Hottest News • reviews • pro tips + more… December 2017 · No 27 · Price £ 5 . 99
L BEST OF BRITISH
Post-race reaction from the UK’s 2017 FPV finals
How UAVs are being used to save animals – and maybe even the planet!
Teaching the next generation of budding pilots and engineers
Ultimate Buyer’s Guide Find the perfect drone for you this Christmas
9 772059 287008
IN THE BLACK Going Pro with the Phantom 4
Red Bull earns its wings on the drone racing scene
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Keep your Spark safe on the move 27/10/2017 16:35
From Drone Zero to Drone Hero
Learn to Fly Like a Pro, Film Like a Pro
What we can teach you: Pre-flight checks
Our unique 4:4:3 rules for safe flying The fail-safes and how they can go wrong
The ten most common reasons for accidents and how to avoid them
Should I fly here?
Confident in all phases of flight Intelligent Flight Mode Flying effectively in ATTI mode Operating in strong winds
Can I fly here?
Camera settings Composition Smooth operation Cinematic effects Subject matter Photoshop
iMovie and Final Cut Pro
Flying indoors Drone Deploy Theory test Flight test
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Images are by Finalists in the 400ft Britain drone photography competition All are PhantomFlightSchool clients
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Rolex Bridge, Geneva, Switzerland Photo by Yannick Wavre / www.fromtheheights.com Supplied by Dronestagram
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Hooked from the moment he saw the AR.Drone at CES, Adam has spent the years since building, crashing, sinking, losing and occasionally flying drones. With a background in photography publishing and over a decade writing about video and still photography in his rear-view mirror, he was the only choice for Ilex’s excellent book The Drone Pilot's Handbook (on sale now!).
Our launch editor for DRONE, Gemma has worked at the helm of NEO magazine for over ten years. Spending over a decade immersed in Asian pop culture, she recently branched out into the world of technology to take on UAVs. She’s most excited about the future of FPV racing and the prospect of drone deliveries! Can drone racing go prime time? She certainly hopes so! Follow NEO at @NEO_Magazine.
Mark is a commercial drone pilot based in the New Forest. In 2014, he founded Naughty Cat Media and specialises in providing low level aerial video and photography using drones. Most of his work is carried out with lightweight and affordable systems like the DJI Phantom series. Check out some of his shots and get in touch at his website, located at www.naughtycatmedia.co.uk.
Robin is an airline captain with over 7,000 hours logged and when he’s not ferrying people across the skies is also a freelance writer/ photographer. It was last year that his father asked him how much crossover, in theory, there was between flying drones and airliners and that set the propellers turning! This issue he's turned his attention to teaching others, as he introduces drones to his local school.
Andrew Wat ton-Davies
Andrew spends his time monitoring the globe for drone news stories, testing to death the things people send him (mostly drones), and hoping his cats won’t moult all over his quadcopters. He's a graduate of the Freedonia Flying Academy and has never failed to walk away from a UAV landing. You can follow him on Twitter at @raggedydrones
Known online as Painless360, Lee has a YouTube channel and business dedicated to making RC technology easier to use. An RC pilot for over eight years and with a 30year background in electronics he became hooked on quads when he was bought one in as a present. The rest, as they say, is history! By now he can probably strip a quadcopter and rebuild it blindfolded.
Dan has been working within the protective case industry for the past three years, specialising in solutions for drone and photography equipment. He founded www. cases2go.co.uk and has spent the last few years sourcing and supplying cases for military, offshore oil, motorsport, sound and light and film industries. You can find his latest ‘case study’ on page 70.
Rowan is cinematographer and drone fanatic with a passion for exploring new places and shooting them with his Xiro Xplorer. He’s always looking for new places to fly and new ways to push his work, and you’ll often find him along the Pembrokeshire coastline on most sunny/non-windy days! You can follow his most recent shots/trips on Instagram @RTBaileyMedia.
december 2017 • Issue 27 www.dronemagazine.uk
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To Issue 27 of Drone Magazine!
t’s been a rather worrying month, with several potential mid-air drone collisions with manned aircraft being reported around the world. It’s always a strange situation when I hear such news, though, because, given the number of such claims that have been proven to not involve a drone at all, my natural instinct has become one of almost instant scepticism. After all, many drones would be tricky to spot at a distance of 150ft, let alone in a fast-moving plane a few thousand feet up in the air – and the sensible and responsible pilot inside me would be wondering what the heck anyone would be doing taking their UAV up to such heights in the first place. Besides, the type of models that would have that kind of range wouldn’t be cheap, and if someone is spending that kind of money you’d expect the owner to want to stay safe and fly with due care and attention to protect their investment. However, what we can never do is to dismiss the idea that these incidents really can happen, and most likely have. Sure, it might be that for every five or ten ‘drone sightings’ in a dangerous environment, only one is actually proven to be true, but that single incident is still one too many. I’d imagine the vast majority of you will be well aware of your responsibilities and it can be a little frustrating as it seems like there’s not a great deal we can do to stop this small minority from creating negative headlines and spoiling it for the rest of us. The unfortunate reality is that we do have to accept that drones can pose a very serious threat in the wrong hands, so for all of our best intentions it’s hard to argue against governments and aviation authorities taking steps to regulate or monitor their use (within reason, of course). After all, nobody is going to want to reflect on a more tragic event and say "maybe we could have done something to prevent this"…
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DRONE is published every four weeks by Uncooked Media Ltd. All text and layout remains the copyright of Uncooked Media Ltd. DRONE is a fully independent publication and its views are not those of any company mentioned herein. All characters and artwork shown in this magazine remain the © and trademark or their respective owners. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the express written permission of the publisher. DRONE can accept no responsibility for inaccuracies or complaints arising from editorial or advertising within this magazine. All letters and emails received will be considered for publication, but we cannot provide personal replies. The publishers cannot be held responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, transparencies or artwork. Please do not call, email or write to enquire whether your unsolicited submission has been received, as our priority is the production of the magazine. Another quality cold cut from
Enjoy the issue!
DRONE © 2017 Uncooked Media Ltd ISSN 2059-2876
Ian Collen, EDITOR
10 // COLLISION COURSE
16 // BROADENING HORIZONS 28 // COMPETITION
Our lead news story looks into a reported midair incident with a plane in Canada, and it’s not the only one in recent weeks...
How new investment is boosting work on aerial home security system, along with yet more patents pending from the Amazon creatives.
We’ve got three Aura drones up for grabs! You can turn to page 64 for our full review, but in short, it had us smiling like a kid in a sweet shop.
12 // HEALTH MONITOR
18 // VIEW FROM ABOVE
30 // ANIMAL MAGIC
We hear from the team that can use drones to check your vital signs from the air, which does also raise a few privacy issues!
All the info as DJI launches its AeroScope drone identification system and CNN gets permission to fly over crowds.
Intel is helping to showcase the positive side of drone use, with two recent conservation projects looking to make the world a better place.
14 // STAND AND DELIVER
22 // EARNING ITS WINGS
38 // CHRISTMAS LIST
A look at a conceptual delivery system that uses drones and your phone’s GPS to drop the goods directly into your hand.
Our roving reporter headed out to Austria to see Red Bull sprinkle its magic on the FPV scene with its first DR.ONE show.
It might seem a little early for some, but if you want to get the best gear this Xmas you’ve got to give Santa time to shop around!
SUBSCRIBE TODAY FOR ONLY £14.99! PLUS: SPECIAL XMAS OFFER TURN TO PAGE 90
46 // SHOOTING STARS
60 // KOPIS 1
70 // B&W SPARK CASE
Any aerial photographers or videographers looking for some great gifts this festive season might find a little inspiration here.
Our reviews section kicks off with a test flight of the latest FPV racer from Holybro. Does it live up to the hype? In short, yes!
Continuing our look into the variety of good cases and bags around, we check out this Type 1000 remodelled for DJI Spark owners.
50 // THE RACING LINE
64 // AURA DRONE
72 // ON THE ROAD
We speak to the new BFPVRA committee as they reflect on the 2017 British Championship and start planning for 2018 and beyond.
We only give out the competition spots to something we’d like to win ourselves, but if you want more convincing here’s our full verdict.
We head out with a team of aerial specialists as they begin work on surveying a network of potential cycle paths.
54 // GOING PRO
66 // TARANIS Q X7S
78 // AN AERIAL EDUCATION
Do commercial users really need top-end kit? Or are the likes of the Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian more than good enough for the job?
Taking the term ‘hands-on review’ quite literally, we get to grips with this latest model from FrSky to see how its shapes up.
The next-generation of drone pilots and engineers get treated to a fun day at school as a team of aviation experts put on a show.
22 we report on red
Photo by Armin Walcher / Red Bull Content Pool
bullâ€™s debut on the fpv scene with the first dr.one event
Words by Andrew Watton-Davies
Canada plane strike adds to mid-air incidents
drone is reported to have impacted with a Beech King Air A100 aeroplane, being operated by Skyjet, as the craft was descending towards Jean Lesage International Airport in Québec City, Canada on 12 October. The drone was seen by the crew during its approach, flying “at the extremity of the left wing”, with the impact occurring at 1500 feet. Although the crew declared an emergency following the collision, with rescue and firefighting services subsequently deployed on the ground below, the aircraft, along with its crew of two and six passengers, landed safely with no injuries incurred. Following the impact an investigation was started by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Inspection of the craft resulted in the discovery of scratches on the left wing, paint transfer on the top surface of the wing and scrape marks on the craft’s de-icing boot. We contacted Transport Canada which confirmed to us that “while the type or model of drone has not been identified, it was described by the pilot of the aircraft as ‘a yellow drone approximately 16 inches by 4 inches in dimension’. We have also been advised that further details will be made available from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada as the investigation progresses and that the plane has been returned to active service.” Speaking on 15 October, Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, announced: “This is the first time a drone has hit a commercial aircraft
in Canada and I am extremely relieved that the aircraft only sustained minor damage and was able to land safely.” He also added that “although the vast majority of drone operators fly responsibly, it was our concern for incidents like this that prompted me to take action and issue interim safety measures restricting where recreational drones could be flown. I would like to remind drone operators that endangering the safety of an aircraft is extremely dangerous and a serious offence.”
Further to this, a Transport Canada spokesperson advised us that “the department has made, and will continue to make, a significant effort to help Canadians better understand the rules and provides guidance to operators on how to fly safely and legally.” We were also told that its website, www.canada. ca/drone-safety, “is updated regularly with the latest information, including awareness videos, frequently asked questions and easyto-follow infographics.”
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Issued in March 2017, the ‘Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft’, means that “under these new rules, recreational drone operators are prohibited from flying in higherrisk areas and from flying a recreational drone without their personal information (name, address, telephone number) clearly made visible on the drone. The safety rules provide options for the enforcement of unsafe drone operations by designating offences subject to fines.” Although the drone involved in the incident has not been confirmed, DJI did release a statement on the incident, stating that the drone manufacturer “stands ready to assist Canadian aviation authorities as they investigate” and that it “absolutely condemns any unsafe operation of drones, and urges all drone pilots to understand and obey the laws and regulations in their jurisdiction before launching their drones.” Québec City airport is a restricted location in the DJI geofencing system. More details on the incident can be found at tsb.gc.ca/eng.
Photo by Ellen Brait / Toronto Star
Gatwick Incident T
he September meeting of the UK Airprox Board has reported a drone incident on 09 July 2017 that occurred a little over six miles south-west of Gatwick Airport. In the incident, an A319 pilot reported that whilst on approach at 2100ft “the first officer noticed a small black object close to the right side of the aircraft’s path and on a converging vector” and that “at its closest point it passed between the wing-tip and the fuselage, above the right wing”. Whilst an impact did not occur, the board concluded that the pilot’s “inability to avoid the object portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.” When asked for comment, a CAA spokesperson said: “Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations. The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe. It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.” In addition it was noted that “the CAA’s DroneCode provides advice on how to fly your drone safely and follow the rules at all times. Drone users have to understand their devices are potentially flying close to one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world – a complex system that brings together all manner of aircraft including passenger aeroplanes, military jets, helicopters, gliders and light aircraft.”
New York Update F
ollowing on from our lead story last issue, the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has confirmed that its investigators identified and interviewed the pilot of the drone that collided with a Black Hawk helicopter over Staten Island, New York, the day after the 21 September incident. The NTSB is investigating the incident due to the drone being a civilian aircraft. In a press release the NTSB confirmed that the investigation involved reviewing air traffic control radar data, flight data from the helicopter, FAA airspace and temporary flight restriction documents, and flight data logs provided by the drone operator itself. It also confirmed that drone manufacturer DJI and the Federal Aviation Administration are participating in the investigation. More information can be found on the website ntsb.gov.
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Signs of Life
Researchers able to detect heart rates from the air
Words by: Andrew Watton-Davies
esearchers at the University of South Australia have developed a system that enables drones to detect human vital signs via imaging technology, at a distance of up to three metres. The system monitors changes in human skin tone and “minute head movements” to make its readings and, as well as detecting signs of life, the system is also able to provide estimates of heart rates and the respiratory rate of individuals detected. The researchers describe it as “providing a low cost, accurate and convenient way to monitor heart rates without physical restrictions.” The research behind the project was performed under the supervision of Professor Javaan Chahl, Professor of Sensor Systems in UniSA’s School of Engineering, with PhD students Ali Al-Naji and Asanka Perera. The team performed a number of experimental flights – flown both indoors and out – with 15
healthy individuals, ranging in age from 2-40 years, and within close range of the drones. The work was done in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology group, a part of the Australian Department of Defence, and full details of the research paper “Remote Monitoring of Cardiorespiratory Signals from a Hovering Unmanned Aerial Vehicle”, along with video footage from the tests, have been published by BioMedical Engineering OnLine. The testing was performed using a standard 3DR Solo with a GoPro Hero 4K equipped with a 5.4mm GoPro Lens selected to reduce the fish-eye distortion effect. The videos used in the study were captured at 60 frames per second and a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Professor Chahl explained to us that they “chose the 3DR Solo at the time of the study due to the history my team had of working with Ardupilot. Although the cardiorespiratory study did not need to change the behaviour of the aircraft, other student projects then were modifying the firmware of the inbuilt companion processor in the Solo and others were performing waypoint-based missions.” Whilst the breakthrough in the technology is impressive, Professor Chahl did identify some limitations they need to work on, explaining to us that “the range of detection is limited by gimbal performance, flight stability, optical quality and camera resolution. There are also additional levels of stability we can add using more sophisticated image processing.” As for the final potential of the system, he said: “We have not been pursuing additional
range thus far, but 20 metres seems to be an attainable and useful goal.” In the initial announcement, Professor Chahl commented that “there are privacy and ethical issues around this technology that need to be resolved before it becomes common practice,” and so we asked him to expand on these concerns. “Imagine if every security camera could read your cardiovascular rate and record it – every day,” he told us. “And then facial recognition being used to add your identity to the data. Then the data being sold to your health insurance company or potential employers who use it for recruitment screening. At some point this seems to be a concern. “Health related information is usually confidential and obtained behind closed doors. This technology blurs customary boundaries about medical records and removes the practical need for consent. It raises questions about whether someone can limit what analysis can be done on a video taken of them.” However, as the Professor stated in that initial announcement, “there is enormous potential to use machine vision systems to benefit society, particularly in the biomedical sphere.”
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27/10/2017 18:12 27/10/2017 13:08:45
Mobile Deliveries Drone drops demoed for people on the move
Words by: Andrew Watton-Davies
ambridge Consultants, a UK- based product developer and technology consultant, has made a move into the drone delivery market with the release of a video demonstration showing its conceptual DelivAir system in operation. The difference with DelivAir is that it enables customers to use their smart device to both place an order and to act as the delivery location via its GPS, ensuring that the products are sent directly to wherever the individual is at the time, rather than a specified location. At the core of the technology is a patentpending two-stage routing process. For
the first stage, the userâ€™s mobile phone, for example, gives their GPS location when the order is placed with the fulfilment centre, with the system sending updates to the dispatched craft at periodic times. Once the drone is in the vicinity of the user, the phone then gives off a coded LED flash which the drone detects. This acts as both a confirmation of the recipientâ€™s identity and to assist the drone into a hover directly above them. Once in place the craft lowers the boxed product to the customer via a stabilising winch for them to unhitch, freeing up the craft to return to its base â€“ and without having to touch down on its journey.
The drone shown in the demonstration video is a DJI S1000, equipped with a Hex Technology PixHawk 2 flight controller and a companion computer running embedded Linux to perform the closed-loop control of the positioning system. Whilst the current set up would allow for deliveries of up to 2kg, depending on the range, and has been tested successfully in winds of up to 14mph, Cambridge Consultants has confirmed to us that it would be looking for a larger flight platform for any real-world applications of the technology. The team has also informed us that its technology uses a combination of machine
vision tracking via the user’s smartphone and LIDAR-based height calculations, as well as tracking the parcel itself, which allows the craft to compensate in real time for anything affecting the delivery. Although the demonstration showed a cyclist having a puncture repair kit sent to him on a track (along with flowers for his awaiting date and a snack before they eventually meet up), the company has said that the most compelling uses may be in areas such as medical supplies.
Talking to us about the innovative approach used by the DelivAir system, Nathan Wrench, head of the Industrial and Energy Business at Cambridge Consultants, said “the idea of using drones for deliveries is not novel; we’ve seen several companies demonstrate elements of a system. What always seems to be missing, though, is the practical reality of receiving goods in this manner, especially if you’re trying to eliminate the problems and costs of the last mile delivery. Landing a drone in a suburban back-garden might seem achievable, but anyone who has piloted a medium or large size drone will tell you immediately that it’s not a good idea to attempt this – it’s terrifying when a drone lands within a few metres of where you’re standing. “Our team knew only too well that any millennial ordering goods online is also rather more likely to have a tiny balcony outside their flat, at best, rather than a large landing pad. So the idea of delivering direct to a person at their current location, rather than to a fixed address, becomes appealing. Hovering safely above the customer and using a winch to lower the package is a far more sensible approach than letting the drone come within touching distance of members of the public.” As for the direct and integral integration of smartphone technology into the process, Nathan explained that “the smartphone has become the most obvious method of ordering goods online, and the GPS accuracy is good enough to guide a drone to the approximate location – but even if you get within 10 metres of the person who has placed the order, you might still not be able to ensure that you’ve placed the goods into the right hands.” To this end the team of engineers incorporated a unique identifier in the flashing pattern, “so that we only deliver the package to the right person.”
