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3D Robotics Colin Guinn

discusses the future
of drones

Advanced flight
Inside the deal with ESPN

News Alert!
The latest FAA rule changes


Display until September 13, 2016
JULY/AUGUST 2016 $7.99 US $10.99 CAN

ON THE COVER: Colin Guinn of 3D Robotics
shares his thoughts on drones and their future
in Drone Defender on page 36. (Photo courtesy
of 3D Robotics)

ON THIS PAGE: The Autel Robotics X-Star is an

intelligent camera drone thats easy to y and use.
VOLUME 3, NUMBER 3 / JULY/AUGUST 2016 (Photo by Kevin McCarthy)

RotorDrone (ISSN 2374-8389) is published bimonthly by Air Age Media Inc., 88 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897 USA. Copyright 2016, all rights reserved. Application to Mail at Periodicals
Postage Prices is Pending at Wilton, CT, and additional offices. Canadian Post Publications Mail Agreement No. 40008153. SUBSCRIPTIONS: Go to U.S., $19.95 (6
issues); Canada, $25.95, including GST (6 issues); International $31.95 (6 issues). All international orders must be prepaid in U.S. Funds; Visa, MC, Discover and AmEx accepted. EDITORIAL:
Send correspondence to Editors, RotorDrone, 88 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897 USA. Email: We welcome all editorial submissions but assume no responsibility
for the loss or damage of unsolicited material. To authors, photographers, and people featured in this magazine: All materials published in RotorDrone become the exclusive property of Air
Age Media Inc. unless prior arrangement is made in writing with the Publisher. ADVERTISING: Send advertising materials to Advertising Dept., RotorDrone, 88 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT
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Box 420134, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235 USA six weeks before you move. Please include the address label from a recent issue, or print the information exactly as shown on the label. For
faster service, go to and click on the customer service link. POSTMASTER: Send Form 3579 to RotorDrone, P.O. Box 420134, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235 USA.
36 | Drone Defender
A conversation with 3D Robotics Colin Guinn

42 | River Watchers
Drones monitor Alaskas ice floes

48 | The Final Frontier

An inside look at the deal to bring drone racing to ESPN

60 | Building a Good Case

Behind the scenes at Go Professional Cases

74 | Flying for the Camera

Six advanced moves all filmmakers should master

52 | RISE RXD250
This perfect first racer can take a beating!

56 | Autel Robotics X-Star Premium

This intelligent camera drone will turn you into a pro

66 | Ares Z-Line Crossfire

An out-of-the-box racer that gets the job done

70 | Elanview Cicada
A high-quality camera drone that wont break the bank

80 | Helimax Form 500

Heavy-lifting sport utility drone

84 | Legal View
Changes to the FAAs UAV Policy

86 | Asked and Answered


8 | Contributors
10 | Top View
12 | Return to Home
15 | Aerial Intel
90 | Over the Horizon

Executive Editor Debra Cleghorn |
Senior Technical Editor Gerry Yarrish |
Senior Editor John Reid |
Associate Editor Matt Boyd |
Drone Defender River Watchers Building a Copy Editor Suzanne Noel
David Tolsky Ned Rozell Good Case CONTRIBUTORS
A member of Local 600 A science writer for the Patrick Sherman Jerey Antonelli, Jason Benson, Tim Bresien, Gus Calderon,
of the International Geophysical Institute, Ned Roswell Flight Test Crew Diana Campbell, Andreas Forrer, Mike Gantt, John Kauk,
Cinematographers Rozell has written for the William Levasseur, Kyle Matthew, Kevin McCarthy,
founder Patrick Sherman
Gordon Meehl, Robert Rodriguez, Klaus Ronge, Jim Ryan,
Guild, David Tolsky has Fairbanks Daily News- provides an inside look Patrick Sherman, David Stock
worked on numerous Miner, the Anchorage Daily at Go Professional
lms, television shows, News, Mushing magazine, Cases, the true-blue ART
and commercials. He and the Peninsula Clarion, case manufacturer Creative Director Betty K. Nero
Art Director Kevin Monahan
caught the drone bug among other publications. that pioneered rugged
and quickly became a DJI He also has experience transport and storage DIGITAL MEDIA
Phantom and 3DR Solo in the great outdoors solutions for rotor Web Producer Holly Hansen
owner. He jumped at the and was a backcountry drones. The companys
chance to interview Colin ranger for the National history is intertwined Photographer Peter Hall
Guinn of 3DR. When you Park Service in the Yukon- with the history of the Videographer Adam Lebenstein
think of people who are Charley Rivers National industry itself, providing
really helping to push the Preserve, a 100-mile ADVERTISING
a fascinating perspective
Director of Advertising and Marketing
widespread acceptance of buer zone around the on the products and the David J. Glaski | 203.529.4637
drones, Colin is one of the Yukon and Charley Rivers people that have shaped it. Senior Account Manager
rst who comes to mind. between Eagle and Mitch Brian | 203.529.4609
I think this conversation Circle, Alaska. Senior Account Executive
Ben Halladay | 203.529.4628
reects that.
Account Executive
Diane de Spirlet | 203.529.4664

ADVISORY BOARD The Media Source, a division of TEN, The Enthusiast


Robert Rodriguez (Society of Aerial Cinematography) Marketing Assistant Erica Driver
Event Manager Emil DeFrancesco
Randy Scott Slavin (New York City Drone Film Festival)
COMMERCIAL/AGRICULTURAL Group Publishers Louis V. DeFrancesco Jr.,
Eileen Shibley (CEO, Monarch) Yvonne M. DeFrancesco

Scot Refsland (CEO, RotorSports, U.S. National Drone Racing Championships) FOLLOW US
Daniel Sandoval (CEO, Xhover) On Facebook: rotordrone
Follow us on Twitter: @rotordrone
INSTRUCTIONAL Instagram: instagram/rotordronemag
Visit us online:
Gus Calderon (founder, AirSpace Consulting) Comments may be sent to:

Jerey Antonelli (Antonelli Law)

Romeo Durscher (Director of Education, DJI)
88 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897 USA
PHONE 203-529-4635
To subscribe, go to For a change of address,
write to RotorDrone, P.O. Box 420134, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235. The Association of Printed in the USA
Magazine Media


DOUBLE Are We at a Turning Point?
DRONE TECHNOLOGY has been moving ahead at an explosive rate
for the last two years, both in the commercial and private/hobby
industry. But the speed at which it has been integrated into the
mainstream airspace has been moving at a much slower speed. This
might be changing soon.

Some recent changes to the UAV (unmanned aerial travel to the Great White North to see how drones are
vehicle) regulations by the FAA show some promise of being used by scientists in Alaska to study river ice, making
easier integration of unmanned systems in our country. sure that it is owing downstream and not stacking up to
Do we have a Jerey Antonelli discusses the latest changes in his cause ooding in nearby towns. For you cinematographers
fantastic special column, Legal View. Another positive development is out there, we show you some advanced ight moves that
drone issue for you!
indicated by the latest analysis of the AMA (Academy could improve your nal cinematic results in Flying for
On one side, we
of Model Aeronautics) that shows a month-by-month the Camera. And no issue would be complete without
reveal how to get
decline in UAV sightings since peaking in August 2015, us getting our hands on the latest products to test. This
started in FPV racing,
with everything despite an inux of nearly 700,000 to one million new month, we examine some batteries, a landing pad, tracking
you need to know devices sold last year. This positive downward trend is a app, a quad case, video receiver, and a very nice charger.
to start competing good sign that education is successfully increasing safe Every month, there are a number of new drones hitting the
in local races. Flip and responsible pilots who are more than willing to follow market, and we got our hands on ve new releases that
the magazine over guidelines once they are made available. While both of are the perfect starting place for the new pilot entering
and read tips and these indicators are small steps toward the integration of into the recreational drone community. Overall, we have a
techniques from drones into our airspace, they are nonetheless steps in the very nice, well-rounded issue that I am sure you will enjoy
the experts on how right direction and show promise. reading from cover to cover.
to improve the We are here, however, to keep you up to date with the
image quality you latest information on drone technology and its use, and
shoot from your this issue will have a lot for you to ingest. We start out with
drone. This special an interview with Colin Guinn, a true advocate of the drone
issue is available industry. He talks about his role at 3D Robotics as well as
at newsstands the future of drones and the direction in which they are
everywhere, and you headed. Our own Patrick Sherman goes behind the scenes
can order a digital or
at Go Professional Cases to show us how this company
hard-copy issue at
got started. In addition, he lets us in on how the company John Reid
works with many of the leading drone manufacturers to Senior Editor
create the perfect case for its products. From there, we


