FAA Part 107 which allows us (drone pilots) to take a test and obtain a certificate which allows for commercial UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems, Drones) piloting.
However, the journey, as with other specialties, is about Education and Experience. You have to start at the beginning.
Here is a 3 step program.
1. Learn the very basics of hobby drones and quadcopters/multirotors. This includes definitions as well as the ability to fly simple (toy/hobby) machines. There are some free eBooks we have written at this link.
(skip this step if you are already an experience hobby drone pilot!).
2. Once you know the basics – which would mean a lot of reading and perhaps 20+ hours of flight time, you could explore courses which teach you the subjects needed to pass the FAA Test. One example (a course I am taking now) is Drone Pilot Ground School – but there are others. It will cost you $150 to take the FAA test (if you fail you’ll have to pay again!) – plus whatever you spend for your courses…and, of course your drones!
3. Once you pass the test you are qualified to use your Drone for profit – whether it’s Real Estate Photography or Construction Inspection.
How Hard is the Test?
Not easy. For those unfamiliar with flight, weather, measurement (latitude, longitude, etc.) and memorizing regulations it will at first seem a daunting task. There is a LOT of material in the program and much of it will seem like it is written in a foreign language. As an example, see the images and text below. You will be required to know that that all means – and much more! [Read more…]
Which are the best drones and quadcopters to buy as of the Spring of 2017? Read on!
UPDATED April, 2017 – We update this “best drones” listing regularly as new products are released and reviewed.
If you are looking for a ($400-$1500) “stabilized camera drone with GPS” – we have another article comparing the popular 2016/2017 models here.
Please note – one of the top pics in the 1K range, the DJI Mavic Pro, has been far backordered since launch in Oct, 2016 but is now available for quick shipment direct from DJI – click the banner below for current lead times:
Here are some of suggested best drones and quadcopters for 2017
Please note that some of these are not for beginners! Rather they are upgrades after you’ve learned the basics of flying and know exactly what features you desire. Quads best for beginners are marked with an *
We do not suggest the very tiny “nano” thumb size quadcopters for learning or beginners! Here is why.
We currently DO NOT recommend the following brands – 3D Robotics, Walkera, OnagoFly, GoPro. Also, we have had poor luck with Parrot models in the past – however, we are going to look at more current models soon to see if reliability has changed. Also, be wary of ANY crowdfunded (Kickstarter, etc.) models.
Be sure to pick up at least one extra battery and any spares you may want to have on hand (motors, etc.)
Micro-Sized – generally the size of your open hand including the propellers
Read the Entire Article by clicking —>> [Read more…]
In approx. order of USA sales rank. # given afterwards is rank in Camera and Photo (or approx. calculated rank). Our commentary is given below this list.
Parrot finally seems to have a winner with their BeBop FPV package – this features a smaller R/C controller as well as a headset to mount a smartphone into. Experts, including ourselves, have been telling Parrot for YEARS to forget about the “app control” and use a real R/C remote. It seems as if they have finally listened and consumers are thanking them for it.
While the Phantom 3 Standard is still the largest seller, the Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 rank shows that consumers will spend more money (and even wait a month or two – in the case of the Mavic) for an advanced and feature-laden model.
Autel remains on the list largely due to their price reduction – the X-Star Premium introduced last May at $1199 is now $699, allowing some consumers to choose it over similar priced Phantom models.
Yuneec again lags the field – although the more expensive model H is selling better than their older Q model. Yuneec has also lowered their prices as much as $500 on the H (with RealSense) in order to stimulate sales.
Although it is impossible to accurately calculate exact market share – indications are that DJI still holds a solid 75-80% of the consumer level (less than $1500) stabilized camera drone market. Their 2016/2017 unit sales are likely to be in the millions (1.5 to 2.5 million units) while many of the other makers are measuring in 10’s of thousands or – at most – 100K to 200K units a year.
These numbers do not include toy models which are selling by the millions.
Rankings can vary daily due to special sales and general ups and downs of pricing and demand. However, many of these models have been Best Sellers for many months indicating a high degree of consumer acceptance.
Note – this is part of our free ebooks which you can find at this link.
Section 10 – A Short Course on Drone Batteries
Most quadcopter batteries are of the LiPo type, which stands for Lithium Polymer. These batteries can store a tremendous amount of energy in a relatively small and light package and are key to modern drone performance. Here are the basics of these batteries.
Your first foray into quadcopters may be with a mini or micro – most of which use a single cell (3.7 volt) LiPo battery and come standard with a USB or plug-in charger. However, once you step up in size to larger and heavier drones, you will find that most of them use batteries which are much larger in size, weight, amperage and voltage. Most LiPo batteries are built of 3.7 volt cells, so they often are a multiple of that number – the most popular for larger quads being 11.1 volt (3 cell) packages.
Ratings are given in maH (milliamp hours) – the higher the number, the more power the battery contains. Micro and Mini quads will carry 200-700 maH batteries, while a typical mid-sized drone may have a 2000-3000 maH rating.
Although the USB and stock chargers may be OK for the small batteries, experienced pilots should invest in a “smart” charger, which not only charges the batteries but monitors their exact voltage and knows when to stop. More advanced chargers are also capable of balancing the battery cells – a function which is needed to properly charge batteries with multiple cells. Lastly, the fancier chargers can be rigged up to charge multiple batteries at once, which can be of great benefit to those who want to get in the air quickly.
“Smart” chargers can be purchased in the range of $20-$45 – although you may need some extra cables and adapters to charge your various batteries. A smart charger should be on the “must have” shopping list for any beginner who wants to advance in the hobby.
Typical Smart (Balancing) Battery Charger
PLEASE READ AND UNDERSTAND SAFETY CAUTIONS REGARDING LIPO BATTERIES – DO NOT CHARGE UNATTENDED AND CHARGE ONLY ON NON-COMBUSTIBLE SURFACES. See our Safety Appendix at the end of this book.
Many of the newer quadcopters have “smart” batteries and chargers which eliminate the need for a separate charger. These batteries have built-in intelligence which properly charges them and monitors their health.
Wrapping it Up
We’ve covered most of the basics and even a little extra! The most important step forward is to get yourself a quad and start flying. Pay attention to safety issues and use common sense to avoid losing or destroying your drone during the first few flights. Keep at it and you will discover the joy of flying!
Some basic troubleshooting tips, a glossary and bonus articles follow (soon!) . Keep this book handy and use it as you advance in the hobby. Also, be sure to visit our site at Droneflyers.com and sign up for our forums where I and other experienced flyers can help you with your questions.
Thanks for Reading! Hope to see you at the web site and forum.
Craig Issod – https://droneflyers.com
Note – this is part of our free ebooks which you can find at this link.