As with any drone delivery project, restrictions and regulations are a major barrier to becoming a reality, so we may not see the system being deployed any time soon, but Nathan retains an optimistic view point on how this problem will eventually be solved: “It seems like we’re still some years away
from being able to fly out of line of sight, over populated built-up areas under full autonomous control. “However, in other parts of the world, particularly those with acute logistical challenges, the regulations are more amenable to an early commercial launch. It is likely that any such launch will start elsewhere and only return to the UK once the regulators can be persuaded of the safety case.” Nathan also had some words to share on the immediate future of the project, explaining that the company is “in discussions with a few such customers, with some very specific applications in mind, and it’s more likely that we will pursue some of those development projects than we will seek to develop the DelivAir concept itself into an online retail platform – but please do watch this space!” More on the system can be found at cambridgeconsultants.com.
Words by Andrew Watton-Davies
Indian Summer recent patents see Amazon branching out
Sunflower Opens Up
Fresh investment for UAV home security system
unflower Labs has announced a strategic partnership with Stanley Black & Decker, the Fortune 500 company known for making industrial tools, household hardware and security products. The partnership is centred on the development of its Flying Camera and Smart Lights security systems (as previously covered by us back in Issue 15), that offers an automated, drone-based Home Awareness System. According to a statement this has given the system a “massive channel for retail distribution”. The investment from Stanley Black & Decker is part of a round of funding including several other investors that raised nearly $6 million. Sunflower Labs CEO Alex Pachikov told us that “Stanley and Sunflower Labs have a lot of interests in common, and we are working with several different teams there with the goal to bring our technology and products to market.” He also commented that, beyond the retail channel opportunities, Stanley Black & Decker brings “expertise in manufacturing reliable products and supporting them in the market. They also offer installation and monitoring services that we are currently exploring.” Whilst Sunflower Labs’ technology has moved on, restrictions regarding their use have not, but Alex remains upbeat. “We intend to comply with all the current and future laws and regulations. We believe that there are some welcome changes that are coming, but we are not depending on them to make our system available. It might limit what we will allow our users to do, but we believe the system will still be very useful. I believe we are on the verge of a second wave of drones, especially as autonomy is becoming more accepted by the population.”
mazon Technologies has registered drone patents with the Indian Patent Office, with two documents published recently. First up was an “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Configuration for Extended Flight” which describes a “configuration of an unmanned aerial vehicle that will facilitate extended flight duration” and is a fairly standard description of possible drone technologies. The second patent, “Multi Scale Fiducials”, is similar to one filed in the USA back in 2015, stating that “one application of multi-scale fiducials may involve target identification for autonomously controlled aerial vehicles” – fiducials being markers used by imaging systems to give points of measure and reference. Whilst Amazon is being as tight-lipped as ever on the patents, these do demonstrate an increased investment by the company into India and the potential for drone delivery in the region. Back in the US, a patent for “Systems, Devices and Methods Delivering Energy Using an Uncrewed Autonomous Vehicle” has been uncovered, which describes a six-propeller drone being used to fly a battery out to an electric car. The drone will then sit upon the car to charge it up, potentially even doing so whilst it’s moving, before returning to base. The patent further describes how the vehicle could request the delivery from a server, and how an authentication process would ensure that the right car is charged up. Whilst this could be seen as a step away from its main Prime Air delivery services, it could also support rumours (backed up by the discovery earlier in the year of patents for a “roadway management system” for automated vehicles) that Amazon is also looking to enter the car market.
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27/09/2017 18:13 17:06 27/10/2017
Words by Andrew Watton-Davies
DJI-dentification New system for tracking drone data launches
JI has announced the launch of its AeroScope drone identification and monitoring system. AeroScope uses technology already contained within all current DJI drones to broadcast identification information, such as registration ID or serial number, along with basic telemetry details, including location, altitude, speed and direction. Authorities, such as national aviation agencies and law enforcement, will then be able to use AeroScope to receive the transmitted data. The company has stated that other manufacturers “can easily configure their existing and future drones to transmit identification information in the same way”. A DJI spokesperson also told us that the company is “happy to work with manufacturers to create protocols for use of this type of system. Indeed, we urge all manufacturers to collaborate together on these standards.” Further to this, DJI confirmed that for craft without the capacity to use the system, a “module will be made available but we do not have a schedule for this yet. We are focused first on the vast majority of drones which can use this approach by making software changes.” For DJI users, starting to use the system will be a straightforward process. “Existing recent DJI models have the basic identification technology on board already,” a spokesperson confirmed to us, “but will require a firmware update to enable the full functionality of the AeroScope system when it is released.” With regards to the privacy issues of the system, DJI has confirmed to us that “information about the drone itself will always broadcast, but personal identifiable information will be optional until regulations require it.” If you want more information about AeroScope you can do so by emailing email@example.com.
Sky News CNN free to fly over crowds for TV reports
NN, the American 24-hour news network, has been issued a “first-of-its-kind” part 107 waiver by the FAA to operate drones over crowds of people. The waiver has been achieved following two years of working with the FAA as one of three industry “Pathfinders” selected to develop the usage of drones for newsgathering, and it enables its pilots to fly over “open-air assemblies (crowds) of people, up to an altitude of 150 feet above ground level.” David Vigiante, Senior Vice President of Legal for CNN, stated: “This waiver signifies a critical step forward not only for CNN’s UAS operations, but also the commercial UAS industry at large.” The licence has been issued for use with its choice of Vantage Robotics’ Snap drone; a 620g, 35cm quadcopter with a flight time of 20 minutes. Bridget Leininger of CNN confirmed to us that the company has two full-time pilots who will be operating the drones and that the Snap was chosen for the project as “the vehicle is very lightweight, the props are fully enclosed and it’s designed to dissipate energy if something were to happen.” Tobin Fisher of Vantage Robotics informed us that the company “worked closely with both CNN and the FAA for over a year to get this waiver. This required establishing the range of possible injuries a UAV could cause, defining safe thresholds for avoiding those injuries based on standards set by academic research, and creating test procedures to evaluate designs against this criteria. We then tested and iterated until everyone was confident that Snap did not create a safety risk by flying over people.” More information on Vantage Robotics and the Snap drone can be found at vantagerobotics.com.
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A Readerâ€™s View Hull Fair, Kingston upon Hull Photo by Marcus Hamilton
This dazzling overhead shot was taken by reader Marcus Hamilton during the recent arrival of a travelling fair to Kingston upon Hull. It’s one of Europe’s largest travelling funfairs and is an annual tradition that dates way back to 1278. “I’ve been loving the drone shots I’ve captured so far but this one is my favourite by a long way,” Marcus told us. “They have the Hull Fair every year and it’s a beautiful view from above.” We certainly wouldn’t disagree!
If you’d like to get one of your own photos into the magazine – and by submitting a shot for us to use, you are acknowledging that it is your own work and property – then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, along with the image (the highest resolution where possible) and ideally a few background details about what, why and how you got the shot. Maybe your favourite photo could make it into our next issue!
All photos by Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool, except where stated
The DR.ONE Show
Red Bull has a reputation for showcasing some of the best extreme sports events on the planet. Rob Clymo jetted off to Austria to see if it can work its magic on the drone racing sceneâ€¦
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nergy drink maker Red Bull has a lot of fingers in many different sporting pies, but its recent twoday DR.ONE event was a first notable foray into the world of drones. Of course, there was plenty on offer to pull in the crowds for something that was, in essence, a bit of a punt for the company. However, Red Bull has a great and highly innovative approach to staging events and the DR.ONE premiere was no exception. The centrepiece was a custom-built drone racing circuit tucked away in the middle of the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, which on initial inspection promised much. Taking a tour during a break in qualifying on the Friday the course looked imposing and, in some cases, almost impossible to navigate with the tiny custom-made quadcopters on show. The general idea behind the slalom layout was to integrate the four elements; fire, water, air and earth. Of course, with Red Bull being experts at putting on something of a spectacular show, that meant the course designers had come up trumps. The set-up had a faint whiff of Robot Wars about it; all industrial-style scaffolding, brash graphics and lots of flashing lights. Elsewhere, some of the obstacles and gates looked a little more primitive, like the Air Gate that delivered short, sharp blasts of compressed air from what looked like a clutch of gas bottles welded together. Not only did it prove very effective in blasting quadcopters out of the sky, it also scared the bejesus out of passers-by as well, much to the amusement of the highly-animated race compere. It might have been simple, but it was certainly effective. As, indeed, was the Fire Gate, that let remotely-controlled jets of flame shoot out every time a drone went by. The Water Gate, meanwhile, presented a technical challenge for obvious reasons. Water and electricity don’t mix. It was a point not lost on 32-year-old Australian competitor Ross Kerker. “My main obstacle right now is the water feature,” he admitted at the time. “It keeps putting water on my lens so I can’t see where I’m going. The Fire Gate isn’t too bad; the main issue with that is it leaves a residue on your lens, which takes about 10 seconds to evaporate.”
However, the 18 entrants in this first-ever Red Bull DR.ONE event weren’t exactly novices and had planned for every eventuality. Nevertheless, the pit area was still a hive of activity throughout the event, with tweaks and fineWWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
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Photo by RBMH / IWX / Red Bull Content Pool
“Red Bull has a highly innovative approach to staging events and the DR.ONE premiere was no exception” tuning taking place to get the scratch-built craft through to the end. In fact, despite the apparent pit area chaos, the competitors included some of the top names in racing, and were drawn from across the globe; the Netherlands, France, the USA, Poland, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Australia and South Korea. The UK was represented by a couple of Brits, in the shape of Brett Collis and Tom Smith. As you’d expect from the Red Bull marketing machine, there were some headlinegrabbers in evidence too, most notably Austrian pilot and local hero Walter Kirsch. In the run up to the DR.ONE event he’d set a fastest ever drone lap around the famous Red Bull Ring in a time of 1 minute 39.75 seconds.
His racer hit a top speed of 165km/h and an average of 155km/h, although this is still some way shy of the fastest ever lap around the circuit, set by Lewis Hamilton in a Formula 1 car in a time of 1 minute 7.411 seconds. The other competitors didn’t come close to topping that impressive feat, but there was no shortage of talent on show once the challenge kicked into gear. As you’d expect, the kit used for the event was almost entirely bespoke. Talking to Walter between heats, the racer explained that pretty much anyone could build something similar for around 500 euros. The craft themselves were typically bare-bones affairs, with a chassis created from carbon-fibre and produced on a CNC machine. They’re super quick, too, with the four motors propelling the drones from 0 to 150km/h in just under a second. Needless to say, the pilots were glued to their FPV goggles in order to keep their racers under control. Supplementing the set-up was a GoPro camera, used to capture the HD content for race coverage and post-event distribution. However, the extra weight of these topmounted GoPro Sessions really threw a spanner into the works for pilots used to their own systems. It’s not a big camera by any stretch of the imagination, but added on to the top of a competition drone presents pilots with a whole new set of challenges. “Having to run the HD cam meant that we needed to build in a rig to support that,” Kerker explained. “We also had to run 30 LEDs, so we added a rig to support that, too. In that respect there has had to be some careful planning because we knew we would have to have a pit stop. So allout speed and a one minute flight time probably wasn’t going to be the best way forwards. In that respect we went for an all-round, easy to work on rig that we could adapt as the weekend went on.”
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Staying on track
Obstacle Course DR.ONE was engineered to be challenging, even for its experienced competitors, but there were still plenty of things to watch out for along the way. No matter how many times they’d done a lap, the gates were still catching the pilots out as they pushed their craft to the limit. The 18 pilots only got the Thursday before the event to practice, with the qualifying heats taking place on the Friday with the resulting knock-out rounds and final coming around on the Saturday. Competitors could effectively use any type of drone with a topend weight limit of 1.5kg. However, with gates as small as 50cm, this introduced something of a dilemma with the option to go for either all-out speed or a lengthier time in the air. Competitors sensibly opted for the smaller option, but they all had to come into the pits for a battery change as well as for any repairs.
The mandatory pit-stop was an essential requirement as this was a race that would prove tough on both the drones and pilots, but terminal for battery life. To counter this, each competitor had a pit crew partner whose job was to switch batteries when the pilot decides it’s time to come in. The pit lane area was where the drones started and finished the race, too, before heading off around the course. Once through the gates, there was an outfield area that took the competitors out over a grassy area before they doubled back around to finish their lap. In that respect, Jörg Bumba, the Race Director, predicted that it would be strategy, rather than having the best technology or skillset, that would determine the winner at the end of the day. Although the course looked challenging, Ross told us that it wasn’t as formidable as we’d thought – which is easy to say when you’re a professional racer with thousands of hours of flight time under your belt. Pilots weren’t left to their own devices away from the track, though, and they all took turns camped out under the stage where they’d sit and work as spotters for their friends and rivals, using their well-honed eagle-eyes to check that each drone made it through all of the gates. If anyone missed an obstacle they’d have to go back and do it again and take a penalty hit timewise. Aside from the physical obstacles and technical issues involved, there was also plenty of luck needed to avoid being grounded, with all 18 pilots competing in three different heats on Day 1, with four races in each heat. On Day 2 a new seeding round began with three races and the last three heats. Only the six best pilots with the most points from the heats got to take part in the final races on the Saturday. By the time the chequered flag dropped, the UK’s Brett Collis and Tom Smith had to settle for 5th and 13th respectively. On the podium, Poland’s Mac Poschwald took third, behind second placed Vladimir Ivanov from Russia – with Austrian Bastian Hackl delighting the home crowd by taking the overall victory. Everyone seemed to suffer their fair share of gremlins over the course of the weekend, but the pilots and spectators alike seemed to have a good time and it was certainly a great advert for drone racing. Whether this could be the start of something bigger, like the Red Bull Air Racing series, remains to be seen – but it’s certainly off to an impressive start!
You can find out more about Red Bull DR.ONE and plans for future events by heading over to www.redbull.com.
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Pilot Profile: Tom Smith T
om Smith is a 27-year-old drone fanatic from the UK who began flying drones in June 2015. Over the past two years he has been busy competing in the Drone Racing League and creating content for his YouTube channel (TomSmithFPV) where he shows off his love of drone adventures. We spoke to him at the DR.ONE event to find out more…
How did your drone experience start? I bought a small, cheap one to fly indoors and became instantly hooked. Unfortunately I lost it after two weeks! I looked at buying a bigger drone and then discovered racing drones. These really appealed to me, as I’m used to riding freestyle BMX, so I knew that it was something I really wanted to do.
What have been your best competitive performances so far? I would say participating in two levels in Season 2 of the Drone Racing League.
Do you have a preferred setup? I have many different setups and I’m regularly trying out different ways of flying. I always like to use Team BlackSheep gear, though. 26
Any standout memories from the past couple of years in the air? I don’t have anything significant, but I guess that the greatest thing is whenever someone tells me that I made their day, or I inspired them to do something which they now love.
Do you have any advice for new pilots? Fly fast and don’t crash! Also be persistent and confident.
What is the hardest part about drone racing? To not give up and to be persistent no matter how much bad
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A Serious Business
luck you have. With the flying skills, I would say being able to get in the zone and flying to your potential.
How long and how often do you fly? I try to fly every day. I think consistent practice is key. A short flight every day is better than a few longer sessions each week.
Drone racing has come a long way in a very short time, with hastilyorganised thrown-together enthusiast meet-ups being quickly usurped by professional events. Last year we saw that there’s some real big money to be had if you’re any good, with the World Drone Prix out in Dubai offering up a $1million total prize pot (with the UK’s Luke Bannister taking top spot in the main event). Over in the USA drone racing has been getting some good airtime on ESPN, with the National Championships coming with a hefty $25,000 top prize. The sport’s profile has been raised further with the likes of the Drone Racing League expanding its reach around the globe – both in terms of its TV audience and where the action takes place (with its first UK event covered by us back in Issue 23). With the DR.ONE event adding to the list, it does seem like FPV racing has at least found a footing in the mainstream, even if there’s still a long way to go!
How about the hours spent actually racing? Never enough; I always spend more time building them! I probably spend around an hour a day if the weather is good.
Any pre-race preparations or routines? I make sure that I’m happy with the drone setup I’m using and try my best to just switch off, to be lost in the moment and not overthink it.
What does it mean for you to compete against these international pilots? It’s fantastic. I look up to them and admire their skills. It’s great to fly with people who will push you to fly your best. I also love how this sport can bring people from all around the world together to do something we all love.
How do you see the FPV scene evolving?
Photo by RBMH / IWX /Red Bull Content Pool
I think it will continue to get more popular and events will be shown on TV more regularly. I think it will just continue to grow as more and more people get interested in it.
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KD Interactive Aura drone Super-cool flying in the palm of youR hand!
lthough we can talk about the stylish sophistication of carefully piloting a drone for all manner of rather serious reasons, there’s also a lot to be said about simply revelling in the raw thrill of having control of an aircraft in your hands – and in the case of the GestureBotics Aura from KD Interactive, that’s exactly the point. You can tell by our review on page 64 just how much fun we had with it, and the good news we’ve got THREE of them to give away in this great competition! If it’s not immediately obvious, the key difference with the Aura is that it’s flown purely by a gesture-based, hand-mounted controller. There’s no need to download apps or upload the latest firmware, you just put on the glove, strap on the control system and all it takes is a touch of a button and you’re ready to fly with all the majesty of a Jedi knight. Twists, turns and flips are just a flick of the wrist away and you’ll be dazzling your friends with your god-like abilities as the Aura zips through the air. It’s an exhilarating thrill ride that you can pick up in a matter of minutes, using the auto take-off, hover and landing function, along with Headlock mode to keep it straight and steady, but it’s also a drone that requires a fair degree of mastery if you’re to make the most of your new-found super powers.