We love hearing from readers. Your emails, tweets, Facebook Hoverboard

and comments let us know what youd like to see more (or or Man-Carrying Drone?
less!) of in print and online. Heres what some of you are OK, weve all seen Back to the Future
saying about RotorDrone magazine. Part II and that cool hoverboard Marty
McFly uses to get away from the bad guys.
But what about this? Is it a hoverboard or
man-carrying drone? Maybe were blurring the
RJY: Drones lines here, but either way you look at it, its
helping wildlife still pretty cool!
doesnt make a
big news story,
but this is great!

CN: Its not a hoverboard. Hes standing

on a giant drone. Ecofriendly Multirotors AM: No, thanks. Ill stay with wheels.
Drones are always in the news, but we seldom hear feel-good stories like this one
involving scientists coming up with ways to keep watch over endangered Alaskan JT: I love the movie, so I vote for
sea otters. For the sea otter study, Daniel Monson, a wildlife researcher with the hoverboard.
U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, is developing plans to do just that, with
unmanned vehicles while not altering the animals behavior. The results are promising. FM: Cool info. Really good.

Richard B: OMG.
Thats crazy!
Beautifully shot
with the GoPro
and camera
drone, but give
me a break. This
guy literally lives
on the edge.

Stephen P: Wow!
I was amazed
at both his
riding skill and Rooftop Biking the dangerous
Anyone up for a little bike ride? Many people are now using environment
camera drones to capture all sorts of bicycling adventures he chose to
from mountain trails to high-speed road racing. But GoPro navigate. Its like
rider Danny MacAskill really shows us what he can do when parkour meets
he takes his bike out for a ride in Cascadia. His riding skills BMX meets
are impressivekeep your eye out for the various aerial drone camera drone!
shots at key points throughout the video, especially at the Very impressive.
end of his trip. rotordrone@ RotorDrone

rotordrone rotordrone rotordronemag rotordronemag airagemedia 88 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897


Drone Day
Proving to the world that
drones are good!

THE SUN SHONE DOWN on International Drone Day for

24 hours straight, as it unfolded across six continents.
More than 60,000 people participated worldwide,
taking part in 180 events located in 53 countries around
the globe.
It started in Queensland in northeast Australia, and
moved across Asia, Africa, and Europe, then the United
States, and nally ended in Hawaii, said Sarah Oneal of
That Drone Show, who organized the event along with her
husband, David.
By the time I got out of bed to join David and Sarah
at the festivities in San Diego, California, it was well past
midnight Down Underand when I went to bed that
evening, they were still ying in the Aloha state.
This was the second year for the event, which saw
total participation increase by about 50 percent from
2015. However, the mission remained the same, according
to Sarah: For such a long time, the word drone has had a
negative connotation in mainstream media, so people get
scared when they hear it.
What they dont hear enough about are all of the
positive applications for this technology, such as a search
and rescue, or conservation, or precision agriculture. That
was part of the reason we founded International Drone
Day in the rst place, to reclaim the word drone and to
demonstrate that drones are good.
That is the challenge put out to the individual team
captains who organize the local events: to adhere to a
few simple rules in order to be counted among the ocial
participants. They are that the event must be held on
the assigned date, free of charge, and open to the public United States, with the full approval of the FAA and the Drone racing was a major
component of International
and the press. local authorities, she said. One team in Iowa held a drone
Drone Day, with races taking
Putting together the second event meant bringing event actually right on the runway of a small local airport place at more than 130 individual
together new partners, such as the Academy of and the other team, in Virginia, did a show-and-tell-type events worldwide.
Model Aeronautics (AMA), FPV racing league MultiGP, event at an active airport.
AirVuz, InterDrone, and Onagoyplus one more you When we publicized those two events, we actually got
wouldnt expect to nd on that list: the Federal Aviation some blowback from within the drone community itself,
Administration (FAA). which I thought was pretty ironic after the FAA had given
us the green light. It was one guy who was concerned
FAA = A-OK that we might give people the wrong impression: that its
It isnt without some justication that members of OK to y drones at airports.
the drone community get nervous whenever the FAA Sarah continued, I was personally really happy that
gets involved, but the agency had a positive impact on the FAA granted permission for those events. It allows
International Drone Day, according to Sarah. people in the community to see them in a new lightand
We had two events held at local airports here in the besides, the whole point is to educate people about the

July/August 2016 15
aerial intel
Sarah and David
Oneal, who orga-
nized International
Drone Day, are
interviewed by
a television
reporter at the
San Diego event.

This year, i would

say ThaT abouT
80 percenT of The
drone day evenTs
included fpv racing.

positive aspects of how drones work, and that includes hoped to hold a local event.
working side by side with manned aircraft in appropriate, At the second location, I put in a request with the
controlled circumstances. parks department and somehow the fire chief got
Not all of the local organizers were so lucky, however. involved and he said it was too close to the airport,
Adam Andrews, who holds a Section 333 exemption and Andrews recalled. I had already filed a NOTAM [Notice to
is an aerial-video professional in Wisconsin, was pushed Airmen]the FAA was fine with it.
out of not one, but two, separate venues where he had The story was picked up by a local newspaper, and a
family living on a 20-acre farm volunteered their land to
host the event.

Racing to the Future

My home for International Drone Day was the field of the
Silent Electric Flyers of San Diego, an AMA-chartered site
that offered picturesque views of the city and the sea.
The AMA was our title sponsor this year, Sarah
explained. They opened up all of their fields to host
it, which was really cool. They were great to work
with, and having them onboard also helped get some
positive attention for drones from the broader RC flying
community as well.
Walking the length of the field, I saw everything from
a mock search-and-rescue exercise being conducted by
teams of local students using autonomous rotor drones,
to PVC-pipe obstacle courses being navigated by palm-
size quads, to demonstrations of big aerial cinema rigs,
and, of course, FPV racing.
This year, I would say that about 80 percent of the
International Drone Day events included FPV racing,
said Sarah. Thats why having MultiGP onboard as a
sponsor was such a big deal. They have over 300 chapters
worldwide, and in a lot of cases, they teamed up with a
local event organizer to make racing part of the day.
Like drone technology itself and the restless
community it- spawned, International Drone Day will likely With the mechanical, flying avatars waiting at the starting line, FPV
racers at the San Diego celebration of International Drone Day wait for
continue expanding even more quickly in the years ahead.
the next heat to begin.
The date for the 2017 event has already been setMay
6and full details will be available on the official website:

I nve s tm e nt
Protect Your
Holds virtually every
300 to 380 sized
single quad without
removing the blades
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Nothing beats the quality of the
Ultimate Drone Tote by Wingtote!