Challenging, fun and cooler than an ice cream on the beach, the Aura is a great drone that’s suitable for would-be pilots of all ages and abilities. Even those with serious reasons for flying deserve to bust loose once in a while! You can find out more about the Aura at aura-drone.com or via the KD Interactive website kdplanet.com – but to be in with a shout of winning one of these great prizes (either for yourself or as excellent Christmas present!), all you need to do is email us with the answer to the following question:
Our review compares flying the Aura to feeling like which superhero? A) The Incredible Hulk B) Captain America C) Iron Man You can enter by sending an email to email@example.com, with the correct answer in the subject header, along with your name, address and a contact phone number. Closing date: 07 December 2017. Good luck!
terms and conditions Competition is open to mainland Great Britain and Northern Ireland residents only. Prizes are subject to availability. No correspondence will be entered into. No employees of Uncooked Media or the companies providing the prizes may enter. No cash alternative is offered to these prizes. Entries are only valid if they reach us by the closure date. Multiple entries will be disregarded. The publisher’s decision is final. Good luck! 28
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DRONE PRO All photos by Intel Corporation, except where stated
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The Bear Necessities As tech giant Intel uses a Falcon to track polar bears and whales, Ian Collen finds out more about how drones are helping the animal kingdom…
mong the many, many good uses for drones, conservation and humanitarian projects are often the easiest to help the wider public identify the potential benefits of the technology. Seeing emergency medical supplies being delivered in the wake of a storm, or UAVs being deployed to track elephants in the wild and fend off poachers are just a couple of recent examples that have hopefully helped to introduce more people to some of the positive aspects of drone use. Adding to that list of good news stories, Intel has been busy over the summer, lending its expertise to not one, but two conservation projects – and neither was exactly a straightforward project. After all, when you’re chasing whales and trying to catch the spout water that they blow into the sky after surfacing for air, you’re going to need something more than an off-the-shelf model with a test tube stuck to the side. The reality might not have been too far from this in theory, but obviously the technology behind it is a lot more complex! The second project saw Intel collaborate with wildlife photographer, explorer and conservationist Ole Jorgen Liodden, founder of the Polar Bears & Humans project. The aim was to track polar bears in their natural habitat in order to monitor the behaviour and development of
their declining population. The results can not only help to protect and preserve the polar bears which are becoming increasingly under threat, but also help Ole and other scientists to better understand the effects of climate change in the region, and possibly across the entire planet. Using drones offered the team a non-invasive way of keeping eyes on the animals, although it does come with its own problems – not just fighting against the challenging conditions of cold and the wind, but also in actually spotting the polar bears. Picking out white animals against a predominantly white background while keeping a safe distance is like a real-world version of Where’s Wally? (or Where’s Waldo? for our American friends).
Intel’s growing interest in the drone world has been no big secret over the past few years. Its CEO, Brian Krzanich, is openly enthusiastic about aerial systems and is involved in the industry on various levels, and there’s a natural crossover with the company’s other breaking technologies, such as artificial
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“Drones are much less invasive… It’s going to be right where we need it to be, giving us a nice stable picture”
intelligence. Although it’s been working on some designs of its own, such as the Shooting Stars display drones, it was stated in the summer that there are no plans for Intel to launch its own commercial model – but that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t still have some perfectly capable craft in its fleet. Back at the beginning of 2016 Intel bought up German drone developer Ascending Technologies, which was making a name for itself with the likes of its Falcon 8 model that was just ripe for commercial use. By October 2016 the Falcon 8+ had arrived, and though it was still largely Ascending’s technologies inside, it was Intel’s name on the outside. And it is this UAV that the company used to support both of these recent projects, albeit with notably different challenges to overcome. 32
Jeffery Lo is a pilot with Intel and was recruited along with a dozen crewmates to help with Ole on his Arctic adventures. Speaking of the Falcon 8+, he said it is “commonly used for inspection, surveying and mapping types of commercial operation. This is a new use case for it, looking at polar bears.” It’s certainly an interesting diversion from the norm, but Jeffrey was confident it was up to the task. “The drone provides a lot of safety. It has eight propellers, it’s got redundant power systems and communication systems which lets it be stable operating in GPS mode all the way from take-off to landing.” As the expedition leader, Ole admits he was a little sceptical about bringing in drones: “But I started to call polar bear researchers and they were interested — apparently they’d been looking into drones for some time.” The alternatives come with problems of their own. Helicopters are expensive and can’t get close to the animals without impeding on their natural behaviour. Other options such as installing tracking darts is both dangerous to the researchers on the ground and stressful for the animals. As Jeffery pointed out: “Drones are much less invasive… It’s going to be right where we need it to be, giving us a nice stable picture.”
The project itself was taking place in the isolated archipelago of Svalbard, Norway, somewhere halfway between the mainland and the North Pole. Although home to a few thousand people (it’s the most northerly inhabited
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DRONE PRO ones struggling – because climate change will affect all of us. Polar bears are a symbol of the Arctic. They are strong, intelligent animals. If they become extinct, there will be challenges with our entire ecosystem. Drone technology can hopefully help us get ahead of these challenges, to better understand our world and preserve the Earth’s environment.” The agility and adaptability of the Falcon 8+ would prove a successful way to monitor the animals in what Ole described as “next level non-invasive research technology”. The drone itself didn’t need any great modifications to prepare it for the rather treacherous conditions it would face out in Svalbard, but that didn’t mean the work wouldn’t be without its challenges…
place on Earth), previous little else can survive here – but for the polar bears, and the seals they feed on, it’s a great place to live. Sadly their numbers are dwindling. According to Ole there are some 25,000 polar bears around the world, but that’s expected to drop a further 30% by 2050 – with up to 1,000 being shot every year (apparently stuffed bears go for as much as $100,000 in China). The effects of climate change aren’t helping either, with the warmer weather causing the ice to disappear earlier and earlier. “When the ice retreats, then the polar bears can’t eat their main food supply – the seals,” Ole says. “They have to wait for the ice.” The significance of his work shouldn’t be underestimated, not just for the animals but for humans as well. He describes polar bears as being “like the canary in the coalmine, because if they are struggling we will be the next
Freezing temperatures, strong winds and having a 70-foot icebreaker as your main base of operations were just some of the issues to be overcome during the trip. The vessel itself is packed full of steel that can cause magnetic fields and play havoc with a drone’s compass, but Jeffrey says that wasn’t
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DRONE PRO was still like looking for a needle in a haystack, and it often required a trained eye to be able to spot the subtle differences between what was actually a bear and what was just a warm patch of stone. “We’ve been able to see just a couple of degrees difference between the temperature of the bear and its surroundings,” said Jeffrey. The team was able to fly within about 50-100 metres of the animals without impeding on their natural behaviour. Video footage shows the polar bears casting an eye over this new, strange flying creature, but would quickly lose interest and continue on their way. Being able to use the camera’s zoom function helped to create some great images, too, such as the bear in the picture below who glanced up to clock the distant drone before going back to sleep. an issue for the Falcon 8+: “We could pull it out and set it on the deck, and even if the boat is pitching and rolling, we can just fire it up, and up it goes.” Not that the same could be said for the pilot himself, and the other members of the crew not quite so used to life in the Arctic, even though it was still the summer. “I started with a thermal undershirt, then another shirt, then a fleece, then a vest, then another jacket,” he said. “And a windbreaker on top of that. Plus a hat and gloves. It was a lot of layers!” Clearly more comfortable with a controller in his hands, Jeffrey set about getting to work. However, as mentioned, spotting the polar bears naturally camouflaged against their surroundings wasn’t going to be easy either. It took them two days just to find their first one, and even then the team needed some pointers from their expert guides. ““They’d say ‘there’s a bear up there’ and we were like, ‘where?’” said Jeffrey. “But then we got the drone up and we flew it about a half a kilometre away from the ship, about 100 metres up in the air, and sure enough, there was a bear.” Equipping the drone with a thermal camera was a big help in picking them out against the likes of snow, rocks and water. Even then in this vast, desolate landscape it
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The Bigger Picture
The drone’s mobility gave them access to remote locations and even to catch a glimpse inside breeding dens to monitor the female polar bears, as well as the males out hunting for food. By combining this unique aerial view with other AI technologies (areas Intel isn’t short of expertise on), the team was able to create some great results and potentially open the door for new research opportunities and exploration – whether in the animal kingdom or wider environmental and humanitarian areas. From a technological point of view, Intel is understandably pleased with its work so far. “Artificial intelligence is poised to help us solve some of our most daunting challenges by accelerating large-scale problemsolving, including unleashing new scientific discovery,” said Naveen Rao, vice president and general manager of the Artificial Intelligence Products Group, in a press announcement. “Intel is proud to bring our expertise and technology to these research efforts and aid in the
mission to better understand the health of our planet and, ultimately, humanity.” For Ole and his continuing work in the Arctic, the drone offers yet another tool to help him gather valuable data on the polar bears and their diminishing habitat. Although this was very much a pilot project (if you’ll excuse the pun), hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and possibly even a new source of trade for the area, with Ole keen to turn the hunting of polar bears into more of an ‘ecotourism’ industry. “Live animals have a higher value than dead animals,” he says. “With modern trophy hunting, visitors can ‘shoot’ with cameras instead of guns” – and if a drone can help get people closer to their ‘prey’ for a perfect photo, then all the better.
You can find out more about Ole’s work with polar bears by heading to www.polarbearsandhumans.com. For more on the Falcon 8+ go to www.intel.com.
“Drone technology can help us get ahead of these challenges, to better understand our world and preserve the Earth’s environment”
Project SnotBot We’re not entirely convinced the name is a winner, but Intel’s collaboration with Parley for the Oceans and the Ocean Alliance is another intriguing partnership between technology and conservation. Here a modified Falcon 8+ was being used to analyse the health of whales, and subsequently their environment, by tracking the animals and then gathering the blow, or ‘snot’, when they surface and exhale. It might put you off your lunch, but the spout water is rich in biological data with samples quickly dispatched to the research team, lead by marine biologist Dr Iain Kerr, CEO of
the Ocean Alliance, where it could be analysed for everything from DNA to levels of stress, illness and even pregnancy. Intel’s expertise in other areas, such as smart and connected technologies, means that this can all be done in real-time and often in difficult conditions. The hope is that by monitoring the whales the team will be able to advance research and education on conserving and protecting the whales and the oceans that they live in, and using drones and additional technologies can significantly improve the speed and efficiency of data collection and analysis. You can find out more about the project and the work of Parley for the Oceans at www.parley.tv.
Photo by Christian Miller / Parley for the Ocean
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A Reader’s View ‘Cars’, Portishead, Somerset Photo by Gary Read
It’s often said that drones can offer a unique perspective on things and that’s certainly the case with this great shot sent in by Gary Read (we could have renamed this section ‘A Read’s View’!). Taken “in a car park adjacent to a local dock” at ground-level it would be a fairly dull setting, but once you take to the skies – as Gary did with his Mavic Pro – then the aerial view offers something far more interesting. “The drone was at about 300 feet,” Gary told us, “and I love the patterns that the cars make.”
If you’d like to get one of your own photos into the magazine – and by submitting a shot for us to use, you are acknowledging that it is your own work and property – then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, along with the photo (in the best resolution possible) and perhaps give us a few details about what’s in the shot and why or how you took it. Maybe your favourite photo could be gracing these pages in our next issue!
t’s that time of year again. Your local retailers are dusting off their Christmas albums, ready to play on a loop until their staff go crazy. A video editor is making the final tweaks to that TV advert that’ll have you reaching for you hankies (and your wallet). And it’s time to decide what drone you really want to be flying in January. Erm, we mean, what drone would be best to get for your loved one. Of course. The assumption in this article is that you’re looking for a ready-to-fly drone with the means of controlling it. If the intended recipient is an experienced flier looking for something a bit more bespoke (such as an FPV racer or a photo enthusiast), it might be better to abandon surprise in favour of checking compatibility. That said, even hardened self-builders can have a great deal of fun, whatever the weather, with some of the indoor “toy” drones – so if you don’t want to spoil the surprise, you can always aim for something that little bit different. And if you want a few more options, you can always flick through to page 92 for our complete Buyer’s Guide, offering up a comprehensive collection of some of the top models and accessories around!
Christmas is a time for giving… and for receiving. So whether you’re looking for gift for a loved one, or something for your own wish-list, Adam Juniper is here to act as Santa’s Little Helper…
The Great Indoors
The British weather isn’t very reliable at the best of times, but come late December it is very hard to guarantee you’ll want to step outside at all. Drones – even the most expensive of them – do not enjoy the winter experience, with water quickly corroding the motors and strong winds making it increasingly difficult to keep your craft under control. The solution? Something to fly indoors. The other great thing about a drone you can fly indoors is that they’re typically easy to get hold of and not horrifically expensive. Don’t expect to find powerful collision detection features or even exceptional build quality, but for the kind of outlay that can require no more than a single banknote, you can still get what you pay for. Rather than being equipped for high-quality photography or lengthy flight times, there are plenty of models designed to be fun to fly and also capable of taking a few knocks – and hopefully without taking chunks out of your new 50-inch TV.
n Hubsan H111C Nano Q4 Price: £40 • www.hubsan.com Weight: 18g • Flight time: 5-7 mins • Range: 30m Hubsan is well known for its range of excellent micro-quads which are perfect for indoor fun. The H111C is powered by a battery so small it can be recharged repeatedly from the two AAA batteries in the controller (the former is included in the package, the latter are not). This tiny drone is all about standing out; it’s bedecked with multi-coloured LEDs that make it a lot of fun to fly indoors, especially when performing the flips that it’s capable of. Not only that, but there’s a built-in camera so you can capture your mini adventures at 720p. And while it might not be brimming with high-tech features, it does include battery protection circuits so you won’t be able to over-charge the battery and cause some potentially serious trouble. 38
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If you’re looking for fun, cost needn’t be a significant drawback. While the big-name companies like DJI have been busy filling the mid and higher ends of the market, most of these companies have almost completely ignored indoor or short-range drones. This time of year that really looks like a mistake, as a quick walk around your local gadget or tech store will make extremely clear.
n Holy Stone HS200 FPV Price: Around £75 • www.holystone.com Weight: 108g • Flight time: 6-7 mins • Range: 150m This drone is a stunning example of how this technology has progressed in the last few years, coming in at well under £100 even though it includes a 720p / 2MP FPV camera capable of providing a live view back to a mobile phone within Wi-Fi distance (up to 60m). Available in sleek black and a rather fetching red design, the HS200 also features a standard MicroUSB port which you can use to charge it without the inconvenience of a separate device (though you can get extra batteries). There is also an air pressure altitude sensor, making it possible to hover and fly level nice and easily, even for first time pilots (who can also impress onlookers with the automatic flip button). It’s a little plastic-y, for sure, and the camera seems to find UK skies a little too dark (think early mobile phone cameras), but for the money it seems a great deal – they even include a MicroSD card for you to record pics and video to.
n Red5 Motion Price: £35 • www.menkind.co.uk/red5 Weight: 30g • Flight time: 5-8 mins • Range: 50m Very much a product of the newer generation of microdrone, this Red5 Motion sounds at first like it might compete with the likes of the DJI Spark for gesture-based controls and, in a way, it does. For an outlay that would barely get a round of drinks in central London, you shouldn’t expect camera-based tracking and you won’t get it; instead the designers have taken a leaf out of the Nintendo Wii’s book, putting motion sensors into a small hand-held controller. To help the pilot complete the illusion of magical control, the device slides between the fingers with the palm held down, and the only visible part of the grip is made of transparent plastic. A simple tap of a button with the left thumb gets the drone airborne – assuming the pilot is righthanded (it’s not clear if the alternative was considered by the designers). From that point on the hand can be tilted and the drone will respond with convincing Jedi-like control, at least until the awestruck viewer catches the light shining off the plastic in the pilot’s hand. For those that are counting, this means altitude hold and headless mode are included as a necessity. This compact drone is a lot of fun and different from the crowd in its price bracket. Whether or not the gesture controller is necessary, the packaging makes great play of the relative ease compared to joypad-like devices – and in all seriousness who hasn’t used a games system at some point? In either case it’s nice to have the option and it’s backed up with a solid design including prop-guards for added protection. WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
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Do It Your Selfie
The days of the selfie stick are numbered as more and more drones are geared towards taking personal photos away from your smartphone and into the air. These are typically simplified designs, with a range of automated flying and photo features to make your snaps as easy as tapping a button and cracking a smile. While many larger drones can boast the same features, it’s the portability and ease-of-use of the purpose-built selfie drones that gives them an edge.
n Red5 FX-179 Selfie Drone Price: £150 • www.menkind.co.uk/red5 Weight: 120g • Flight time: 10 mins • Range: 30m For those who really want a different angle on their Instagram channel, the only solution is a selfie drone. Of course there are plenty of recent models which might reasonably be called a ‘selfie drone’ but few go so far as to write it on the box. So what makes the FX-179 stand out? Well the fundamental difference is that it seems to have been designed primarily to serve when a selfie is needed; in most cases the classic ‘dronie’ is just one of the options available to the pilot, but here it’s positively encouraged. For one thing the rectangular body with fold-away arms makes it one of only a few designs that can slide into the pocket just as easily as a smartphone. Secondly, the addition of facetracking technology into a model of this size is worthy of a great deal of respect. It’s easy enough for the big brands with their high prices to afford tech like this, but for considerably less money it’s built into the FX-179. Sadly the one weak spot of the device is the camera itself, which, with a 720p resolution, is at the lower end of what would have been acceptable on a phone a couple of years ago.
It’s a long time since the family camera, once the centre of some of the most cringe-inducing moments of any excursion or holiday, played a big part in many of our lives. That era is far from gone, but to capture great photos and videos that stand out from (or rather above) those of your friends and family, only a good quality drone will do.
n DJI Spark Price: £519 • www.dji.com Weight: 300g • Flight time: 15 mins Range: 100m (1.2 miles with extra controller) The standout winner is this year’s all-new Spark from DJI. Despite the leap in price from the more recreational products this is the ‘entry level’ model from the industry’s biggest manufacturer. Not only that, but £519 is the least you can spend to own one of these drones and fly it. For that outlay you’ll be restricted to the radio range of your mobile phone’s Wi-Fi (around 100m) – with the 1.2 miles offered by traditional controller currently costing you an extra £129 (an all-in ‘Fly More Combo’ bundle is available for £699). Price is very much in the eye of the beholder, though; the drone produces stunning 1080p HD video from its 2-axis mechanicallystabilised camera and it seems a bargain compared to the same company’s original Phantom from a couple of years ago. DJI has not used the 3-axis gimbal you’ll find on its more expensive products, but the main function of the third axis is to turn the camera. Since you can also turn the camera by turning the drone itself, it’s not a significant loss, and immeasurably better than the “digitally stabilised” alternatives in this bracket. On top of the motorised gimbal, the DJI Spark includes gesturesensing technology which allows you to conduct short flights and take selfies simply by waving at the drone in the right way. With no other piece of tech in the loop (certainly no hidden-in-the-hand sensor), the Spark will take off from the palm of your hand, go capture a picture of you, respond to your waves to move one way or another, and then come back and land. There are probably still places where technology like this would get you burned as a witch.
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Given all that, the price no longer feels as unreasonable as you might first feel. If anything, those that have spent upward of £1000 on their drone might feel cheated – the gesture-sensing tech is only available on DJI’s cheapest offering, though both the Spark and its elder brother the Mavic Pro are capable of tracking people or objects and taking all manner of stunning videos. Whether you’re using the radio controller or your preferred smart device, the DJI Go app on iOS and Android will allow you to see what the aircraft sees and control the camera to a very sophisticated level. Afterwards it can also automatically download the day’s video and stills and edit them together for you with surprising aplomb. It might not be quite as good as you’d pull off alone spending a few hours with an editing program, but it’ll certainly be ideal to share with the world while you’re still on the way back from the day’s fun.
The First Person View
If you’re new to flying, First Person View (FPV) gives the pilot the ability to see what the drone sees via its on-board camera. The term has taken a particular meaning for many – the immersive experience that can be had by wearing special goggles that make it feel like you’re in a virtual cockpit, or flying like a bird.
n Parrot Bebop 2 Power Price: £629 • www.parrot.com Weight: 525g • Flight time: 30 mins • Range: 1.2 miles You can pick up the original Bebop 2 for as little as £450, or with the added goggles (or ‘Parrot CockpitGlasses’) and SkyController bundled with the device itself for £550 – the latter giving you or your loved one the complete FPV set-up, safe in the knowledge that it’ll all work together (many FPV racers build their own gear, and not all components are compatible). The Bebop 2 Power has a rather slick new skin and is essentially a compilation of the various upgrades to the hardware, and more notably the software and feature list, of the Bebop 2. Parrot had previously added the ‘Follow Me’ mode to the model, but the Power adds even more in the way of automated photo and video modes, along with the ability to take-off from the palm of your hand (where have we seen that before?). It comes with the SkyController and the improved CockpitGlasses 2 and is billed as the “ultimate version” of this flagship mode. The digitally stabilised 1080p HD camera is the same, which isn’t the perfect solution in terms of video quality but it still maintains a good image for footage and stills – with the controller offering an impressive range that can feed your video live to a phone or tablet.
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This awkwardly-named middle ground between professional and consumer markets is probably about the peak of all but the wealthiest of gift-givers. There are many more expensive models geared towards purely professional use (which may well require a more targeted purchase to suit the needs of the business), but the prosumer market is about offering high-quality to dedicated enthusiasts, as well as delivering a perfectly acceptable platform for all but the most demanding of aerial outlets.
n DJI Phantom 4 Pro Price: £1,300 • www.dji.com Weight: 1.4kg • Flight time: 30 mins • Range: 4.3 miles The special one in your life sometimes deserves a really special present – even if that person is yourself! The best presents are shiny, come in a nice big cubic box (making them easy to wrap) and they’ll make everyone else jealous. Step forth the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and its Pro+ sibling – along with the new Obsidian version featured on p54 that makes for a rather sexy alternative to the classic white design. The Phantom 4 Pro models are all exceedingly capable photography or videography drones built on the latest iteration
of the Phantom platform. The first edition didn’t even have a camera, whereas these craft boast a 20MP design on a 3-axis gimbal for stable shots and high quality even in low light, as well as shooting 4K video at 60fps. It also includes front, back and down-facing sensors for object avoidance and controlled landing, dramatically reducing the chance of destroying your new pride and joy on an early outing. Despite the relatively pedestrian appearance – it’s possible we’re all inclined to overlook the Phantom because the basic shape now has over five years of history – this edition can top 45mph should you want to let it off the leash, giving it more than enough zip for high-speed video shoots.
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Feature List When buying a drone, understanding the extra features on offer will help you pick the perfect product for your needs! n Prop Guards: Short for propeller guards, this can be a
lightweight bumper around the propellers, or even a cage around the whole drone. It is a great safety feature, and extends the life of the propellers, too. More than that, prop guards are ideal for drones that are likely to be flown in confined spaces, such as indoors. n Camera: It’s always worth getting a camera if you can – even
when you’re flying just for fun it can be nice to have a video record of your flight. The bigger the camera’s image sensor, the better it is able to see in the dark. The higher the megapixels (MP), the better the image quality. n G imbal: A motorised gimbal is a device which supports the
camera. It uses sensors (or the drone’s sensors) to detect the movement and vibration of the craft and counter it so the camera maintains a clear and stable image. n Headless Mode: This means that when you’re flying the drone, it
can rotate around its own central axis without the pilot having to change the direction of control – in other words, the pilot doesn’t have to think in 3D. This ‘fly it as you see it’ mode is more forgiving for new pilots. n Altitude Hold: A tiny air-pressure sensor on-board will allow
the drone to perceive whether it’s gaining or losing altitude, and counter the effect. This is very helpful for new pilots as it leaves them free to focus purely on direction. n C ollision/Obstacle Avoidance: Increasingly more of the higher-
end drones will have sensors on-board (though not necessarily facing in every direction) designed to “see” potential collisions. The drone will either stop moving and alert the pilot or automatically move to avoid the obstacle. n GPS: Global Positioning System sensors enable a drone to
hold position in all directions, even in wind. This is even more forgiving than mere altitude hold, and very useful for photography. It also offers a way to keep track of your drone and its flight path for a range of automated features.
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balloon Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Photo by Yannick Wavre / www.fromtheheights.com Supplied by Dronestagram
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For those of you with a flair for aerial photography and videography, Mark Baker rounds up his own Christmas wish-list…
Photo Shopping I
f you’ve been on your best behaviour all year (or you have enough money to misbehave and buy your own presents!) you might be hoping for something to get your camera airborne under the Christmas tree. Or maybe you’re already a proud drone owner and are looking for some stocking fillers to help you get the best results from it. In any case, we’re here to help! The market for aerial platforms and accessories has continued to grow in 2017, with ever-more ways to part you from your cash. DJI remains the dominant force in consumer drones and so we’re largely focusing on the big-
selling models here, but a lot of these products will also be available for many other drones. But whatever your drone of choice or level of aerial experience, we’ve rounded up some of the finest extras that money (or loved ones) can buy. We’ve even provided pricing and website links so that you can give your friends and family some ‘subtle hints’ on how they can gift wrap their love for you this Christmas. It’s worth noting that all prices are subject to fluctuation and you might find better deals than on the sites listed, so feel free to shop around – though our advice would always be to order from a reputable dealer within your own territory.
The Phantom Flyer
The DJI Phantom range might have been slimmed down over the last twelve months but it’s still many aerial photographers first ‘real’ drone. From the entry-level Phantom 3 Standard (£509) up to the sleek new Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian (£1,589), there are plenty of price-points to encourage budding pilots to make their first foray into the world of drone photography. Many Phantom accessories are compatible with more than one model, but always check before you order.
n Snake River Prototyping ND8/ CP filter $57.00 (around £43.00) • www.snakeriverprotoyping.com A good combination of polarising and neutral density filter is probably the best thing you can do to give yourself a fighting chance of capturing some great early images. This SRP ND8/CP filter for the Phantom 3 is one of the finest we’ve ever come across. The polarising element helps to cut glare and reflections, giving your image a punchy high-contrast look. The ND8 layer helps to slow down your shutter rate and smooth out the choppiness that is common in video shot by a drone.
n Phantom 3 Propeller Guards £15.00 • www.store.dji.com While these prop guards won’t make you crashproof they will help to protect your new best friend from the inevitable scrapes and bumps that are part of the initiation ceremony for new pilots everywhere. They can’t improve your photographs directly, but your images will definitely benefit from having the confidence of keeping your camera out of trouble.
Last Minute Essential
n SanDisk 128GB MicroSD Card £83.95 • www.memorycow.co.uk As drone cameras evolve with higher resolutions and faster framerates you might get left behind if your storage card can’t keep up. Stay ahead of the curve with the SanDisk Extreme Pro in its 128GB variant. Built to handle high bitrates this little beauty will take all the 4K aerial video you can throw at it. 46
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n T-Shirt & Pyjama Set £34 • www.cafepress.co.uk
Top of the Tree n Phantom 4 Cinematographer’s Collection $399 (around £300) • www.polarprofilters.com If you own a Phantom 4 Pro or Advanced this filter set from PolarPro contains almost everything you could need for professional quality photo and video results. It features 12 ND filters, with and without polarising elements, going all the way up to ND256. This level of light-stopping combined with the stability of the Phantom 4 makes it possible to carry out long exposure image capture, even in bright sunlight. A range of great accessories are also included and make this set an even more attractive proposition.
Sleep sound in the knowledge that any unexpected guests will be suitably impressed by your bedroom attire, with this droneinspired “Evolution of Man” pyjama set. It’s available in a range of sizes and suits pilots of both sexes, with the t-shirt currently at £17 on its own.
The Mavic Pro Originally released in late 2016, DJI’s mini-marvel is still just about the most fun you can have with two hands and a mobile phone. Don’t let its diminutive size fool you into thinking that this is an expensive FPV racer – with a bit of imagination it is capable of producing some stunning images from its 12MP camera.
Stocking filler n Mavic Aircraft Sleeve £18.00 • www.store.dji.com It might not offer the durability of a hard case, but this sleeve is a great way to protect your Mavic from knocks and scrapes when you’re on the move. The folded drone sits snugly inside a flock-lined cover with a drawstring to keep everything in place. Used in conjunction with the Mavic gimbal/lens cover it provides a stylish way to protect the sensitive camera unit.
Christmas Cracker n PolarPro Katana £49.99 • www.wexphotographic.com Manufactured by PolarPro, the Katana is a great way to turn your Mavic into a stabilised handheld camera. The drone sits inside a cradle which is equipped with two handles and a mount for your smartphone. It’s a great way to mix up your video capture – and convince your friends that you were flying it somewhere inappropriate! – while keeping your format and settings consistent at all times.
Top of the Tree n Freewell Filter 6-Pack $99.99 (around £75) • www.freewellgear.com Freewell might not have the illustrious reputation of other filter manufacturers, but the company does offer a good balance of quality and cost (we’ve used them on a variety of drones over the last two years). This 6-pack contains a selection of ND and Polarising filters which will cover you for most photographic situations. They are light enough to stay on the Mavic camera between shoots and not create strain on its brushless motors in operation.
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Xmas Rated Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a few stinkers under the tree, and the hightech drone world isn’t immune to some ropey gifts that could well test the notion of “it’s the thought that counts”. We’ve rounded up a few of what we think are best left grounded, although we have had the good grace to omit where they are available from!
n Flying Minions We get that they’re kind of cute, and many a child would be happy to find one of these ‘drones’ under the tree this year. After all, with flagrant copyright violation of several film franchises, made from the cheapest parts available (you can buy one for as little as £5) and aimed at kids as young as six years-old – what could possibly go wrong?
n Leather Skins Wraps and decals can be a fun way to personalise your drone, even if our age probably counts against us being totally convinced by them. Even more so when we saw this range of ‘leather effect’ wraps for the DJI Spark. We can only assume that there are drone pilots out there who want to coordinate their craft with their driving gloves and the comfortable moccasins they bought through an advert in the back of the Sunday newspaper…
n Bum Bags There’s no harm in taking advantage of your drone’s portability and keeping it close to you in one of these ‘fanny-packs’ as our US friends would call them, but we’d have to question the design choices. We might be living in the Drone-Age but these make us feel like we’ve been transported back to the 1980s. It’s as if MC Hammer never went away...
£37,800 • www.heliguy.com
£200,000-£300,000 (estimated) • www.ehang.com
This time last year we were trying to convince Santa that we deserved the Hasselblad A5D under our tree, in all its 50MP glory. The Elf on the Shelf might have scuppered that plan, but this year the team at DJI has laid on a festive feast of aerial loveliness with this heavy-lifting M600 drone served with the stunning 100MP Hasselblad H6D-100C camera. A truly mouth-watering combination…
In days gone by it might have been a Raleigh Chopper, PlayStation or a Furby that elevated your gifts above those of your friends. In the drone-age it’s the Ehang 184 ‘autonomous aerial vehicle’ which could set you apart from your remote controller-toting pals. 12MP camera not quite cutting the mustard? Climb aboard your own ‘manned drone’ and take to the skies for the ultimate FPV experience.
n DJI M600 & H6D Camera
n Ehang 184 AAV
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18-19 NOVEMBER 2017 THE NEC - BIRMINGHAM
All photos by Julian Whitfield
The Calm After the Storm It was a big weekend for the UK racing scene as the BFPVRA hosted the 2017 Championship finals and named a new committee – and all while a storm swept the country. Ian Collen spoke with the new sheriffs in town…
t wasn’t a name that would strike fear into millions, but there was no doubting the impact that Storm Brian would have on the UK over the weekend of 21-22 October. For drone pilots everywhere it most likely dampened many a planned flight, but for the top 60 FPV racers in the country there was no way it was going to stop them from showing up for the 2017 British Championship finals to test their mettle against the best of the best. With the finals taking place at the British Model Flying Association’s somewhat isolated base in Buckminster, Lincolnshire, the winds certainly played their part in an eventful couple of days but did little to spoil the fun and enthusiasm of all involved. There was an added sense of importance to proceedings as well, with the British FPV Racing Association (BFPVRA) holding its AGM on the Saturday evening to elect a new board of committee members to take the organisation into 2018 and beyond. After the winds had died down and the champagnesoaked floor dried up after the finals, we spoke with Richard Bloxam (the new chairman), Karl Eze (secretary) and Adam Mackrory (membership secretary). Typically if you think of a committee you might think of old men
in suits, but these guys are all FPV enthusiasts just like everyone else involved over the weekend – and Karl told us about his own introduction to the hobby: “I first realised the existence of FPV racing after a chance conversation, chatting to a friend at a wedding in Italy; hours before proposing to my wife. I refer to him as my Quadfather. A month later, I’d built my first quad and jumped in to a Rotor Racing event in Burgess Hill in early 2016 and have never looked back!” Not only does Karl now have responsibilities as secretary, he was also one of the 60 pilots taking part in the finals. “I was lucky to get a place in the qualifiers so, for me, finishing anywhere in the top 60 was a bonus. I nabbed 40th place, so I was happy. The wind added an amusing dimension to the racing, there was definitely a whole heap of seat of the pants flying! It was great to catch up with lots of friends and meet a few new ones. We’ve got a great community and there’s always room for more!”
Fast and Furious
The finals themselves proved an impressive collaborative effort between the BFPVRA and the many dedicated sponsors who backed the event. New membership secretary Adam Mackrory told us: “From an organisational point of view, we’ve taken the event as a poster child for future events. We had sponsors from both inside the drone industry as well as outside. It was a huge collaborative effort; we had a great team managing and maintaining the track as the weekend unfolded, a great team managing race control and race decisions and, most importantly, even considering the extremely windy conditions, the pilots had a great time which is a compliment to the event as a whole.” As if the wind wasn’t enough to contend with, the course itself was a typically tight and technical affair, with new creations from the likes of AirDezign providing some hugely challenging gates to navigate. When the winds hit their peak it did lead to a few being taken down temporarily for safety reasons, as well as affecting how the drones flew
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around them. “Trying to handle the low to high gate with a serious tail wind proved tricky,” said Karl, “though not as precarious as the cross-winds on day one.” The racing itself was as fast and frenetic as you’d expect from the top pilots in the country, with that fine line between outright pace and simply staying on the track to get your laps in being tested in every heat. In terms of standout performers, Karl points to the likes of Alfie Mitchell (Moment FPV) as someone who’s really coming up through the ranks. “He recorded some eye-wateringly fast lap times. There are definitely new racers coming through to the top levels all the time, especially amongst the younger cohort, so it was encouraging to see!” However, as is so often the case at these events, it was the now ‘veteran’ youngster Luke Bannister (BanniUK) who took the top prize to retain the Championship he won last year. “In the earlier rounds Leo Whitfield was giving Luke a run for his money,” said Karl. “But once he’d mastered the track, Luke once again asserted his dominance.” In the end Leo (LeoFPV) had to settle for second with Lee Underwood (fpvLee) taking third. “The great thing about this sport is that it’s so young, there’s always new talent coming through; let’s see if Luke can keep his crown in 2018!”