-Large Padded end pockets

-Hard shell top and sides
-Front and inside pockets

Quality & functionality

at an affordable price

Tenergy Phoenix FPV
A modular design, the new Phoenix Quadcopter from Tenergy is easy to fly and
operate. Featuring a built-in six-axis gyro system, it offers auto takeoff and landing
and auto hover with its anti-collision module. It includes Wi-Fi FPV transmission for
smartphones. Priced at $199.95, it also allows pilots to adjust the camera angle
from the transmitter.

Peau MAPIR Survey2

Most often used for aerial survey mapping, MAPIR
cameras can also be used to assess agricultural
health, evaluate resource distribution, or map a
construction site. The Survey2s custom firmware is
tweaked to the best settings for surveying, and the
camera captures 16MP non-fisheye photos using
a PWM signal or two-second timer. Buy only the
spectral band(s) you want to capture and reduce
your vehicle payload. It costs $400.00.

Tools Aero
Get off the
ground and get
comfortable! The
Aero LaunchPad
is a terrific
workspace for
conducting a preflight
checklist, changing
batteries, and making
repairs or adjustments
on the go. Made of
lightweight T6 aircraft
aluminum, it easily and
securely attaches to
tripods and stands, and it
E-flite Thrust FPV Racing Batteries comes with a protective
These 4S, 35C LiPo packs are specifically designed for FPV racers and come with black carrying case. It
EC3 connectors and JST-XH balance leads. Available in 850-, 1000-, 1300-, and costs $229.99.
1800mAh, they have a 3C charge rating for efficient and safe fast-charging. Cost
ranges from $24.99 to $39.99.

Spektrum DX20
The DX20s AirWare
software gives expert
pilots all the programming
features they could want
along with a few they
never knew they needed,
and its intuitive Simple
Scroll interface makes
navigating menus
easy. Unique features
include multiengine
control; ProTrim in-
flight dual-rate, expo,
mix, and differential
voice alerts; built-in PRODUCT REVIEW

Hoodman Launch Pad

sequencer and servo
balancers; wireless
trainer link; and much
more. The DX20 costs This is one of those products that seems like a good idea,
$1,299.99. but when you try out dierent ones, they dont quite hit the mark. But I can tell you that the guys over at Hoodman
got this one right; the Hoodman Launch Pad is the perfect
accessory for any drone pilot. This landing pad is great for
any drone takeo spot. It comes with a durable over-the-
shoulder carrying bag that the landing pad folds up into,
becoming about a third of its unfolded size. An 8-pound,
zinc-coated perimeter cable keeps the launch pad in place
without the need for stakes. Even when used on uneven
ground, it stays down and at. I can say from personal
experience that this thing stays in place even in 2025mph
winds. (If there is enough wind to lift up the pad, you should
quickly nd safe shelter.) I have used it on sand, dirt, and
snow, and it keeps anything from kicking up into the props
and camera during takeo and landings. It will also protect
the rotors from tall grass and any pebble strikes.
The rugged, denier polyester, bright orange pad has
black heliport markings and compass headings to make it
easy to nd when returning to base. You dont really have
to worry about where you lay it down because it is easy
to clean with a damp cloth. I would absolutely recommend
this takeo and landing pad to anyone; it will save wear
and tear on your multirotor and most likely be the only one
youll ever need. The 5-foot-diameter pad is $129.99, and
Zero Zero Robotics Hover Camera the 8-foot-diameter pad is $429.99.John Reid
Essentially a very smart, portable flying camera, this drones four props are
enclosed in its carbon-fiber frame, so its strong, light, and safe. To fly, just
unfold its wings, turn it on, and let it go! The Hover Cameras optical and sonar
sensors keep it steady, and its processor allows it to detect and track faces and
bodies and follow themno controller needed! A companion app allows additional
smartphone control. Price not available at press time.


Micro Drone 3.0

The perfect indoor quad to begin your flying adventures
If you are looking to get into ying drones or just want it. The transmitter has a nice little snap-on holder for the
something fun to y around the house, the Micro Drone smartphone, and it will download your video feed to the
3.0 is the perfect choice. It is a small, maneuverable, and app to review later. By the time I nished, the battery was
customizable bird that is easy to y and can be adjusted to ready and I was back up in the air. Camera controls for
deliver some outstanding ight performance. starting the video and taking photos are on the app, and
Out of the box, the Micro Drone 3.0 is ready to y in you can see what the camera is seeing right on the phone
a few minutes. First, put a quick charge on the battery. in almost real time, with a very slight delay. After the
For my rst ight, I started without the camera ight, I checked out the video on my phone. Both video
and with the prop guards, but if you are and photos are also stored on the micro SD card in the
ying with the camera on, then you camera, and it saves a better resolution image for both.
wont want the added weight of For the next ight, I tried out the cardboard goggles,
the prop guards. The guards are which allow the use of the phone app for FPV ying. It was
easy to install and take o, and like fun, but there was too much of a delay for anything but
A transmitter come with the everything on this drone, they snap slow ight. Flying without FPV and adjusting the controls
Micro Drone 3.0, but you can into place. The battery charged up to fast or insane makes for some fun ying through the
also control it with your quickly, and I was in the air before I knew it. The house, but be sure to put the prop guards back on.
ight was about six to eight minutes long, and I had Overall, this is the perfect bird for the beginner pilot
the battery back on the charger waiting for another ight. or the experienced pilot who wants something fun to y
While waiting for the battery to come to full power, I around the house. Everyone will have a lot of fun with this
took o the prop guards and got the camera ready by little $215 micro drone.John Reid
installing a micro SD card. I also downloaded the app to
my smartphone and checked out the how-to videos on

Right: The camera is connected

to the battery pack with three
strong magnets, which also
make the electrical connection.

Far right: The battery pack just

snaps into place both on the
quad and charger.

The new Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera is the rst
Super 16 digital lm camera designed for remote use!
The Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera is a miniaturized Super True Digital Film Quality
16mm digital film camera featuring a revolutionary expansion The Super 16 sensor gives you full 1080 HD up to 60fps with an
port with PWM and S.Bus inputs. You can operate Micro Cinema incredible 13 stops of dynamic range and an ISO up to 1600 so you
Camera remotely and capture the action anywhere by using can shoot in both bright and low light. Unlike other action-cams,
commonly available model airplane remote controllers and video you get a true digital lm camera with wide dynamic range for digital
transmitters! Imagine adjusting focus, iris and zoom wirelessly! lm quality results!
Micro Cinema Camera is a true digital film quality with 13 stops
of dynamic range, an MFT lens mount and built in RAW and Built In RAW & ProRes Recorder
ProRes recording! The built in SD card recorder captures the wide dynamic range from
the cameras sensor into 12-bit RAW les or when you need longer
Remote Camera Management recording times, you can record ProRes les! Unlike regular action-
Micro Cinema Camera is the worlds first action-cam style digital cams, you get cinematic images that are beyond broadcast quality
film camera that can be completely controlled using radio remote so its possible to use the shots in high end feature lms!
airplane controls! You even get HDMI and NTSC/PAL video out
for remote monitoring using wireless transmitters to see framing,
plus overlays for adjusting settings like start/stop, focus, iris,
Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera
audio and more!
Includes DaVinci Resolve 12
Designed for Action $995
Micro Cinema Camera is the only digital lm camera designed
specically for capturing impossible action shots! Unlike regular
cameras, the controls are on the front so you can start recording
when the camera is mounted in tight spots plus conrm its recording
using the front record indicator light. Even your actors can start the
camera recording!
Lens and accessories shown are not included.

The ultimate in
comfort, protection,
and drone-transportation
ease, this 3.5-pound backpack has an
outer shell thats made out of hard plastic,
with foam cutouts for your Xiro Xplorer,
battery, radio, and accessories. It
costs $149.99.