Building for the Future
As mentioned, it was also a big weekend for the BFPVRA as its AGM saw a new committee voted in after the previous chairman, Thomas Greer, left earlier in the year. In his absence several other members stepped up to fill the void in the intermittent months, which Karl says is a testament to the British FPV scene. “In my thoroughly biased opinion, the UK community is the best there is. Upheaval is never
easy but people love to fly, so they made things happen. Richard Rowland, Eric Li-Koo and a few others really stepped up to keep the organisation going. We’re now in a great position to start building upon their work; we’ve a lot to thank them for.” Leading the future for the BFPVRA is new chairman Richard Bloxam, and he says that although it’s early days, he’s happy with how things are shaping up with the new team now in place. “It was encouraging to see that all of the main committee members share similar views on how we can build upon the good work that’s gone before us. We want to reach out to the membership and wider community, and understand their points of view in some key areas. For that reason we’ve committed to conducting more consultation with the community. “We’re going to go into a period of consultation, to hear the views of our membership, which will assist us in developing our plans further. Growing the grassroots of the sport and continuing to increase participation are amongst our key goals, whilst looking to engage more widely on an international level also.” Besides the Championships, it’s been a big year for the BFPVRA and the UK racing community as whole. Adam mentions the likes of the iSeries Drone Racing Final that drew sizeable crowds at the Insomnia Gaming Festival a few months ago, and how the Drone Racing League is helping to raise the profile of the sport. There were some great events on a smaller scale as well. “For me the biggest change since last year’s championships is the amount of local clubs putting on regular drone racing events,” Adam tells us. “Clubs are the lifeblood to grass roots racing and we will support them in every way we can.”
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It’s only fair we give these clubs due credit as well, so to echo Adam’s words, here’s a big shout out to: NeoFPV (based in Southampton), KQRC (Kent), Kwad Club (Berkshire/Surrey), Delta Hawks (Leicestershire), Drone Zone (Winchester), Hull FPV, Suffolk FPV, Hillbilly Hot Quads (Weston Super Mare) and many more. “Personally I’d really like to encourage more clubs to put on regular racing and their own leagues,” says Adam. “I’m lucky enough to run Kwad Club and will be offering out advice based on my experience to anyone already running or thinking of running a club and wanting some help. “ As for what the future might hold, although the committee wasn’t even a week old when we spoke with them, everyone was already looking forward to the 2018 British Championship. Although, as Adam pointed out, first things first. “The festive season is upon us, so naturally I’m really looking forward to the Rotor Racing Christmas bash and the obligatory Christmas jumper. A lot of events are currently in the planning stages but there are some really exciting events coming up in 2018 so check on the FPV calendar, with an obvious eye on the 2018 British Championships on the 21-23 September.” It looks like we’d better make another note in our diary – and you might want to do the same!
And the Winners Are… One interesting addition to the Championship saw them holding a series of title races, breaking down the 60 pilots into 10 finals based on their performances in the heats (with Luke winning the ‘A’ final). It was a great move, as it meant that those who can’t quite compete with the top guns could still find their level and battle for honours – rather than being dumped out after a few races and being left feeling despondent or defeated. Plus it gave everyone a ranking out of 60 for the entire event, so everyone knew their place among the UK’s finest!
You can find out more about the British FPV Racing Association on its website bfpvra.org, with regular updates on its Facebook page @BFPVRA. WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
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The Height of Technology
Have drones reached the point where even professional users have more than enough quality at hand? Armed with a Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian, Rowan Bailey considers the questionâ€¦
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ith the speed of development and abundance of features being released year on year in the drone industry, it could well be argued that we’ve already reached the pinnacle of what is necessary for professional drone photography and cinematography. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still an endless stream of new gear coming along that is great – but the point I’m raising is whether we actually ‘need’ all of this better gear in the first place? After all, many of you will have heard the saying that ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’. So is it possible that with the drone market, as it stands today, we’ve reached the ceiling on the optimum solution for professional work? Specifically, are the higher-end
platforms on the market that spiral in many thousands of pounds ‘overkill’ for the majority of the work we do? When I first started out in my career as a professional cinematographer drones simply weren’t in the consumer or prosumer marketplace. Some high-end productions may have had a large platform carrying a DSLR but the quads that we’re seeing these days such as the Phantom series simply didn’t exist. Slowly but surely drones started appearing on shoots that I was on and before long I found myself being hired as a scout or camera operator. Fast forward a year or two and suddenly every other camera operator I’d meet had a drone and dedicated aerial companies were popping up all over the place. Next thing you know everyone is a ‘Pro’ with their drone and knows more than the next person… I’d regularly hear comments from others about someone turning up with a small quad instead of a large DSLRbearing platform or something from DJI’s loftier Inspire line, and it was almost as though they were looking down on them for not being ‘good enough’ for the job at hand. Put this down to jealousy or trying to boost their own egos but unfortunately this is something that can be commonplace in the photography and videography industry, especially in the freelance marketplace. This has always frustrated me as it really doesn’t matter what equipment you’re using as long as you’re using it well.
Good is Good Enough
Now I’m not saying that you could turn up with a disposable wind-up camera strapped to a kite and you’d be set as a professional aerial photographer. However, do you really need to invest £3,000-£10,000 on a setup for your work? I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the vast majority of professional drone operators are simply shooting photo and/ or video for events such as a weddings or sports, real estate and landscape or stock acquisition. We, as professionals, know the benefits of spending £6,000+ on an Inspire 2 with the X5S and multiple lenses for certain scenarios, but what’s important is whether or not your client knows about – or more to the point whether your client needs – these differences. The majority of the
Split the Difference In these shots I’ve combined two different stills from the videos taken. On the right-hand side is the untouched D-LOG footage straight from the camera. The left-hand side shows the properly colour graded results to illustrate what you can bring back by focusing on the dynamic range, such as bringing more detail to clouds as well as emphasising shadows on the ground. As an additional tip, you might want to use your histogram to expose to the right when using D-LOG to maximise your dynamic range.
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time your client simply wants a clear picture or video; they don’t care about, or even notice, the bitrate or dynamic range of your footage. They have no idea what codec you used or whether the footage shot was 4K RAW. It’s easy for us as professionals to chase these features and want more. We ‘pixel peep’ and push our colour grading to the max to get the most out of the gear we’ve invested in but are we wasting our time and money on these features? There’s a time and a place for this amount of work and attention to detail, but more often than not – at least in my experience – aerial work isn’t that time. That’s not to say you put less effort into your work or that the outcome would be of a lower quality, it’s just about taking a step back from the overkill and focusing on the shot at hand. After all, most clients will simply upload the footage to YouTube or view your photos via their Instagram feed… There are certain things that are beneficial to have on your side when working as a professional and thankfully these are now available on relatively affordable platforms. Firstly, a decent sensor with the ability to shoot in some form of ‘LOG’ profile for video or RAW for photos. This doesn’t have to be too extreme but enough that we can take
“Not only does it produce stunning images but it also flies incredibly well in a wide range of scenarios”
on most lighting scenarios and save the footage and photos we take from being too grainy with blown out highlights or shadows. Going back to the first iterations of the Phantom series and they weren’t quite there in this respect. Sure, they were great pieces of kit at a great price point but there were still benefits for going to a larger platform in terms of the onboard cameras. This year however DJI has – in my opinion – reached that ceiling with the Phantom series where you can produce high-end professional content in a small, affordable and robust package.
The Dark Knight
The drone in question is the DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian. First things first, let’s just cover the ‘Obsidian’ aspect of this drone as admittedly it is just a Phantom 4 Pro with a different aesthetic. I love the black look and new coating on the gimbal but past that there’s no real difference between the two. So you can save yourself a little bit of money by going for the white Phantom 4 Pro, but if you can afford to, and like the more professional or distinguished look, then I’d certainly recommend the Obsidian. So what does this drone have to offer? Well, as mentioned earlier, as a base line for versatility in professional work you want a decent sensor with the ability to shoot RAW photos and use some form of LOG colour profiles on your footage. This model ticks those boxes and backs them up with a wide range of features. It can shoot 4K at an impressive 60fps and 1080p at 120fps. It has a 20MP 1-inch CMOS sensor and adjustable aperture from F2.8 to F11. We’ve had to settle for the cameras supplied on drones in this price range in the past (though at £1589, the Obsidian still isn’t exactly cheap) but from my early test flights it seems that we’re no longer having to compromise on quality. In terms of manoeuvrability and flight features this also packs a punch. I was instantly impressed at how solid this performs in the air. The stability in GPS and Vision 56
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“It really doesn’t matter what equipment you’re using as long as you’re using it well” mode is remarkable; it’s almost as if you have a tripod in the air. The vision system comprises of sensors pointing 360 degrees horizontally as well as towards the ground below. This enables an incredibly secure flight on indoor shoots or through refined spaces. Although I’d still advise being confident in ATTI mode in these scenarios rather than completely relying on assistance, it’s certainly a great addition to have to hand. In my tests I did fly the drone directly at a wall to test the avoidance features. I have to admit I was somewhat nervous about the outcome and I must have checked that the sensors were active at least five times before proceeding. To my relief the drone stopped dead in its tracks. It really is amazing how solid this thing is in the air, especially during sudden stops such as this. The other thing that I noticed was the agility; this drone is fast even in the standard ‘P’ mode. I had to double check that it wasn’t accidentally switched to ‘Sport’ mode when I first flew it. When I did make the change I was blown away. Reaching a top speed of 45mph this drone is ideal for chase footage of racing or following subjects at pace.
So what’s the footage and photo quality like? I headed out to a couple of locations that I’ve shot before with other platforms so that I could reference the image quality and see how versatile the results were in post-production. The first major difference was that it was clear to see the quality of the RAWs coming out of the camera. It’s easy to get details lost in the shadows with highlights blown out when shooting straight to jpeg so having that control with the RAW is incredible. The RAW took a lot of pushing in Lightroom before it started to fall apart, meaning that even in the worst lighting conditions you’ll be able to get decent results.
The same goes for video. Although the camera doesn’t quite compare to my daily handheld shooter, the SonyA7SII, on the first initial pass there isn’t a major difference; certainly not a difference that any of my clients would notice when cutting back and forth from ground to air shots. The fact that the A7SII is twice the price of the drone says a lot about the Obsidian. As you’d expect, the image quality breaks down with higher ISOs so I’d recommend keeping your ISO to a minimum, although for the most part you’d be shooting in conditions where you wouldn’t need to push it anyway. The fact you can adjust the aperture is fantastic as you can get sharper results and keep your shutter speed down in certain situations. You will need to raise your ISO to combat the aperture so bear that in mind. Lastly the mechanical shutter on the camera means that the wobbly or bending vertical lines often seen in quick pans have almost completely disappeared. Overall, I’d have to admit that, yes, there are requirements where you would need a drone such as the Inspire 2 with the new X7 camera – for example, high production value shoots for broadcast, cinema or large format printing, but how often are you shooting at that level? DJI has set the stage for everything you need as a professional working in this industry with the Phantom 4 Pro line and the Obsidian takes it to the next level with its sleek design. Not only does it produce stunning images but it also flies incredibly well in a wide range of scenarios and its light footprint means that it handles wind better than many larger platforms. You’ll save yourself money, not only on the initial purchase but also on your insurance premiums, and your clients will love the results. Push the money you saved into additional batteries, some fun accessories or simply use it to market your business! WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
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Hippos Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Photo by Yannick Wavre / www.fromtheheights.com Supplied by Dronestagram
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All photos by Holybro, except where stated
All photos by ViFly, except where stated
kopis 1 Reviewer: Lee Schofield
olybro has been evolving as a drone and accessories manufacturer over the last 18 months and while its first quadcopters were good they used a lot of proprietary parts. Models like the Shurikens were very tough but heavy. The following design, the Shuriken X1, was built in the ‘X’ frames style that was popular at the time, but all of the electronics were on one huge PCB, making for an expensive repair if something was damaged. This latest quadcopter is designed for those pilots who are looking for a very capable, responsive racer but are not up to the task of building one themselves. The Kopis 1 (yes, they really do name all of their products after weapons) looks more like a racing quadcopter that a hobbyist would build themselves and it’s all the better for it – and with a great initial response upon launch, we decided to take a closer look for ourselves…
As the company has developed it has ventured into the design and manufacture of flight controllers and FPV video transmitters, and both of its latest designs in these areas are at the heart of the Kopis 1. The flight controller is a Kakute F4, which is a little different to the norm as the IMU (the gyro sensors that detect the movement of the model) is mounted separately on dampening foam to help with vibration. It includes an OSD and supports DShot and an 8 KHz PID loop rate. Holybro has also spent time making sure that all of the serial protocols work flawlessly, too. These features, coupled with the ability to run it from 7-42 volts, makes it a very nice flight controller to set up and fly. The FPV video transmitter unit is the new Holybro Atlatl HV. This board is mounted on top of the flight controller and again supports a huge voltage range as well as the ImmersionRC Tramp protocol. This means that you can
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treet Price: From $288 (£219) S Dimensions: 230 x 180 x 40mm Weight: 300g (without battery) Camera: RunCam Swift Mini FPV Battery Type: Not included (supports 4S and 6S) Flight time: Various (depending on battery) Controller: Not included (FrSky, FlySky, Spektrum compatible) • Website: www.holybro.com 60
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Photo by Lee Schofield
Photo by Lee Schofield Photo by Lee Schofield
change its settings from the Betaflight OSD simply in the field. It supports powers from 0.5mW to 600mW and all of the main 40 FPV channels. The motors are the Air40 2450KV from T-Motor and these are coupled with 30Amp BLHeli_32, DShot 1200 compatible ESCs. It also boasts 5045 tri-bladed props, and together they provide impressive levels of power when used with a 4S battery (which is not supplied in the package).
“The flying experience can be summed up in one word: Wow!” a branded Holybro soft carrying case with spare props and a GoPro mount for the top. Nice. But it’s when you plug the Kopis 1 into Betaflight to check the settings that you start to feel that this is a little special. The set-up is very well done and all of the settings have been configured, even the Smartport telemetry for the FrSky receiver, and the tuning looks like the team has spent a fair amount of time on, too. In short, everything you’d normally have to check and tweak on a RTF model has been addressed and set up right out of the box. It appears to be using an early version of Betaflight 3.2 installed, and so all you have to do is bind and confirm the receiver is working and the modes are what you want and you’re ready to go!
Better by Design
One thing you may notice from the pictures is the carbon fibre frame finish. The design is a stretched ‘X’ frame that is longer front to back than side to side. The carbon fibre is 5mm Full 3K and is finished beautifully, with some excellent touches on the frame. All the edges are rounded off and the all of the screws are colour matched and counter sunk into the frame, too. The supplied FPV antenna (that works well) is mounted on to a metal bracket screwed into the bottom plate that is also anodised the same colour as all of the other pieces. The antenna is mounted in between the rear arms and placed in such a way you’ll have to really crash hard to break it off. The final few pieces are one of the latest Swift Mini cameras from RunCam and a rear plate featuring programmable LEDs and a buzzer. You can either buy it as a ‘Plug-n-Fly’ model or as a ‘Bind-n-Fly’ version with a FrSky XSR receiver built-in (upping the price to $299). We were testing with the latter, and so we were using a ‘real’ XSR receiver, with it mounted so the bind button was easily accessible. All of this comes in WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
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The flying experience can be summed up in one word: Wow! We were using a 1300mAh 4S Graphene battery and it had a huge amount of power and speed, and in Acro mode the setup was excellent. Rolls were crisp and clean and movements were precise and well dialled in. This is a model that does exactly what you expect it to and it feels like someone who knew a lot about tuning has had input here. Different batteries and adding the extra weight of a GoPro onto the model may change this slightly but this PID/Rate setup here is one of the best we’ve seen on a RTF quadcopter. The camera performs well, as you’d expect from a RunCam camera, and the OSD/VTX setup works perfectly. This is simply a joy to fly. Photo by Lee Schofield
As someone who sees a lot of models, it takes a lot to impress this reviewer but occasionally you get something that is so well designed and works so well that it makes you sit up and take notice. This is one of those rare models. All racers will have very strongly held views about what makes a good racing quadcopter; the blades they use, the frame and flight controller/VTX setups are very personal and so it’s very likely that those that race regularly will see a number of things they’d want to change on this model. As for me personally, I’m not changing anything, at least not until I’ve broken all of the supplied blades! It’s that good. Because Holybro has used so many industry-standard parts here we could work out what it would cost to make one of these by buying the parts separately and building one ourselves, but it turns out that we can’t do it for this low a price. So if you’re looking for a model that will fly beautifully and also provide a platform for you to progress your knowledge and skill then the Kopis 1 is definitely one to be considered.
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PHANTOMFLIGHTSCHOOL The UKs longest established and most popular drone flying school
UNIQUE DRONE HOLIDAYS TO ANDALUCIA, SOUTHERN SPAIN Fly a Lot, Laugh a Lot, Learn a Lot Five nights full board for just £1,299 27 Sept – 2 Oct 2 Oct – 8 Oct Led by Alan Proto, PhantomFlightSchool Founder and Steve Lowery, professional photographer, videographer and video editor Price Includes: l Flying in spectacular and varied locations l
Flying supported by experts
Push your boundaries
High quality ensuite single accommodation in beautiful villa in
the hills one hour North of Malaga l
Minibus transfers to and from the airport
asterclasses every day on all aspects of flying like a M pro and filming like a pro
Able to fly from the villa whenever you want
Full board including five meals out
Image by Neil Peck, PhantomFlightSchool client
www.phantomflightschool.co.uk to see video of our May 2017 trip
Images by Glyn Melling & Neil Peck, PhantomFlightSchool clients; & Alan Proto, PhantomFlightSchool pilot
01244 893 872 email@example.com Holiday ad August 20172.indd 1
GestureBotics aura Reviewer: Andrew Watton-Davies
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rice: £99.99 P Dimensions: 18.5 x 18.5 x 6.8cm weight: 420g battery: 3.7v 500mAh LiPo flight time: 6 minutes charge time: 30 minutes controller / Range: Glove / 7 metres Website: aura-drone.com
ince KD Interactive first demonstrated the GestureBotics Aura drone around toy fairs at the start of 2017, the question going around has been: “How good can a glove controller for a drone actually be?” However, on reflection people should actually be saying: “How cool is controlling a drone with my hands going to be?!” Anyone stating anything else is not the target audience here, because taking control of this craft is all about having super-cool fun. Upon unboxing the Aura, you are met with a black 8.5cm angular drone in an 18.5cm red safety cage. It looks somewhat like overkill, but you are going to be grateful for it soon enough – the styling just adds to the overall effect. To get the party started, you charge up the battery via the USB cable and wait for the lights to go out. Then you do the same for the supplied glove controller, giving you two things to charge – but with only one cable to do it with. The battery on the drone can be taken out for charging or swapping, but as it’s held in with a plastic clasp, it’s not clear how many changes it will stand up to. The battery in the glove can in theory also be swapped or replaced, but
opening that up voids your warranty and in our testing we had to recharge it about a third less than the craft itself. The glove itself is a one-size-fits-most nylon affair, fashioned in black with red detailing. You don’t need to wear the glove to use the controller, but you’ll want to because it looks like something out of Tron. Over that goes the controller itself, which is going to upset lefties due to only being usable in the right hand. The main unit sits on top, the battery and thumb trigger to the side. It’s not the comfiest of set ups but you won’t really mind for long, as turning it on gets all the lights flashing and you’ll quickly feel like Iron Man. You can then turn on the Aura to pair it up and its lights join in the display, activating smiles all around. Now you’re playing with power. Take-off is incredibly straightforward; you simply hit the button on the top of the glove controller and up it goes. It’ll fly up to about head-height and then most likely go flying off randomly because either you didn’t have your hand flat when you turned the glove on, or you have oversteered via the hand gesture controls. Fortunately none of that matters provided you were sensible and launched in a wide space with nothing to bump into, as you are controlling a drone with hand gestures and that’s awesome! It’s actually hard to express how much fun the experience is and to an extent the trickiness of learning the balance and flow of the controller actually adds to the whole thing. It’s both intuitive and challenging, and the novelty of it makes you want to master it like some kind of electronic pet dog.
A Glove Affair
To help out with your flying, the craft comes with headless mode, although the lack of a camera or clear front-facing design means there’s no need for rotation. You’ve got the basics of forward and backwards, and left and right as the main controls and then a press of the thumb button gives you up and down, along with a quick sharp flip. There’s no need to orientate beyond that which is ideal for the kind of trick flying the Aura is designed for. Various functions give differing light combinations on the controller, which aren’t exactly helpful but do add to the overall effect and make you appear even cooler to any onlookers. The durability of the Aura was tested extensively during our flights and it bounced through practically unscathed. Should you need to swap out the blades then it’s very simple to pull them off, but even after a series of bush landings which accumulated general greenery all around the propellers, the originals remained flight fit. The biggest area
“The novelty of it makes you want to master it like some kind of electronic pet dog” of concern was with the glove itself, as the Velcro strapping for the controller stuck to itself impressively and pulling them apart causes noticeable fraying. It’s also hard to judge how many knocks the controller will be able to take, along with the two sets of exposed wires. From what’s been described so far, two things should be very apparent. Firstly, and with no disrespect to the ingenuity deployed, this level of direct gesture based control isn’t very practical for drone operations. However, secondly, that doesn’t mean anything here because the control system is the whole thing and the impracticality of it adds to the experience. Novelty can get looked down upon, especially when mistaken for gimmickry, but in this instance the whole point is the completely novel approach. Just mucking around for a day trying to master a new way to fly was good, honest fun, and users will want to show off delicate trick-flying with this model despite the fact that you can probably do it with even more greater control using a regular thumbstick set up. That its design has borrowed hither and thither from pop culture just adds on top of it, as the cool factor is repeatedly piled on. The price may make people cautious, especially as it’s lacking the now standard camera for drones in this range – but the challenge and fun factor is certainly there for those who do get their hands on an Aura.
All photos by FrSky
FrSky Taranis Q X7S REVIEW
• P rice: £164.99 • channels: 16 (up to 32) • operating voltage range: 6-15V (2S, 3S Li-Po packs are acceptable) • operating current: 190mA @ 7.2V • operating temperature: -10 to 60°C • lcd screen: 128 x 64 outdoor readable LCD • model memories: 60 (extendable via MicroSD (TF) card) • compatibility: FrSky receivers in D16/LR12 mode (and D8 in some non-European locations) • Website: www.frsky-rc.com
he FrSky Q X7 radio has been around for a while now and has found a place in many pilots’ regular equipment. The smaller brother of the hugely popular Taranis X9D+ radio, it has delivered, pound for pound, some of the best radio features and performance around. The original Q X7 provides a huge array of features and most of the ones you need come with a few less switches, a smaller screen and a different form factor to the other radios in the FrSky radio line-up. The FrSky radios run OpenTX, a powerful operating system that lets you program the radio to do pretty much anything you want. For some that complexity can be a little too much. Recently you’ll have seen online vendors discounting the original Q X7 to below the £80 mark and this new updated version of the radio is the reason. The new model has a lot of the modifications and upgrades installed from the factory that many pilots have been installing themselves, plus a few other tricks up its sleeve. We got our hands on one to find out what’s changed so you can decide if it’s time to upgrade or grab a bargain for that original Q X7… The new updated version of the radio comes in a striking blue colour or a faux carbon fibre effect. The blue is certainly striking and seems to have the ‘marmite’ effect on the pilots we’ve spoken to, who either love or hate it. Both versions feature an improved grip using a black textured wrap at the sides of the radio. The overall size is the same as the original radio and so it feels much the same in your hands.
“An excellent entry level radio that provides all the power of OpenTX in an affordable package”
I only recently upgraded my own Q X7 radio with the new M7 gimbals. These ‘Hall Effect’ designs have a lovely silky smooth feel and won’t wear out, as well as being more accurate than the stock sticks supplied with the Q X7. The M7 gimbals are installed in the X7S radio and include some very funky stick upgrades. These new sticks look like something from a torture chamber but work well and provide excellent non-slip grip for both ‘thumbers’ and ‘pinchers’ alike. Sadly the more traditional sticks are not shipped with the radio for those who would prefer something a bit more familiar.
FrSky has also upped its game with the main switches, too. The new switches have a smooth feel and less of a ‘click’ when they engage into position – although the number and placement of them remains the same as before. The newer switches are no longer rounded in the cross section, making them gentler on the touch and easier to flick with any part of the finger painlessly. Personally I liked the more positive feel and stronger springs of the original switches, but that might just be me. Some of the very first Q X7 units shipped with a AA battery bay but recently they’ve all shipped with the Ni-Mh pack. Sadly this pack doesn’t have a huge capacity, so with only 800mAh of power you needed to make sure the battery was charged before you set off to the field. The Q X7S addresses this limitation in a couple of ways. The new battery has a much larger capacity and the radio now ships with a charger, which is always a nice touch. Many pilots buy after-market cases and gimbal protectors, and the X7S now comes with both. The case is nicely embossed and provides decent protection from knocks and bangs but won’t save it from being crushed. The real news here is that this radio features the new FrSky wireless trainer function. This allows you to do a few things without the need for wires. The first neat trick is that the latest radios coming out from FrSky seem to have this feature as standard, and the X10 radios also have it. This means that rather than use a cable to connect the two radios together for buddy boxing, for flying larger models that WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
need two operators or for training purposes you can now connect via the Bluetooth link wirelessly. The other benefit is that FrSky has released an application on Android and iOS that allows you to connect to the radio using that same Bluetooth connection, enabling you to change settings and monitor telemetry on that device.
The X Factor
It’s no real surprise that all of these additional refinements and upgrades come at a cost. The new radio is now over £60 more expensive than the Q X7 retails for (not to mention those further online savings). The gimbals used in the upgraded model cost almost £20 each so if you already have the older radio and were looking to upgrade to the M7s you’d be close to the cost of the X7S. Plus you get the other features, although it’s worth noting that for the same money you can also pick up its bigger brother, the X9D+, albeit without those new gimbals installed. The number of controls has remained the same. There are two rotating controls, only one with a centre indent
and no sliders on the shoulders of the radio like the Taranis X9D+. We suspect that FrSky is making a conscious effort to differentiate the radios in its line-up, but an extra slider would have been nice. As this radio is a lot less mature than the X9D+, some of the support for other features is playing catch up, too. LUA script compatibility is one particular challenge. In OpenTX 2.2 there was the ability to add little programs called ‘scripts’ to the radio to perform certain functions. You could change the setting on your Betaflight flight controller, configure your long range radio module and set up the FrSky S6R receivers, for example. Because of the smaller screen and the basic graphics on display, you need specific versions of these scripts. Sadly these are not always readily available or as fully featured as the originals but this is improving quickly. The last item worth mentioning is that due to the choice of components in part of the radio it doesn’t support very fast JR modules like the TBS Crossfire running at full speed. While this isn’t a problem for many pilots it’s worth being aware of. However, this new X7S radio now includes most of the mods that a lot of Q X7 owners will have already installed. Overall we have to say that it’s an excellent entry level radio that provides all the power of OpenTX in an affordable package. We could happily recommend the Q X7 as the entry level radio for those pilots who wanted something they would still be using in a few years’ time, while the X7S just offers that little bit more in terms of refinements and upgrades – albeit at a price… and not everyone will appreciate or require the changes. Both are great radios and provide everything that most pilots will need. The additions of the case and wireless trainer function are very welcome but if you’re not interested in those, then the original Q X7 radios are a steal at their knock down price right now…
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Photo by B&W
esigned as an entry level case for the aspiring Spark pilot, this offering from B&W International boasts all of the features that we have come to expect when looking for a rugged storage and transport solution for your quad. It comes with an extremely reasonable price tag just over £40 and it really sets the bar high when looking for a protective carry case for your drone and equipment. The guys over at B&W impressed us earlier this year with their take on the DJI Mavic Pro and it appears that they have done it again with this case engineered for the Spark pilot looking for that little extra protection for their kit. Our first thoughts were that this is a very smart, high quality case. When you place it next to DJI’s own padded fabric case they are leagues apart. The case can comfortably house the Spark, controller, batteries and accessories – everything you need when you are traveling out for a day’s shooting. However, we struggled to find a place to fit the charging cable so that would need to be stored separately. Once everything is loaded this makes for a solid, lightweight, durable travel system that feels like it could take a real beating and still protect the equipment inside. The construction of this case, making use of the B&W Type 1000 model with a bespoke CNC routed insert, provides ideal protection when you are taking your equipment anywhere that it may be bumped, dropped, scratched or rained on. By design these cases thrive in hostile environments so if you are planning on taking your kit traveling, out to sea or even into a warzone these models are really in their element. All photos by Dan Francis, except where stated
Reviewer: dan francis
B&W Type 1000 DJI Spark case REVIEW
• • • • •
rice: £40.91 P Dimensions: 270 x 215 x 105mm weight: 1.7lbs (1.9lbs with packaging) volume: 4.1 litres Website: www.b-w-international.com
As with its previous cases geared towards the drone or photography markets, B&W has taken care to make sure there isn’t an overly tight ‘friction fit’ on the battery compartments. This makes sure that they are held in place well but also have some space to breathe if they are still warm from use. As with any protective case it’s not advisable to transport hot batteries and you should always leave them out to cool before closing them in the case. The one minor issue that we did identify was that because of the depth of the cut-outs in the foam for the Spark body shell you need to be very careful when putting the drone into the case. You need to make sure that you are lining up the props so that they do not touch the foam as this could cause them to bend or weaken over time. After a little bit of research we found our own perfect solution for the props, with a 3D printed prop-locker that will gently clip over the tips of your props and hold them in place. These are readily available online for as little as £2 and will make sure that they are always stored safely out of the way when you load the case, plus it offers some added protection for your props.
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n Great value for money, offering a lot of protection. n Waterproof and dustproof protection for your quad. n Available in three cool colours: Yellow, Grey or Black. n 30 year warranty
n You must take care when putting the quad into the case to
ensure that the props are in the correct position. n No space for the charging cable.
Well Tested This case boasts IP67-rated water and dust proofing, with militarystandard STANAG 4280 and DEF STAN 81-41 certifications, so that it is ready to stand up to the most hostile environments – but what does it actually mean? IP67 Rating: Ingress Protection (IP) ratings detail the environmental protection an enclosure provides. An IP rating usually has two numbers; the higher each number the greater the protection. The first number, 6, describes the total protection from solid objects and 7 is the level of protection from liquids (namely water) for a minimum of 30 minutes submerged to a depth of 1 metre. STANAG 4280 / DEF STAN 81-41: These cover a range of rigorous testing against vibration, low temperature (down to -20ºC for 16 hours), dry heat (up to 55 ºC for 48 hours, humidity not exceeding 75%) and vertical impact (dropped from 1 metre at a variety of angles).
While some of these certifications may seem a little like overkill for your average drone pilot, it is good to see that manufacturers are making the effort to provide well tested products. Especially with the uptake of UAVs into military and public services, it is always reassuring to know that you are in safe hands with a quality supplier that cares about its products.
Photo by B&W
Overall, we feel that this case offers very high-end protection for the cost. Although there are a few tweaks that could make it even better, B&W International has created a cost-effective product that will stand up to the test of all but the most extreme Spark users.
“A solid, lightweight, durable travel system that feels like it could take a real beating”
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From above it’s clear just how difficult the rainforest is to navigate at ground level. Fixed wing drones can cut hours off a relatively short journey if they have space to take off and land.
Clearing a Path Andrew Watton-Davies met up with a drone company that’s taken to the skies to help improve transport routes for those on the ground…
f Cambridgeshire has a reputation for anything, its technology, due to the ‘Silicon Fen’ tech company explosion in the region along with its widespread university research facilities. Another common sight in the county is bicycles, thanks in no small part to the fens being really, really flat. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, to see the two come together in the form of drone-based surveying technology being used to help provide highly detailed images for use with planning the Greenways cycle path scheme in collaboration with the Greater Cambridge Partnership. Recently members of aerial specialists Crowded Space Drones have been performing flights along sections of the 12 proposed cycle routes – linking surrounding towns and villages with the city of Cambridge – capturing 4K images from 400 feet in a series of 500-metre ranged flights. The Greater Cambridge Partnership will then use the photos as up-to-date maps with which to plan the works, as well as using advanced imaging techniques to present detailed versions of the proposals to the public during the consultation period of the overall project.
By the end of the process, the Crowded Space Drones team will have completed over 125 of these missions, covering more than 130 kilometres of proposed cycle path. We were invited along to join them for one of the flights performed in the quiet East Cambridgeshire town of Swaffham Prior, so we jumped on our bike to see them in action… Leading the team of three was Andrew McQuillan and upon meeting him outside the local pub the first thing we were greeted with was beeping noises. “This wee transfer just went through,” Andrew explained, “We’re on really slow WiFi where we’re staying, so that took six hours to upload.” For those unfamiliar with the area, once you start heading out of the city there’s lot of open countryside where that ‘Silicon Fen’ tech doesn’t stretch to. “That’s the worst thing about being on the road with this sort of stuff: there’s no phone signal. We’ve got EE dongles but you don’t know what the reception will be like until you turn up.” The project has had its advantages, though, as the East Anglian region has a number of large farms which makes things easier for the team. “In Northern Ireland or other parts
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of England, every field is a different owner. Here, it’s just one big swathe of land, so it’s easier to get permission for takeoff,” Andrew explained. Whilst it is possible to use council land for launches, in areas that are not parks it’s often easier for the team to use private land, to ensure that they can follow the 30-metre proximity safety rule for take-off and landing. Land registries can help identify owners but the team has found that simply knocking on the door and asking politely is often the quickest and easiest technique.
Ready for Take-Off
A suitable location is soon found on the map, and while Andrew’s colleague Glen practices his nicest ‘hellos’, the final member of the team, Beth, is busy getting the DJI
Inspire 1 ready for flight. This particular Inspire has some fetching custom reflector tape on it, but not for visibility issues as some might suspect. “When you’re flying at festivals they want you to look official,” Andrew explained. “There is a problem with illegal drones at festivals, so the organisers don’t want a white one going up as people might think they can fly theirs. We have this ‘police-y’ version and we also have one that’s made to look more ‘fire brigade-y’, as one festival doesn’t like authority...” As for the choice of equipment, the team has vast experience with the Inspire and appreciate what they describe as its “reliability factor”, along with Ground Station Pro’s ability to offer consistency in the footage collected and to take over flight, so the operators can focus on safety concerns. The team knows what does and doesn’t work with it, including things like how much lag they have on the controls and displays, plus what the error messages may or may not mean. Whilst still flying in compliance with their PfCO, some flights have been taking place in congested areas – and with the dangers of sudden gusts of high winds (this can be a flat and open landscape!), safety is a priority in such a dynamic environment. The team operates with Andrew on flight controls, Glen on camera duties, and Beth on crowd control. Once airborne they are constantly communicating with each other about the mission, the area where they are standing and any possible safety issues. Contingencies and options are constantly being evaluated, with the well-being of the
First Responders As the Greenways project is still very much in its early days, the Crowded Space Drones team sometimes find themselves being the first to make inquisitive members of the public aware of the proposed works. “A significant proportion know about it but there are ones that go ‘oh we didn’t know about it. That’s really good’,” says Andrew. “And there are ones that have ‘differing opinions’ of it…” And the best solution to these opinions? “We like to think of ourselves like the police; we’re very neutral and we don’t get involved in political matters. We’re literally here to fly a drone and that can be political enough as it is. We’ve got leaflets and things to hand out, and we have a pretty good sales pitch for them from the council explaining that it’s all up in the air and proposed.” We’d assume there was no pun intended given the team’s involvement!