Freewell Gear CGO3 4-Piece

Filter Pack
Lens lters are a great way to improve your images, but if
youre ying a Yuneec drone with a CGO3 camera/gimbal,
you havent had many choicesuntil now. Freewell Gears
4-Piece Filter Pack contains a UV lter, an ND4 lter, an
ND8 lter, and a circular polarizer. Also included is a handy
Velcro pouch to carry the lters and a lens pen to clean
ngerprints, bugs, and dirt from the lens.
The Freewell Gear lters are made out of lightweight
aluminum alloy and what Freewell describes as HD
glass for ultra clear images. All the lters are direct
replacements for the included Yuneec lter and come
clearly marked for easy identication. The UV, ND4, and
ND8 lens lters weigh in at a featherlight 2.0 grams, while
the Circular Polarizer weighs 8 grams (which wont have a
negative eect on the CGO3 gimbal operation).
Replacing the Yuneec lter with any of the Freewell
Gear lters is as simple as grabbing the two small tabs
of the lter with your thumb and forenger and gently
rotating it counterclockwise until it stops. When you reach
the stopping point, pull the tabs outward (toward you) and
the lter will come o. If the lter is a snug t, you might
need to use your ngernail to slip between the lter and
the CGO3 body to pop o the lter. Be sure to do this on a
tabletop, preferably with a towel under the gimbal, so that
the lter isnt damaged if it slips from your ngers.
Once the Yuneec lter is removed, choose the Freewell
lter that you want to use and reverse the process. Be
sure to remove the protective lm from the lters before
use, and always clean both sides of the lter and the
camera lens using the lens pen before installing the
new lter. A quick tip when installing any lter to the
CGO3: Make sure that the lter is properly seated before
attempting to capture photos or video. Failure to do so
will result in cutting o a corner of your image or possibly
losing the lter during ight.
Freewell Gear oers a full line of lens lters for the
CGO3, including an ND16, ND32, and several combination
lters, like an ND8/Circular Polarizer. The combination
lters weigh 8 grams, and after you install them (before
you power on), you will notice that the weight of the lter
Lume Cube Drone Lighting Kit causes the camera to rotate so that it is pointing straight
Why not use your drone as a spotlight? The Lume Cubes, which have more than down. Dont worry; when you power the aircraft on, the
two hours of battery life at 50 percent power, can be controlled by smartphone gimbal will return to the proper position without causing
app and have constant light and flash modes. You can sync and control multiple any ill eects.
lights, too! Kits come with mounts that are compatible with DJI Phantom 3 (Pro and The Freewell Gear 4-Piece Filter Pack retails for
Advanced) and Phantom 4 models and include the mount and two Lume Cubes. The
$69.99.Kevin McCarthy
kits cost $179.99.
aerial intel

Dromida Kodo
Measuring just 4.1 inches across, this updated micro camera
drone has three flight modes and stabilization technology, shoots
1080p video and still photos, and can even flip over with the touch
of a button on the included transmitter. The $59.88 Kodo comes
fully equipped and factory assembled.

product review

Vertical Studio Active Track App

Do you own a DJI Phantom 3? Are you elevation and can even change the radius
interested in aerial cinematography? If midflight, so you have creative control. The
you answered yes to both of these Walls feature lets you set boundaries for The Walls feature allows you to create temporary boundaries.
questions, then the Vertical Studio active the drone by drawing a wall on the screen. It
track app is something you should consider can be used to keep the drone comfortably
downloading. away from a building, for example, allowing
Vertical Studio is a third-party you to focus on getting the shot. I was
application developed by Vertical AI really impressed by the new Rails feature, in
(, a small start-up in California. which you draw a flight path on the screen
The app was developed to provide aerial after selecting the subject and speed
cinematographers with a suite of tools that at which to fly. When the drone starts
allows them to capture compelling, unique its flight, it follows the path that youve
footage more easily. created while keeping the subject centered
I purchased the app, available for in the frame. This allows for endless
Android and iOS devices, for $19.99 and creative pans and zooms. Again, you can
tested it on both types of devices to see if control the elevation along the entire flight
there is a difference (there isnt). path. Once the drone reaches the end of
Vertical Studio is available for the the path, it hovers in place, waiting for its
Phantom 4, the entire Phantom 3 line, the next command. The Rails feature isnt limited to straight lines.
Inspire 1 (X3) and Inspire 1 Pro (X5/X5R) The Vertical Studio app is used instead
as well as the Matrice 100. Its most unique of the DJI GO app. The app allows for control
feature is what Vertical AI calls Touch to of the camera menu, which means that all
Track. This allows the user to select a adjustments can be made without having
subject on the screen and then the app to switch back to the GO app. Telemetry is
takes control of the camera, keeping the shown in approximately the same places as
subject centered in the frame. The user the GO app, eliminating the need to search
retains full control of the flight path, speed, the screen for that information.
and elevation of the drone. I found the Vertical Studio app extremely
After youve selected the subject, you easy to use. This is due, in part, to its well-
can use functions like Orbit, Walls, and Rails. produced tutorial videos, which are concise
The Orbit feature is exactly what it sounds and easy to watch. Visit to watch
like: You input the radius and speed, and samples of footage captured using the app.
the drone will start to orbit the selected You can buy Vertical Studio in the Google
subject. You retain full control of the Play store or from iTunes.Kevin McCarthy
Select your subject using thumb and forefinger.

explain it. What I can tell you is that the ClearView receiver is
great! We tried a few out in the woods, ying in and around
the trees, and experienced only the smallest of glitches. The
video signal remained strong throughout the ights. So just
to make sure that we were not imagining it, we set up two
pilots with regular goggles: one receiving a standard signal
through a single antenna and one using a diversity setup
with two antennae on their goggles. Our third test person
had goggles that were connected to the ClearView Racing
Receiver. We did a number of ights around the open desert
with very little in the way of obstacles to interfere with the
signal. The pilots described any interference they saw with
the video in their goggles. The pilot with the single receiver
antenna experienced the most degradation of the signal, and
next was the person wearing the diversity setup on the two-
antennae goggles. The pilot with the ClearView setup never
said a thing and explained afterward that everything was
crystal clear throughout the ight.
The next day, we headed over to a park that had a
number of trees and well-known problem areas for video
interference. My pilot ew using the ClearView system,
and I used my standard Fat Shark V2 goggles. He ew
PRODUCT REVIEW the quad, and he didnt report any video degradation
throughout the problem areas; on the other hand, I had

Iftron ClearView some issues with the video feed that my system was
picking up. There were passes that went through the

Racing Receiver trees that I would not have been able to navigate because
of the video quality, but my pilot said that he had a clear
view of everything during the entire ight. We decided
All FPV racers want one thing: a clear view in their goggles to make simultaneous videos through our goggles
to see the world that they are racing through. The current during one of these ights, and they are posted on
5.8GHz technology is pretty good for that, but it isnt so that you can compare
perfectespecially when you add in a group of quads, a the video quality from each system for yourself.
few trees, or some buildings, or you nd yourself ying
an aircraft in an underground garage. This is where the Bottom Line
ClearView Racing Receiver comes in: It is beyond anything After our ight tests, every pilot that tried the ClearView
you might have seen or tried before. Racing Receiver agreed that the quality and consistency of
As the manufacturer puts it, The best conventional the video was outstanding. I have to say that it was quite
wireless 5.8GHz video system in combination with most a struggle to get my test units back! I would recommend
display devices will typically lose lock at roughly 91dBm, a ClearView receiver for those who want good-quality,
and will not reacquire lock until the signal strength uninterrupted video feed from their multirotor. It supplies
increases to roughly 88dBm. By contrast, ClearView the best video signal that I have ever had from my FPV
will acquire and hold lock to better than about 105dBm. racers. We saved the best news for last: Iftron Technologies
The signal at this extremely low power level is so weak just announced a price reduction on the ClearView Racing
I mounted the ClearView Racing
Receiver on a photography light that there is almost no picture to be seen. Yet ClearViews Receiver, so now you can pick one up for $399.99. Its a
stand and then connected it to unique technology can still lock onto it. great investment for your FPV enjoyment.John Reid
my goggles. Now what does all that mean? I dont know, and I cant

HobbyTron Angry Birds

Say good-bye to boring camera drones and
say hello to a line of movie-character-inspired
aircraft! HobbyTrons lineup includes schemes
for Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and
more. This Angry Birds version has a built-in
photo and video camera, included 2GB memory
card, and an internal gyro to keep flights smooth.
Rotor guards, transmitter, and spare blades
included! It costs $89.95.