“It’s often easier for the team to use private land, to ensure that they can follow the 30-metre proximity safety rule for takeoff and landing”
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locals put well above the kit. “If we do have emergencies, it’s easier to veer off and crash the drone into the ground if we have to,” Andrew commented. “We’ve had no failures of flight so far, but you can be flying well within your PfCO and doing all your daily maintenance, and still have something go wrong, like a bird strike – so having an emergency landing area planned out is always good. There are lots of fields, gardens and trees you can dump it into by killing the engines if you really have to. We’re fully aware of what the inertia and momentum can do, so we can drop them quickly and ‘on target’.” During our time with the team, they flew the 500-metre route in both directions, getting a kilometre of images through the village, plus some general interest views along
“There are lots of people out there that think quadcopters shouldn’t fly over congested areas, but if you do it in a reasonable and sensible way, it’s safe”
the way. Although a quiet village on a Sunday afternoon might not look filled with possible hazards, the chance exists of suddenly having 100 people exit a building as a tour leaves or if an evacuation happens – so everything is being continuously assessed. “That’s the key thing,” Andrew commented, “there are lots of people out there that think quadcopters shouldn’t fly over congested areas, but if you do it in a reasonable and sensible way, it’s safe.” Other air users are also something that needs to be taken into account, especially as some of the paths to be surveyed are to be going past Cambridge Airport. Again, the team has erred on the side of safety; they could unlock the no-flyzone options for the duration of their stay, but have decided to keep them on until the final days of the project when they need to fly near the airport, just so their craft can’t go where it shouldn’t. The team does still have to liaise with the Cambridge air traffic control team on a regular basis, though. “They want to know about mitigation and how our drones don’t fly near the airports,” Andrew explained, “We also have to work between the air traffic control workload, and I wouldn’t want anything less. Quite frankly; yes, it might screw us around a wee bit, but I wouldn’t expect 15 aircraft to be stacked up and burning fuel on our behalf.”
Of course, it’s not all fun flying and the team spends just as much time setting up and packing things away.
Thankfully there were no other craft in the sky during the flight, nor did the team get questioned by any members of the public – which was a little surprising given that for the 20 minutes the Inspire was in the air, the whirr of the blades was the loudest sound around. On the plus side, this did also mean that there was no need for discussions about privacy, an issue that the team have had on other jobs. “The problem is that people don’t know there isn’t a privacy law to protect you from drones,” Andrew explained. “There’s a law on how close you can fly but if I’m flying legally, in terms of flying by your house and seeing your back garden, the Civil Aviation Act 1982 says I’m good. And I think that’s a very scary thing, as it’s a law that came from tower cranes swinging over in cities rather than from drones. We are missing dedicated drone laws.”
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Despite the team often working in rural areas, no less care and attention is paid to the usual preand post-flight checklist.
With the Inspire safely back on the ground, the team start packing things away ready to move on to the next location and so we asked Andrew how he’s seen the market for drones developing. “A lot of our bread and butter is event-type work, with Live Nation, Festival Republic and others, but we like this kind of work because now is the off-season for those,” he told us. “But we’re not short of work, and a lot of people we know aren’t short of it either. We have a team that comes from film, TV, surveying, policing and events. And we’re combining all this knowledge together – we create a bigger pool of work because we can say ‘we’ve got five disciplines here for you to use on your project’.” This leads on to another issue that Andrew is keen to raise. “In my opinion, the problem with the drone industry is that you have lots of people who sit there and don’t have as much work, so aren’t that happy with people who do. So they use a lot of their free time to look at other people’s work and make judgements on how that was achieved,” he commented. “The biggest problem with that is that they aren’t basing that on fact and there are a lot of witch-hunts going on. “We’re 100% legal; it’s all according to our PfCO and doesn’t breach any articles of the Air Navigation Order. I have no doubt that my client – or the CAA, the police, or all three – will have some form of contact from another
operator going ‘I don’t believe that was legal’ when the footage goes public. Well then I must have been hacked because you haven’t seen our paperwork to be able to make that judgement! “There are also factions within the drone community, such as stuff about how quadcopters aren’t safe for congested areas – and these comments were made by people who fly octo and hex. It’s odd that that their unique selling point is that they have more propellers and I’ve seen lots of ones like that crash. I have no problem with anyone posting their work on the drone forums, but you’re asking for trouble to an extent!” But that is an issue for another day, as the team prepares to move on, to get more footage and help expand the cycle path network in and around Cambridge. Just as they finish stowing their kit a member of the public arrives, curious to find out what they are doing. Andrew explains the project as Glen passes them a flyer and soon everyone heads off, happily satisfied with the explanation given. You can find out more at crowdedspacedrones.com and get further info on the Greenways project and the Greater Cambridge Partnership over at greatercambridge.org.uk.
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Unicorn, Pegasus, Duck Arcipelago Toscano National Park, Italy Photo by Yannick Wavre / www.fromtheheights.com Supplied by Dronestagram
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Back to School:
Teaching the Next Generation All photos by Bea Jones / CineCloud, except where stated
A pro pilot called in the drones to participate in an education event, inspiring pupils to imagine the possibilities. Robin Evans explains how things went for all involvedâ€Ś
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o offer up some background, I’m a commercial airline pilot who’d previously got hold of my first minidrone after winning in a competition in this very magazine last year. Shortly afterwards I shared my challenges about learning to fly this smaller craft, whilst offering some basic pilot knowledge into a potential skills gap for other new fliers (you can find the article back in Issue 16). Even back then I thought a drone would make a great teaching aid but the idea remained dormant… until now. I have since become a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) ambassador for Hybrid Air Vehicles, designer of the pioneering Airlander airship – the world’s largest aircraft. Here was a legitimate reason to connect with schools and other groups on aviation topics – and if that included drones, then even better! I approached my daughter’s primary school with an idea of helium balloon workshops, and that then morphed into a ‘High Flying Day’ of activities. There was a buoyant atmosphere when 290 children filed into the hall to discover drones, airship models and helium balloons. I began with a presentation on being a pilot and how my original inspiration, Concorde, led on to my current role, which was something greener, quieter but equally pioneering – and local to the school. However, aware that I was perhaps lacking the experience and broader expertise to acknowledge drones properly, I decided to call in the professionals for some aerial support. What follows is a summary of the dronebased elements of the day from the four perspectives of those involved.
“It was clear the initial assembly had sparked an interest. Whilst talking about drones and aspects of flight safety, I would often be interrupted by classes pointing to a recent departure from nearby Luton Airport, admiring the beauty of a 737 flying through the air. Having just seen the inside of a cockpit, interacted with a pilot and learnt a basic understanding of air traffic control, they suddenly realised the airspace above them was alive with activity.
Based in Hertford, Jason Smith is the Director of CineCloud, a company that specialises in aerial cinematography. Jason had previously worked for another established drone operator before launching his own venture in 2016. He takes up the story. WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
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“Allowing children to get first-hand experience by talking to professional aviators is definitely a step in the right direction” “I was taken aback by the welcoming nature of the school, as drones are frequently making appearances in the media for all the wrong reasons. I began my presentation by asking how many of the children had seen, flown or owned a drone before. The raised hands increased as the children got older, with at least 75% of every class claiming to have seen a drone and around a third having flown one themselves. “I played a CineCloud showreel - and they were stunned, with some applause afterwards. Then came a flood of questions, usually beginning with something like: ‘Was that really filmed with your drones?’ They were intrigued by the creative and humanitarian applications and had
great suggestions of things that they wanted to film, including cars, Disneyland and America. “The children were fascinated by the complexity of the DJI S1000, aiming to feel the propellers, controllers and batteries, despite reminders not to. They instinctively sought a tactile way of understanding what they were seeing, which was fascinating to watch and be a part of. “Most were taken aback by the size and weight of the 16000mAh batteries and that got them thinking about forces and power-to-weight ratio. The inevitable question of ‘can I fly it?’ was managed by showing them the controls and explaining that we wouldn’t have time for everyone to have a go. Most knew what gaming controls looked like and explaining that the controls for the drone were very similar helped massively. The idea that two analogue sticks could fly a big drone was fascinating to them. “The day was a great success. The next generation of pilots and enthusiasts are fortunate to have this amazing technology. The need for aerial education across all ages is apparent, with increasing industry-damaging reports of UAV near misses. Allowing children to get first-hand experience by talking to professional aviators is definitely a step in the right direction and one we all enjoyed.”
Given the age range involved (4-11 years) both Jason and myself had to adapt our material so that all classes got something from it. I was also mindful to mention current industry efforts to overcome gender stereotypes, showing a video of a female aerobatic pilot. Whilst ‘piloting’ is historically a male-dominated profession, the airline industry now has schemes to encourage females into both the flight deck and engineering hangar. 80
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A new strand of aviation like drones perhaps offers a new way to tackle gender bias. As Jason said afterwards, “it was great to see the school reiterating the idea that aviation is equally for boys and girls. The youngest classes had the most mixed engagement; in the older years there were more boys driving the questioning.” The S1000 was a great tool for explaining drones; the bare mechanics were fascinating to the children. The exposed wiring, spindly arms and landing gear made it seem like a huge robotic insect. With the S1000 on a table, Jason handed over a monitor with the slaved camera feed for the children to pass around. As each looked at it, the camera would pan to look each one in the eye: they found this hilarious. I had not imagined that the subject of gimbals would crop up for even the older pupils. “I like how the camera goes round and round!” said one to me during the lunch break, excitably illustrated by spinning around with his arms out. On a career angle, Jason was frequently asked how he became a drone pilot. He explained: “I have always been into photography. One year for Christmas I got a tiny drone with a camera attached which I used to fly around the local park. The picture quality was dreadful but it got me thinking; what would happen if I could link it to my phone or lift a GoPro? After an excited week delving into this new industry I was hooked!” The Head later told me that one of the pupils remarked: “Jason knew what he wanted to do at school and now he’s actually doing it.” I know many pilots, regardless of aircraft type (manned and unmanned), that have had a ‘light bulb’ moment from an early encounter; I know I did and between us all perhaps we created others? The ultimate verdict for me was the sentiment of one happy pupil: “It was great to do something completely different - I never thought we would be allowed to have drones in school!”
The teachers coordinated other activities during the day. For those not so inspired by science, we added art to turn STEM into STEAM. Particularly for the younger classes, this involved geography and art (drawing pictures of where in the world they would fly); dance and music (Those
Feedback: The Pupils
n “Seeing the drones was completely amazing, I loved the way they
flew and took pictures from above” n “I liked how if the drones lost their signal they would come back
home” n “After watching the drones I liked making our own flying things like
aeroplanes and helicopters” n “It was utterly amazing and I loved watching the movie they took
from the drones” n “I liked the way the big drone had four cameras, two at the front and
two at the side” n “I liked the drone taking pictures of us up in the sky and hearing
where they had flown that exact drone” n “I take photographs so I liked hearing the information about the
cameras on the drone”
Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines); and writing (a newspaper report on space tourism). “There were so many questions from the children it was hard for the teachers to get any in,” said Jason. “Some teachers were straight to the point and asked how much
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“It was great to see the school reiterating the idea that aviation is equally for boys and girls” all the gear cost; others were very interested in the legal side. All had a basic concept of what a drone does, but didn’t know that there were licenses or even any sort of paperwork that would go on behind the scenes. They took comfort in the idea that there were regulations.” Jason stressed to all that every flight involved a lot more preparation than flying time, explaining how he’d assessed their school before agreeing to the day. A teacher at a previous STEM event commented to me: “I thought all pilots were against drones?” My response was that many like drones and photography and the skills of operating machines responsibly overlap – they just don’t mix together. The Head later commented how the various elements we had on show did mix together and everyone could take something from the day. This suggests to me that drones are welcome alongside other types of aircraft. It’s not often you can say that drones managed to upstage the world’s largest aircraft. How so? They have the major advantage of being portable enough to get onto the premises and interact directly with, impossible given the size, access and security constraints of conventional aircraft. Another parent brought in a hang-glider, and we can confirm this is the largest aircraft you can fit inside a classroom!
The Pilot / STEM Ambassador
In arranging the day I had contacted other firms with STEM ambassadors. One suggested they were unprepared to speak at primary schools, feeling unequipped to deal with small children. Not only was this no such problem for Jason but the children readily accepted him, highlighting 82
a valuable PfCO skill in audience management. Such was their acceptance that lunch time became an extended question and answer session, too. Having seen the professionalism on display I was very impressed – as a pilot, it is operators like Jason I’d want to see in charge of drones. Jason does have some previous experience in this area, having already worked with The Muscle Help Foundation. They deliver personalised, once-in-a-lifetime ‘Muscle Dream’ experiences for children with muscular dystrophy – such as meeting their favourite superhero, racing at Silverstone or riding in a helicopter. Jason explained: “We were originally involved just to film these events, but it soon developed into something magical. Many children are fascinated by technology and the DJI S1000 is a huge spectacle, so we also put on a ‘drone reveal’ where the children have a go at camera operating and ask everything they and their parents want to know. You can see that the hands-on experience really excites and engages the mind. For a moment they can forget about anything else and just be in awe of the technology in their hands.” As the event wound to a close each class relocated in front of the newly finished school block for dronies with their teachers. Afterwards, there was also some aerial photography of the school: cue a breakaway of the Reception class waving and cheering at the sky to get in on the shots. Some of these pictures have already been used in school publications. By the end of the day I was a little overwhelmed; it felt like the sort of nostalgic sunny day that childhood is made of. It was a privilege to be allowed to go responsibly
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Photo by DJI
Feedback: The Teachers n “Primary schools are the start of a child’s journey through
education; the drones showed the children that anything is possible: a lesson for life” n “The lesson with the drones was ‘3G’ – one that will be passed
as a memory to their own children and grandchildren. It lasts for generations” n “I thought the drones could be used for a fantastic piece of creative
writing. Having seen how the drones move and the view that they get from the sky, I thought the children could imagine that they were soaring eagles. They’d be able to use some fantastic descriptive language” wild with the curriculum for a day and I’m grateful to a school bold enough to do something different. It was also important that fun and learning were not just restricted to the main audience: we all learned something of each other’s professions during the course of a day.
The Future Starts Here
n “There are so many ways in which drones could be used across the
curriculum. Aerial photographs would be great for teaching map skills in geography or for looking at different perspectives in art” n “This technology is the future and is what we should be introducing
children to as early as possible” n “The drones were a fantastic addition and I can’t wait to see all the
As much as the digital world opens new doors, it is often invisible or abstract. But a machine with legs, arms or cameras that you can touch and then see taking a picture of you is immediately understandable. It reinforces that we can overcome any stigma of science as a dry, tricky subject by injecting some fun and interactivity. At STEM events I mention that we are slowly opening our minds to unusual forms of transport, be it delivery drones or automated cars. These devices might be just in time for the pupils of today to design, build, test, operate or maintain. The slogan of Hybrid Air Vehicles – appropriate given its pioneering and eye-catchingly large aircraft – is ‘Imagine the Possibilities’, which is exactly what the school seized upon as an educational message.
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Essential advice for rookie pilots and anyone looking to broaden their skillset…
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our comprehensive guide to some of the leading drones around. choose your budget, check the specs and see what catches your eye!
Category: Ornithopter Street Price: €129 (£116) Camera: None Weight: 9.2g Wingspan: 330mm Battery Type: 55mAh LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 100m Best Feature: Fly like a bird!
UDI U818A FPV
Category: Camera drone Street price: £130 Size: 250mm Weight: 140g Best Feature: Live-view in App
Revell Control GPS Pulse Quadcopter Skeye Hexa Drone
Category: Toy, Indoor, Compact Street Price: £39.92 Camera: None Weight: 30g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 130mm Battery Type: LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 50m Best Feature: Great for beginners
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Fun Flyer Street Price: £109.00 Camera: 720p, 2MP Weight: 152g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 185mm Battery Type: 610mAh, 7.4v LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 50m Best Feature: Great stability for its size
Hubsan X4 H107D FPV Quadcopter
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Fun Street Price: £99 Camera: 3MP / 60fps Weight: 63g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 180mm Battery Type: 550mAh LiPo Control / Range: iOS or Android / 20m Best Feature: Ideal for office hi-jinks!
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Compact Street Price: £130 Camera: Front-facing, 0.3MP Weight: 70g Diagonal motor spacing: 114mm Battery type: LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz RF / 50m Best feature: Giant 4.3-inch screen on the controller
Revell Control VR-Quadcopter
Revell Multicopter Hexatron
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Fun Flyer Street Price: £99.00 Camera: 720p, 2MP Weight: 100g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 280mm Battery Type: 500mAh, 3.7v LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 50m Best Feature: Good introduction to FPV flying
Category: Outdoor Street Price: £100.00 Camera: Optional FPV version Weight: 1200g Diagonal motor spacing: 114mm Battery type: LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 100m Best feature: It’s just monstrously big
Budget Drones 1 Hubsan X4 2 Parrot Rolling Spider 3 Syma X5SC-1 4 UDI U818A FPV 5 Blade Glimpse FPV 92
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Fun Flyer Street Price: £99 Camera: 720p, 1MP Weight: 55g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 175mm Battery Type: 520mAh LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 50m Best Feature: Good starter model
BLADE INDUCTRIX FPV BNF
Category: Indoor, Racer, FPV Street Price: £85.99 (£164 for the Ready-to-Fly version) Camera: Integrated FPV Weight: 24g Diagonal motor spacing: 83mm Battery type: 200mAh LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz RF / 100m Best feature: Perfect for rookie racers
Syma 4 Channel 2.4Ghz Quadcopter with Camera Category: Indoor, Outdoor Street Price: £45 Camera: Front-facing, 0.3MP Weight: 590g Diagonal motor spacing: 300mm Battery type: LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz RF / 500m Best feature: Lightweight prop guards
Revell Control Mini Charger
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Fun Flyer Street Price: £34.99 Camera: None Weight: 15g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 95mm Battery Type: 250mAh Li-Po Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 20m Best Feature: Protective cage
DJI Flamewheel F450 / F550 Category: Specialist Street Price: £70.00 Camera: Optional Weight: 250g Diagonal motor spacing: 1045mm Battery type: 6S LiPo Control / Range: 2.4GHz RF / 2,000m Best feature: Optical zoom cameras
ImmersionRC Vortex 285 Category: Racer Street Price: £300 Camera: Fit your FPV camera of choice Weight: 350g (no battery or camera) Diagonal motor spacing: 285mm Battery type: 3S/4S Li-Po Control / Range: RF Best feature: Foldable
Cameras Not every drone comes with its camera attached…
GoPro Street Price: Hero 4 £280 / Session £160 The grand-daddy of all action cameras, the GoPro Hero series is well loved by professional filmmakers the world over, and the top-end Black Edition can grab 4K video at 30fps, but a faster frame rate is helpful for FPV, so users often switch down to ‘Full HD’ (1080p) at 60fps. The tiny cubelike ‘Session’ model can also shoot video at this quality, though it can’t capture stills.