Designed for high-speed racing out of the box, this quad
has a carbon-fiber frame, is equipped with powerful 2205
motors, and comes with a preprogrammed CC3D flight
controller. Just add your 5-channel radio system and 3- to
4-cell 1300 to 2200mAh battery and youre ready to race!
It costs $249.99.

here: the Ultimate Drone Tote. This is actually designated

medium size, but it is currently the only drone product
in the lineup and it outmeasures any of the heli totes. It
has ample room for any 300- to 380-class drone, plus
extra space for radio, batteries, cameras, and any other
support gear. It has two cavernous zippered end pockets,
a generous side document pocket, and an interior
pouch with a Velcro closure.
One feature that I particularly like is the reinforced
structural panels. This is nominally a soft-sided nylon
bag, but zippered into all four sides are foam-padded
panels (think armor panels in a soldiers ak vest) made
out of 0.20-inch-thick hard plastic. This accomplishes
two things. First, it provides signicant impact protection.
Second, it lends stand-alone structure to the tote,
allowing it to keep its shape whether full or empty.
The Ultimate Drone Tote strikes an excellent
PRODUCT REVIEW compromise between an unreinforced soft-sided bag and
a full hard-shell case. Its 4500+ cubic inches of volume
WingTote Ultimate Drone Tote oers roughly 50 percent more room than typical 300- to
380-class hard cases, plus the additional storage pockets.
WingTote is one of those companies that focuses on a And at just 8 pounds, its about half the weight. Its less
very specic type of productit pretty much does one expensive than a hard case, and comes with a removable
thing, but it does it better than almost anyone out there. shoulder strap as well as grab handles. The foam insert
The company makes semisoft padded nylon bags and comfortably houses most common drone designs (DJI
cases in myriad congurations to house and protect RC Phantom series, Blade 350 series, Hubsan X4, and Ehang
gear. And while its name might suggest that it specializes Ghost, among others) and can easily be cut to t custom
in just traditional airplanes, in actuality, the company has applications. About the only things Id like to see added
expanded far beyond that, making products for cars and are beeer shoulder-strap swivels and aps over the
helicopters as well as all manner of RC support gear. To zippers to provide some extra protection against water
that list, we can now also add drones. WingTote has taken leakage (like youd see on a rain jacket). The Ultimate
its basic heli tote design, expanded it, and added features Drone Tote costs $149.95.Matt Boyd
to suit the drone market. The result is what you see


The Survey2 camera line provides simple multi-spectral imagery capture from
any drone. Available in RGB, Red+NIR NDVI, Infrared, Red, Green & Blue filter models.

16 MegaPixel (4,608 x 3,456 px) RAW+JPG

PWM Controlled Shutter or Time Interval
4.05 cm/px GSD from 120 m (~400 ft) AGL
82 HFOV (23mm) f/2.8, Non-Fisheye Glass Lens
47g [Without Battery], 64g [With Battery]
Compact: 59 x 41 x 30mm (LxHxD)
Removable Li-ion Battery (900mAh)
Battery Not Required When USB Powered
Micro SD (Up To 128GB Card)
MSRP: $400USD Adjustable WB, Shutter Speed, ISO, EV, Sharpness
Rear 1.5" Color LCD Screen

Drone Mounts
3DR Iris
3DR X8
DJI Phantom
Custom DIY +1-877-949-1684 Assembled in the USA

Xiro Gimbal
Now you can take
the amazing shot
stabilization of the 1st U.S. R/C Flight School
Xplorer gimbal series Multirotor Flight Training
with you wherever you The only multirotor training manual developed
go! This $129.99 holder directly from the experience of training
allows you simultaneously thousands of drone pilots, this book offers
to carry an automatic concise instructions along with numerous control
image-stabilizing gimbal illustrations to allow pilots to get the most out
and view your image on a of their multirotors. This $14.95 manual will teach
mobile device. you the skills up front that will help you avoid common mistakes, protect your investment, and
more fully enjoy and utilize a multirotor as an
effective camera platform.


Venom P3 Professional Charger

When you have a drone like a DJI Phantom 3, you quickly
nd that you tend to y it a lot. You also buy a lot of
battery packs so that you can keep your bird in the
air longer, and when you get home, you spend hours
charging all those battery packs. You can speed up that
charging process with the new Venom P3 Professional
Charger. This four-port unit can power up each port with
100 watts, so four packs can charge in the same amount
of time as one battery on the charger that comes with
the Phantom.
The charging process is very simple. First, plug in the
P3 and turn it on. Power on the battery, then place it in
one of the four charging bays, making sure that the metal
tabs on the charger line up with the charging slots on the
battery pack. The red light on the front illuminates while
the battery is charging, and when the charge is complete,
the light turns green and ashes. That is all there is to it.
The P3 Professional also has a storage charge function,
which you should use if the battery is going to stay idle
for more than 21 days. It also has a cycle mode that you before a shoot.
should use on the pack every 20 or so charge cycles. The P3 Professional is also equipped to charge the
Because the charger has a maximum discharge amperage Phantom 3 transmitter, by way of two 2.3-amp USB
of 0.65 amp per bay, Venom recommends that you and DJI transmitter charging ports on the front of the
perform either one of these charging modes after a pack unit. This P3 will handle the Phantom 3 Professional,
has been discharged more than 50 percent; otherwise, Advanced, 4K, and standard batteries and transmitters.
you could have a lengthy discharge time of ve to eight So if you are like me and have a lot of battery packs for
hours if you start from a fully charged pack. This is not a your Phantom 3, this $199.99 charger is well worth the
problem for me because I usually recharge the batteries investment.John Reid
to storage status and then just top them o the day


New Air Force Drones Perch,

Observe, then Destroy


Turnigy Graphene 4S
1300mAh 65C LiPo
Turnigy has a new line of LiPo battery packs that
utilizes carbon in the battery structure. Turnigy formed
a single layer of graphene battery substrate that is the
thinnest known, and the graphene particles form this
highly dense compound that allows electrons to ow
with less resistance than other batteries would have.
What does this mean for us pilots? It means that we
can push the battery harder and extract greater power
output from the pack without the risk of it getting too
MILITARY DRONES are becoming more like birds of prey. Above: This illustration shows
hot under that load. The result of all of this is a pack
The U.S. Air Force is striving to develop miniature micro a bird-size drone (far right)
perching in plain sight on tele- that will run cool under high demand, giving the pilot a
air vehicle drones that will be able to perch in place and
phone wires while observing an big boost in the cycle life of the battery.
wait days (or weeks!) for a target before taking it out unsuspecting target. Below: The We tested a 4S 1300mAh pack, which is perfect
with an explosive warhead. Known as perching micro new generation of USAF perch-
for FPV racers. Flying at all-out speed for each ight
air weapons, prototypes of these small killer drones ing drones designed to look like
birds can be easily set up and should put the pressure on the pack to see just
are already ying and being tested. The U.S. Air Force is
launched by their operators. how cool it would actually run. When we got our
also funding the development of technology for these
test battery, I have to say that we were impressed
specialized drones so that they will be able to acquire
with the packaging. The box looks like one that you
alternative power and energy sources. That way, they
would get when purchasing a luxury item, such as
will be able to remain on station to observe and engage
jewelry or a nice watch. Two magnets latch the lid
targets while perched on available structures or natural
closed, and when you look inside, the pack itself sits
platforms.Gerry Yarrish
inside a velvet sack tucked inside a foam cutout.
The battery looks and feels well made, and the label
is even embossed. You get the impression that you
have something special even before putting it on the
charger for the rst time.
After the rst charging, I found that the pack
balanced out well, and the rst ight was as fast as all-
out racing, at max speed 80 to 85 percent of the time.
We did three-minute ights, and this battery always
felt cooler that the other batteries we ran at the same
ight time between charges. The Graphene did run
cooler than the other batteries we were using, and it
balanced out well, with each cell being within 0.10 and
0.15 amp of each other. It also seems that the power
lasted longer than the other test packs with our quads
running hard all the way till the end. So the bottom line
here is that the Turnigy Graphene 4S 1300mAh pack
gets thumbs up and our recommendation. It costs
$25.38; other Graphene packs run from $6.00 to
$204.00.John Reid
A conversation with
3D Robotics Colin Guinn

Currently the chief revenue officer at 3D Robotics

(3DR), Colin Guinn is a major advocate of the
drone industry and has held positions at DJI North
America and testified before Congress. He paused
from his busy schedule at the National Association
of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada,
to chat with RotorDrone. His enthusiasm for the
industry was apparent and contagious right from
the beginning.

RotorDrone: How did you end up at your current

position at 3DR?
Colin Guinn: I partnered up with Chris Anderson [of
3DR] to develop a drone that would be based from
the user experience standpoint versus just starting
with the technology. I started at the beginning of
2014 at 3DR developing Solo. We launched it in the
summer of 2015. Here we are almost a year later.
We keep making it betterthat was the whole goal.
We wanted expandability through physical hardware
as well as expandability with software updates and
rmware updates with the onboard computers. Thats
what makes Solo dierent, and thats why I went in
that direction.

RD: In your opinion, what will it take for the general

public to stop being afraid of drones? Do we need to
drop the word drone altogether and just call them
UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles)?
CG: Its funny you asked that. That was our initial
3D Robotics Colin Guinn takes a
strategy with the DJI Phantom. We would never use break from the companys oces in
the word drone. It was ying camera, ying camera, Berkeley, California, to y a Solo.
ying camera! But nally we said, Lets embrace it;
lets take the power out of it. Thats a drone, thats a
drone, thats a drone. A drone is not a big scary thing
thats killing people in Afghanistan. Four years ago,
that was the basic thought of the word drone.

July/August 2016 37

RD: That takes us to January 2015 when you testied

before the House of Representatives. What led to that The fact that CG: I think that there may
but there
y not be less st stringent guidelines,
e will be a mechanism to allow ffor it. I think the
day, and how were you chosen?
CG: I was asked by the Science and Technology
our small UAS more restricted the airspace, e, the mor
more risk there is,

category is
[and] the more hoops well have ve to jump thr through to get
Committee of Congress and they said, Were having a approved. So its all going to
o be a risk model, righ right? Oh,
hearing about drones and integrating drone technology.
We want to have the perspective of the consumer 55 pounds or youre shooting some farmland
armland out in K
Its under X weight; you have e insuranc
Kansas? Cool!
insurance; you have your
market and feel youve been a big part of that.
less means FAA certicate. Go shoot, have
shoot over Times Square
e a ball! If y
e at a live conc
you want to
concert, [youll need a]
RD: So you were already recognized by them, obviously. that 55-pound parachute, tether,
ether, 48-hour notice, pilots lic license, visual

monsters are
CG: Yes, they knew me. I said, Yes, Id be honored to. I observers Im sure theyre going oing to rrequire all kinds of
should y a small drone in there so you can see what provisions. I think there
e will be a mechanism tto do all kinds
it looks like. I think that this speaks to me as being an
advocate for the drone industry. I didnt take e an Iris+ in categorized of shooting.
We just shot the rocketet launch forfor Blue Origin, Je
there because that would be inappropriate. e. I didnt want in the same Bezoss rocket company y [that ccompet
ompetes] with Elon Musk.

family as
people thinking, Oh my God, that could get et me ststitches Were at a full-lockdown no-y zone bec because its a rocket
on my face. So I called my friends at Parrot ot and said, launch. The FAA is on-site,e, and were within a ccouple miles
Hey, bring out a Bebop; thatd be the perfect
The point that I wanted to make was
ect drone.
as that we should Phantoms, of an airport. We had nine drones
to three and a half miles away
ones yinying two and a half
y to shoot this launch. The
at least start allowing lightweight drones to o be used
Solos, or whole thing was fully approved ed by the F FAAall section

Bebops. Thats
for commercial purposes. The fact act that our small U UAS 333 pilots.
[unmanned aircraft systems] category y is 55 pounds or
less (which means the 55-pound monsterss that you
hanging around [at NAB] are categorized orized in the same
y see
crazy, right? RD: That was an ocial event,
t, and it needed tto be

family as Phantoms, Solos, or Bebops. Thats crazy, CG: My point is [that] even
en in a situation lik
like thata strict
right? So the point I was trying to make was as that ther
there is no-y zonewere ying drones ones three miles a away and
so much that we can learn. capturing a launch. There was as a bunch of rred tape that
We can use the 80/20 rule. Literally ally 80 percent
percen of Blue Origin had to go through to approved. I think
o get that appr
the commercial work out there can an be done with thesethes that a year from now there e will be less rred tape because
drones that are 20 percent of the weightt of the hea heavier they wont have to gure knew they had to
e it out. They kne
drones. We can start getting these into circulation
culation and document this big eventt and had to gure out how to
learning about the bad things. gs. If one zooms o and ies work together with us. The next rocket launch will be like,
xt rock
away and, heaven forbid, happens to o hit an airliner, its Weve been here before. This is what needs tto happen.
not going to crash it. Its going to o be an incident, but its Lets do it. So as they gure those rules, there will be
e out tho
not going to be a 50-pound helicopter ying g up there.
ther hoops to jump through they will be clear. You
ough but at least the
Thats a whole dierent ball o wax. I was trying ying to get
g can go jump through
ough them and do your w work. Thats what
some kind of provision for micro UAS. I think will happen.

RD: Do you see less stringentt guidelines in the fut

future for RD: Living in Southern California,
ornia, Ive ttried to take my
ying in restricted airspace? drone out to state parks like Vasquez
asquez R Rocks and Castaic