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Flying Camera Street Price: £429 / €499 Camera: 1080p, 13MP Weight: 431g (inc. battery) Diagonal motor spacing: 310mm Battery type: 1650mAh, 3S Li-Po Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 100m Best feature: Portable AND powerful
Ehang Ghostdrone 2.0 Aerial
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Flying Camera Street Price: £519 Camera: 1080p, 12MP Weight: 300g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 143mm Battery Type: 1480mAh, 3S LiPo Control / Range: Wi-Fi / 100m Best Feature: Great tech in a small package
Xiro Xplorer Mini
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Flying Camera Street Price: £439 Camera: 4K / 13MP Weight: 385g (inc. battery) Diagonal Motor Spacing: 196mm Battery Type: 1150mAh Li-Po Control / Range: 5GHz Wi-Fi / 100m Best Feature: Great for aerial selfies
Category: Outdoor, Flying Camera Street Price: £540 Camera: 4K Sports Camera (GoPro 3, 3+ and 4 compatible) Weight: 1150g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 290mm Battery Type: 4500mAh LiPo Control / Range: Smart device required / 500m Best Feature: Fully controlled with your phone
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Flying Camera Street Price: From £315 Camera: 1080p, 30fps Weight: 410g (inc. battery) Diagonal Motor Spacing: 225mm Battery Type: 3S Li-Po, 1300mAh Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 500m Best Feature: Great price
Street Price: £60
The Beast 280 MK2 Racing Drone
Category: Racer Street Price: £350 Camera: Sony 700TVL Weight: 30g Diagonal Motor Spacing: 280mm Battery Type: Li-Po Control / Range: Optional Best Feature: Very, very fast
A less financially-distressing action camera, the Full HD Mobius is also shaped differently, with the lens on the nose of a mini candy bar rather than the GoPro’s tiny traditional camera shape; many find this more practical to strap onto self-builds.
Propel Star Wars Collection
DJI Zenmuse cameras Street Price: Z3 (Zoom) £800 / X5 from £1,250 DJI’s Inspire 1 introduced a mount for a detachable camera and gimbal combination which has now made it into a number of DJI aircraft, as well as the handheld Osmo. The Z3 offers 3.5x optical zoom for £799, while the X5 features a detachable lens and, crucially, a much bigger image sensor – as each pixel can more accurately detect more subtle gradations in light and is less susceptible to noise.
Category: Fun Flyer, Air Combat, Collectible Street Price: £190 Camera: None Weight: Varied Diagonal Motor Spacing: Varied Battery Type: 800mAh Li-Po Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 100m Best Feature: Too cool to fly!
Beginner Drones 1 DJI Phantom 4 2 Parrot Bebop 2 3 Hubsan X4 4 Blade Nano QX 5 Blade Glimpse FPV
Accessory: Lume Cube Price: $79.99 single, $149.99 twin pack, $179.99 twin pack with GoPro mount, $299.99 quad pack Dimensions: 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 inches Initially targeting the GoPro crowd, this mobile lighting solution has more recently found a market among drone owners, where it can really stretch the limits of your aerial photography or filming equipment, enabling you to fly in low light conditions confidently or to provide the lighting you need on difficult shots. The pricing might make it more for serious users rather than fun flyers but Lume Cubes can be a great addition to your professional or hobbyist equipment. WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
Software Accessories If you’re going to take drones seriously, then expect software to become a big part of your life, too!
DJI Phantom 4 Advanced
DJI Matrice 200
Category: Commercial, Flying Camera
Category: Professional, Flying Rig
Street Price: £1,469
Street Price: From £5,899
Camera: 4K, 20MP
Camera: None (X4S, X5S, Z30 and XT compatible)
Diagonal motor spacing: 350mm
Diagonal Motor Spacing: 887mm
Battery type: 5870mAh, 4S LiPo
Battery type: 4280mAh Li-Po
Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 4.3 miles (7km)
Control / Range: 2.4/5.8GHz / 4.3 miles (7km)
Best feature: Excellent camera
Best feature: Brilliant with the Z30 camera
DJI Inspire 2
Yuneec Tornado H920 Plus
Category: Commercial, Professional, Flying Camera
Category: Professional, Flying Camera
Street Price: £3,059
Street Price: £3,999
Camera: None (X4S and X5S compatible)
Camera: 4K, 16MP
Weight: 3,920g (with batteries, without camera/
Diagonal Motor Spacing: 920mm
Diagonal motor spacing: 605mm
Battery Type: 4000mAh, 6S LiPo
£6.98 per month
Battery type: 4280mAh Li-Po (dual system)
Control / Range: 2.4/5.8GHz / 1 mile (1.6km)
Easily the most capable image cataloging and editing program to emerge in the era of ‘RAW’ image files. What makes RAW files such a leap forward is that they record as much of the dynamic range as the camera is capable of recording. This effectively means that even if something is way too dark or too light there is a decent chance of recovering it – and Lightroom is the place to do it.
Control / Range: 2.4/5.8GHz / 4.3 miles
Best Feature: Pro air and ground solution
Best feature: Top of the line technology
DJI Matrice 600
PowerVision PowerEye Category: Commercial, Flying Camera
Category: Commercial, Professional Rig
Street Price: £3,999
Street Price: £3,999
Camera: 4K, 16.1MP
Camera: Not included
Diagonal Motor Spacing: 315mm
Diagonal Motor Spacing: 1668mm
Battery Type: Dual 9000mAh LiPo
Battery Type: 4500mAh Li-Po (5700mAh
Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 3.1 miles (5km)
Best Feature: Intelligent design
Control / Range: 2.4/5.8GHz / 3.1 miles (5km) Best Feature: Highly versatile
QuestUAV Q-100 Datahawk Category: Pro-mapping, long-range survey Street Price: £15,995
Pix4Dmapper Mesh £600+
£320 per year If you’re interested in landing work with quantity surveyors, or perhaps have an architectural scheme to pitch, this will allow you to turn a grid of photos into a photorealistic 3D model. In turn you can also do great things from spectacular special effects to digital volumetrics.
Camera: 20MP Sony QX1 Weight: 2kg wingspan: 1160mm Battery Type: Ah Li-Po Range: 8,000m Best Feature: Rugged, all-weather design
DJI Mavic Pro
PowerVision PowerEgg Category: Outdoor, Flying Camera
Category: Indoor, Outdoor, Flying Camera
Street Price: £1,399
Street Price: £1,089
Camera: 4K, 13.8MP
Camera: 4K/1080p, 12.7MP
Diagonal Motor Spacing: 476mm
Diagonal Motor Spacing: 198mm
Battery Type: 6400mAh Li-Po
Battery Type: 3830mAh, 3S Li- Po
Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 3.1 miles (5km)
Control / Range: 2.4GHz / 4.3 miles (7km)
Best Feature: Unique stylish design
Best Feature: Great tech in a portable package
Liftoff £14.99 on Mac or PC Liftoff isn’t the only FPV sim out there, but it’s the one the community seems to talk about the most. You can fly a virtual Vortex 250 or 285 using a Spektrum or FRSky Taranis controller (or a PS4 pad). Pricier simulators like DroneSimPro or RealFlight might make more sense if you’re looking to master more than just FPV.
All-Time Greats 1 DJI Phantom Series 2 Parrot AR.Drone 3 Hubsan X4 4 Fossils Stuff Gravity 250 5 Yuneec Typhoon H
Gear up for FPV Even if you’re getting a pre-built racer, make sure you’ve got (or are getting) everything you need.
GPC Inspire 2 Backpack Price: $299 (£228) dimensions: 610 x 520 x 254mm weight: 363g (544g shipping) At $299 this isn’t cheap, but then quality cases aren’t and this definitely offers more than just another solid box to move your drone around in. If you’re prepared to ‘shell’ out even more to protect your Inspire 2, then you can add a hard case to store the backpack in for a further $295. Alternatively, GPC also offers a hard-shell Travel Mode Case for $469 and the top-end Landing Mode Case for $549.
Lumenier QAV-X CHARPU
RC Controller and Receiver
It should be obvious, but you’ll need something to control your craft and communicate via the transmitter (TX), and your craft will need the means to hear it (RX). The pair will need to work together (so use the same manufacturer). The big brands are Spektrum, Turnigy and FRSky, and more expensive models offer the ability to store settings for multiple craft and possibly even to display telemetry data like battery health (assuming the aircraft can transmit it).
Fossils stuff revo
Category: FPV frame
Category: FPV Frame
Street price (frame only): £90
Street price (frame only): £70-75
Carbon Fibre: 4mm thick
Size (motor-to-motor): 180-240mm
Size (motor-to-motor): 214mm
Weight (frame only): 115g
Weight (frame & battery protector
Best feature: Super rigid design
only): 93g Best feature: Camera mount system
ImpulseRC Alien 5” Category: FPV Frame
Tiny Whoop Category: Ready-to-Fly FPV Street Price: £175 Size (motor-to-motor): 64mm
Street price (frame only): £110
Weight (with battery!): 24g
Size (motor-to-motor): 225mm
Best feature: Impossibly small
Weight (frame only): 135g Best feature: Replaceable arms
ViFly R130 Category: Bind and Fly FPV Street Price: $189 (£143) Size (motor-to-motor): 130mm Weight (frame only): 165g
FPV is defined by the ability to see that ‘first person’ view. The company Fat Shark is almost synonymous with these goggles, although alternatives can be found (some find the bigger Quanum screen-in-a-box more comfortable). Some feature built-in receivers and might be bundled with a camera and transmitter, too. FPV racers see a lot of static, so look out for a ‘nonblue screen’ monitor which won’t revert to a blank ‘no signal’ screen in tough conditions.
Batteries and charger
If you’re not going down the DJI route (and few people would purely for FPV flying), then charging batteries, or Lithium-ion Polymer batteries (better known as Li-Po), while still not exactly art, are a little further from science than you might hope for. A good charger and a charging/discharging regimen is important; always make sure you look after your batteries!
ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro Category: Ready-to-Fly FPV Street Price: £400 Size (motor-to-motor): 250mm Carbon Fibre: 4mm thick Weight (before battery, camera): 415g Best feature: The LEDs (in this RTF version)
DJI CrystalSky Monitor
street Price: From £449 resolution: 1920 x 1080 / 2048 x 1536 brightness: 1000 cd/m² / 2000 cd/m² compatibility: Phantom 3 (Pro and Advanced), Phantom 4, Inspire, Matrice, Osmo and Mavic Pro series, plus DJI’s Cendence controllers
Goggles (or monitor) and Camera
Best feature: Good all-round FPV model
Flying Cameras 1 DJI Inspire 2 2 DJI Phantom 4 3 Parrot Disco 4 Yuneec Typhoon H 5 3DR Solo luxury. For commercial users the crosscompatibility, battery life and playback performance are likely to make it a must-have addition to a professional set-up.
Available in 5.5 and 7.85-inch variants (the latter also coming in an additional ‘Ultra Bright’ version), CrystalSky is DJI’s dedicated viewing solution, and the image quality is stunning in all conditions. It’s restricted to its own software (no third party apps) but it really comes into its own with a host of ports and slots for post-flight playback. For recreational users it will be an expensive WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
Photos by Trndlabs
RE GUL AT IONS : UK
We’ve been looking ahead with some Christmas gift ideas this issue, but if you are buying someone their first drone, it’s important to make them aware of the rules and regulations for flying – so here’s everything they’ll need to know! THE LEGAL POSITION The operation of multirotors for sport and recreational purposes is covered by the same legal considerations as other model aircraft; the law makes no specific distinction on types of aircraft other than weight limits. The overriding consideration is compliance with the relevant articles of the Civil Aviation, Air Navigation Order; the primary “endangering” provisions are addressed by Articles 241 and 240 which are reproduced here: Article 241; “A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.” Article 240; “A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft.”
These apply to all model aircraft at all times, whatever their weight or size. Article 94 (set out here) covers the general principles that again apply to all model aircraft. However, only the provisions that specifically apply to the activity we are discussing here are included. Aircraft weighing in excess of 7kg have other, additional legislation, but these are fairly specialized pieces of equipment more usually employed in commercial operations. 96
Article 94; (Small Unmanned Aircraft) 2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made. 3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions. 5) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the purposes of commercial operations except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA. Perhaps the most relevant provisions in terms of photography / filming with model aircraft as a sport and recreational activity are covered within Article 95 below, which sets out the basic conditions of operation, as well as specifying exact distances. Article 95; (Small unmanned surveillance aircraft) 1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph 2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA. 2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph 1) are:(a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
(b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons; (c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or (d) subject to paragraphs 3) and 4), within 50 metres of any person. 3) Subject to paragraph 4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person. 4) Paragraphs 2) d) and 3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft. 5) In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition. These regulations are only concerned with models equipped with cameras, video equipment etc that have the potential to be used for surveillance purposes, either visual or electronic. It should also be noted that the above legislation (Articles 94 and 95) does NOT prohibit you from flying a camera or video equipped model for recreational purposes. The person in charge of the model must retain direct visual contact with the model (Article 94) and there are some restrictions as to where you can fly (Article 95). Probably the most important of these restrictions are the limits of
“A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft”
not flying within 50 metres of any person or 30 metres from any person during take-off and landing, and these are exactly the same as for any model over 7 kg.
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION As ever, a little common sense goes a long way towards interpreting and complying with the relevant legal requirements. The primary aim of the various Air Navigation Order provisions is to prevent members of the public being endangered, and full size aviation being endangered. To a lesser degree, these provisions also help to limit the potential for causing nuisance and for invading privacy. In terms of filming or image capturing, this limits how close we can get to people and structures that are nothing to do with us (i.e. not under the control of the pilot); however, the positive aspect is that the wording of 95(c) permits closer operations where it is with the consent and knowledge of all parties involved (notwithstanding the primary endangering considerations, of course).
commerical operations OR SPORT AND RECREATION? Another primary consideration is the purpose of the flight. The flying of a model aircraft with a camera on board is recognised as a sport and recreational activity by the CAA, and therefore covered under the terms of the insurance provided as part of the BMFA membership
package (provided that the activity is legal in respect of the Air Navigation Order). However, where a flight is made for payment or the purpose is in any way commercial, i.e. not as a sport and recreational activity, then it becomes classed as ‘commercial operations’ by the CAA and requires an exemption to the Air Navigation Order to be issued in order to take place lawfully. Details of this and exemption application information can be obtained through the CAA website www.caa.co.uk. It should be noted that “commercial operations” are an entirely separate activity to model flying and, as such, must be insured under the terms of an appropriate commercial policy. The standard policy provided to BMFA members does not provide cover for aerial photography on a commercial basis.
FLYING LOCATIONS Whilst the overall considerations are the same as for any other model aircraft, there is no doubt that multirotors open up new areas for flying due to their ability to operate in relatively small spaces. This does however mean that careful consideration is required before flying in order to remain lawful. If intending to fly on private land, then the permission of the landowner should be sought. If flying on public land such as a park or open access site, then you must ensure that there are no bylaws in place specifically prohibiting or restricting model flying.
The other main consideration is the overall suitability of the location for the activity, and that all flying can take place in compliance with the primary “endangering” provisions of the ANO (Articles 240 and 241) and also in accordance with the distances set out in Article 95 above. Text provided by www.bmfa.org. Visit the site for more information on all aspects of model flying, including membership and insurance.
Be familiar with the legal requirements relating to
Do not endanger person or property.
Ensure that the proposed flying location is appropriate and safe.
Maintain line of sight for the purposes of control at all times (see CAA Exemption for specific details of FPV flight permissions).
Charging for flights renders it a commercial operation.
Do not constitute a nuisance.
Do not invade privacy.
E nsure that appropriate liability insurance cover is in place to protect you in the event of an incident leading to a claim against you.
your chosen activity.
I Will Tree Here, Geneva, Switzerland Photo by Yannick Wavre / www.fromtheheights.com Supplied by Dronestagram
003-98_DM27[Showcase Photos]IKICGC.indd 10
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Flyby Technology Pilotwise International Ltd | Marlborough House | York Business Park | Nether Poppleton | York | YO26 6RW FREEPHONE 08081 680626 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The UKs longest established and most popular drone flying school
One to one hands-on flying lessons for beginners to experts Flying sites for lessons across the UK One Hour: ÂŁ120, Two Hours: ÂŁ200
Free flying lesson and drone set up when you buy your DJI drone from us 3,000 hours of one-to-one flying lessons, workshops, and drone holiday flying completed 100% 5* reviews on website from happy flying lesson customers
01244 893 872 www.phantomflightschool.co.uk PFS 1.indd 1