Lake e and eeventually been told by rangers to pack it up. postproduction team knows ws what the
theyre doingtaking
ou get frust
frustrated. If I cant take my drone to beautiful 65 megabit per second ond Protune ffootage o of a Hero4
es like that, what g good is having a drone? Black, tweaking it, color correcting
orrectin itits in the theater
CG: I think that wwas an early reactionary measure. We and it looks great! They canan mat
match the stu being shot
dont know what thes these things are. We dont know if they back on the ground.
will harm the wildlif
wildlife, scare o ecosystems. National parks Honestly, the investment
ment nec
necessary, the hassle,
ate park
parks, cant y here! They will gure it out; if its the danger involved ed with ying a RRed Epicsize octo or
this weight, what ar are the possible downsides? Maybe something likee that, its a point of diminishin
diminishing returns. You
oull have tto ask the park ranger 24 hours in advance might get a few extra jobss becaus
because you can y an Epic,
and show y your FAA certicateshow that its a licensed but you dont getet paid that much mor
more day rate for it. Its
one. So its an early block and then w well start bringing it a major hassle to travelel with tho
those-size drones; theyre
back to somethin
something more manageable. very expensive.e. I think the days
da s of people spendin
Thats kind of what the F
Thats FAA did with drones in general! $30,000 on Red Epiccarrying
arrying oct
octos so that they can
People wer
were using drones in lm in the mid 90s. It was no go charge big day rates are e number
numbered. If you look at an
big deal bec
because there were very few people doing it. As Inspire
e with an X5, its phenomenal video qualit
quality for, what,
it started getting more and more popular in 2011/2012, ve, six thousand buckss all in? S So I think thats your range.
the FAA just said Stop. People have been doing it for Solo, Phantom, Inspire e X5, youv
youve got all that in your bag.
15 years! But they said, Stop! Dont use them anymore. Sure theres going to o be occasional-us
occasional-use cases for ying a
Until we come out with regulations, then well tell you Sonyy a7R II with a 24240mm zoom lens, bein being able to do
what youre allowed to do. active-zoom, follow-focus,
ocus, and ying Red Epics. Theres
always going to be that very,
ery, ver
very niche market, but I
RD: If someone is interested in making money ying a think its denitely a pointt of diminishin
diminishing returns.
drone, at what level should they start?
CG: I think the minimum level would be something like a RD: Compare the technological
echnological adv
advancements of drones
Solo or a Phantom a Phantom 3 Pro, a Phantom 4, a Solo of a few years ago too the advanc
advancements of todays
with a (GoPro) Hero4 Black. drones.
ones. What has been the most imporimportant technological
I shot for 13 hours with Michael Bay with a Hero4 Black feature to date?
and a Solo. We shot Transformers 4 [Age of Extinction] CG: In my opinion, these are the kkey features that have
with that. They had heavy lifters ying with Red Epics and made the drone industry what it is ttoday. First, it was
things like that, but really good cinematographers and you had to y remote-
the autopilot. Before autopilot, y
great directors care about the shot and the perspective. control helicopters. They didnt even have gyros; it was
That supersedes the quality of the drone. Lower-end fully manual and very dicult. There was a super-small
productions might say, Were only going to shoot on amount of people that ew them. Some people put
Epics. If we cant get this into a small area, then we wont cameras on them. Richard Emmanuel from Flying-Cam
do the shot. Michael Bay said, This is the shot that I won an Oscar in 1996. They didnt have autopilot or any
want. Can we get a Red Epic in there? If we cant, lets of that stu. Then autopilots came out. DJI came out with
get a smaller drone in there. These smaller drones can the XP 3.1 and then the Ace One. That was the rst big
get a shot that the bigger ones cantlike getting a little technological breakthrough that started making it easier
closer to the explosion, for instance. The bigger ones to y. It became easy to pilot at long distances. Without
cant go through a window or get into a tight spot. If the that at 50 or 100 feet away, youre manually ying that

July/August 2016 39

I think the next big breakthrough ... might be

object-oriented visual-target tracking and follow
and more computer learning.

helicopter and it is dicult. CG: Theres always a place e for thermal. W We have a Flir
I think the second breakthrough in technology was the integration with Solo; we e can do the Flir-V
Flir-Vue with our
brushless stabilized gimbal because now your footage Solo app and do Smartt Shots and Orbit Orbits and Multipoint
is usable. That was launched in 2011, I think, with the Cable cams
ams with thermal. I think it will alwalways be a niche
Zenmuse. Now brushless gimbals are everywhere. market: search and rescue, cue, surv
veillance. There are a lot
Honestly, I think the next big breakthrough to happen of great uses for
or it. I think its alw
always going to be a niche
after that was Smart Shots. Once you had a stabilized market, though.
gimbal, if you had a pilot and a camera operator, you
could get these really great shots. You could be a single RD: Do you think weve seen een the end of the guy hanging
operator with a Phantom and it was easy, but youre only out of the Bell Helicopterer with a TTyler mount?
getting these one-axis moves: pushing in, bumping up, CG: No. In my aerial-photography
ograph company, we did
moving across. But with a Phantom, you are limited to full-scale [helicopters]
s] and small UUAVs. When we did the
doing combinations of those; youre only one person, and Blue Origin shoot, we brought
ought in a ffull-scale with a gimbal
you cant do that much with your ngers. Getting an orbit on it, plus we
e had all our drones. YYoure not going to do a
shot around a lighthouse while youre climbing and its car-chase scene, going g 90 miles an hour do down the 101 for
tilting down on top of ityou cant do that as one person. 10 miles with a drone. Youou need a helic
helicopter with a camera
Then 3DR released Smart Shots, which is basically aerial- mount on it.
motion control, and that allowed the use of autopilots and Are the dayss of people hangin
hanging out the side of an R44
stabilized gimbals. Computers basically set key frames with a Tyler mount shooting ing a w
wakeboarder gone? I think
and hit play. Let these complex shots happen where so. Theres no reason foror that. You ccan shoot that with
the gimbal is being controlled by the onboard computer. a drone all day long.
g. Its a heck of a lot saf
safer, lower cost,
Everything is fully coordinated. more ecient, and you get better shot shots!
I think the next big breakthrough after that might be Are the days of ying an R44 o over power lines to take
object-oriented visual-target tracking and follow and pictures of them numbered? Absolutely! People die every
more computer learning. Automatic inspection might year from doing that. I think that you will always need full-
happen. You could say theres a wind turbine in front of scale helicopters for their appropriate aerial shots. Right
yougo nd it and inspect it. People are working on that! now, there is no reason for these helicopters to be getting
the risky low-altitude shots that they used to. These
RD: Where do you think the thermal imaging and UV shots should be done with drones! K
imaging are going in aerial photography?

River Wat

tchers Drones monitor
Alaskas ice oes

OVER THE WHITE ICE of the Yukon River

and above the bare stems of poplar trees, two
things moved through the air: a bald eagle and a
Responder helicopter drone.
On a spring day in the small Alaska town of Circle,
the eagle is a recent migrant from somewhere
south. The Responder just arrived via a hilly road
in a trailer from Fairbanks, the headquarters of
the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Integration (ACUASI). Four staff members are here
to map river ice at the request of a hydrologist with
the National Weather Service (NWS).

July/August 2016 43
River Ice Poses a Danger A resident of Circle, Alaska, bull- provide useful products, like detailed photo maps of
dozes ice from the boat landing the ice choked in river channels. He also hopes to get
Formed in winter, river ice is a flooding hazard each spring on the Yukon River shortly after
in Alaska. When the return of warm air causes sheets most of the river ice drifted information on temperature differences within jams of
of ice to shatter into chunks and shards, those pieces downstream. river ice and data that could act as a remote river gauge.
sometimes catch and stack at river bends. When the ice In the future, [the Responder] might be a tool to see
slows the flow of water, rivers can back up into villages. vertical changes in the ice, Plumb says.
Each year, floods wreck houses and vehicles and float
fuel tanks, spilling diesel into the water. Flooding causes Preparing the Responder
millions of dollars worth of damage along Alaskas two At the flat, dusty boat landing in Circle (which gold miners
largest river systems: the Yukon and the Kuskokwim. named in the 19th century, thinking they were on the
Thats what led Ed Plumb, a hydrologist at the NWS in Arctic Circle, which is actually about 50 miles north), Corey
Fairbanks, to ask researchers at ACUASI if they could Upton straps a Sony a6000 camera to the lower rack of a
provide a view of river ice from 400 feet. Corey Upton (left) and Matt Responder drone. The camera will capture an image every
Westhoff of the University of two seconds during the 30-minute mission.
Plumb flies the Yukon River each spring in chartered
Alaska Fairbanks install a cam-
single-engine planes to look at the ice, but he and others era on a Responder drone before
Upton is an engineer who works as a contractor for
with the federal agency are looking to see if drones can flying it over the Yukon River. ACUASI. His job involves all the mechanical aspects of the
Responders mission, including the cab design and three-
dimensional printing of needed parts.
The Responder, wearing the blue-and-white logo of
the University of Alaska Fairbanks, stands about shin
high on the brown dirt of the boat landing. The drone
resembles a miniature helicopter, with a 4-foot main rotor
and a 1-foot blade at the tail.
Once he has the camera set, Upton walks away from
the Responder and looks around to check the area. Circle
residents, who were parked at the boat launch to look at
river ice during this anxious season, have driven away
from the landing at the request of team member Eyal
Saiet. The locals have been cooperativeand curious
about the flying machines taking off from their riverfront.

Tracking and Mapping

In a cloud of dust, the Responder leaps from the boat
landing into the air. Within five minutes, it is a black dot
in the sky, flying over the Yukon River. To the west is a
soaring bald eagle.
In South Africa, an eagle took down a drone, says
Upton, who has been on missions all over Alaska as well
as in Iceland.
The bald eagle over the Yukon River shows no interest

The unmanned aircraft team ... are hopeful that
their products will be useful to the professionals
who watch Alaska rivers in spring and respond
to flooding damage when it occurs.

A Responder drone takes o from a boat

landing on the Yukon River at Circle, Alaska.

July/August 2016 45
river watchers

in the Responder. Matt Westhoff, the pilot for the mission,

watches a computer screen that shows the Responders
zigzag path over the Yukon River. It appears as a little
helicopter icon on a preprogrammed course over the river
and islands.
Were flying a path that NOAA [National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration] has given us, Westhoff
says, staring at a screen that showed a map of a curve in
the river with wedge-shaped islands in the center.
The constriction has been a place where river ice has
jammed in the past. Those events, most recently in 2013,
have flooded the town. At the nearby store, the only
obvious place of business in this community of 87, a metal
post holds markers showing the height of previous floods.
The label for May 19, 2013, shows that the river water
reached above the doorknob.
Soon, the Responder is far enough away over the
river that the researchers need to track it with binoculars.
Westhoff confirms that the Responder is on its path.
Flying is the easy part, Westhoff says as he watches
the Responder. The more difficult portion of the exercise
was packing and transporting the Responder and two The town of Circle, Alaska, classroom of the village school the night before, he had
other drones and traveling to Circle. The drive along one population 87. Each spring, stayed up until the early hours, processing the previous
Yukon River ice threatens to jam
of Alaskas loneliest highways included a delay of several and flood the community.
days flights into a map of the river ice. He and the
hours as spring meltwater cut through a section of gravel others will see how the system performed and adjust
highway not far from Circle. Department of Transportation many things, as necessary, to best provide the products
crews fixed the road in time for the university team to wanted by the meteorologists of the NWS, as well as the
reach the town in time to deploy. representative of Alaskas Division of Homeland Security
Team members also carried a fixed-wing Aeromapper and Emergency Management, who was also in Circle.
and a hexacopter Ptarmigan in a trailer packed with The Responder landed in the same spot it took off, as
equipment. The trailer also had a barbeque grill and townspeople in pickup trucks and on four wheelers
coolers of food for the four team members, who bunked watched. For years, they have lived in wary recognition of
in the Circle School (there are no hotels in the town). They the threat that arrives each spring.
would fly two of the three vehicles by the end of their Nick Adkins, another drone pilot on the team, walked
three-day stay. up to the Responder with adjustments in mind. The
Using a tripod, remote-sensing specialist Saiet took former U.S. Army Chinook helicopter pilot noticed that
still photos of the Responder as it returned to the river the Responder flew with a slight rhythmic bounce. He
landing at the conclusion of the half-hour flight. In a knew that he could smooth it out with tweaks to the
flying system. Much of the teams time in Circle was spent
improving how the systems work and making changes.
The unmanned aircraft team would produce
orthomosaic maps and digital elevation maps during the
experimental deployment to Circle. Members are hopeful
that their products will be useful to the professionals who
watch Alaska rivers in spring and respond to flooding
damage when it occurs.

An Unusual Spring
In 2016, a very warm year, Circle did not flood.
Later, on the evening of the Responder flight, as
yellow-rumped warblers sang in birch trees, Circle
residents drove their pickup trucks to the boat landing.
Some got out and talked; others stayed in their trucks,
squinting out at river ice. A few tossed logs on a bonfire
down by the ice.
Just before 9 p.m., the ice groaned and shifted. It
started tumbling downstream, making the bank shudder.
Chunks shoved up on the boat landing, forcing people to
step back. River ice overtook and quenched the bonfire.
The Yukon River roared with hollow clunks heard once
each year.
Thirty minutes later, the water was running free of ice
except for random, harmless bits. On April 29, it was the
earliest river breakup on record for Circle.
The next morning, the university team members
packed their aircraft and other equipment back in the
trailer and started back to Fairbanks, 161 miles away. K

The Final

An inside look at the deal to bring drone racing to ESPN

he story you are about to read is truea reminder made necessary by the
particular facts of this extraordinary tale, which might otherwise be mistaken
for the plot of an overreaching movie of the week. Without some assurances,
no one would believe that in a single year, a sideshow at the California State
Fair would be anointed as the first new sport of the 21st century by ESPN, a
powerhouse network reaching 95 million American households.

Furthermore, none of the names has been changed to The Art of the Deal
protect those who are responsible, foremost among The global explosion of interest in drone racing came at
them: Scot Refsland, chairman of the International Drone precisely the right moment for ESPN, according to Scot.
Racing Association (IDRA) and architect of this improbable Right now, they are struggling to nd a solution to the
sequence of events. quick drop-o among the next generation of viewers,
The rst question I asked him was How did all of this he said. They see the trend of cable cutters coming up
happen? Scot responded, There really is something on them pretty quick. Although theyve been a huge cash
bigger driving it, and I personally think it is a combination cow for Disney, they recognize that eSports and drone
of three dierent factors. First, human beings share an racing are one new way to regain that audience that is
inherent love of ight, and drone racing allows you to hungry for emerging sports.
instantly become a superhero. Second, the up-and- Of course, everything is fun and games until the
coming generation is extremely interested in new forms of lawyers get involved. And when that happened early in
broadcasting: They want to be participants, not spectators. Scots negotiations with ESPN, it very nearly put an end to
Third, everybody wants to see what a new sport looks like the show before it could even get started.
in this hyperconnected, multiscreen world. When we started talking to them in earnest, we got
on the radar of the risk-management guys, and that went
all the way up to Disney corporate, he recalled. All they
International Drone Racing had on their books for liability and risk management that
Association chairman Scot pertained to drones was aerial photography. We had to
Refsland enjoys a quick rewrite the book from scratch.
trip around the coursea
That took several months. It was a pretty formidable
welcome respite from his
eight-month negotiation hurdle to get over. I am proud to say that we blazed the
with ESPN, which will bring trail for other folks who will come along later.
drone racing to the network Once the legal questions had been settled, Scot faced
this summer.
another challenge: The sport of drone racing was evolving
so quickly that it was hard to nalize a contract that
reected nearly minute-by-minute changes that have
occurred over the past year.

One concept is to introduce augmented reality into

the pilots goggles to allow the audience to choose what sorts of
challenges they face: asteroids drifting through the course or
a swarm of meteors crashing down on the field.

july/august 2016 49
Theyre trying to figure out how to make AR work with
traditional sports, as welllike football and NASCARbut
those are legacy sports that are locked into traditions that
have been established for decades, Scot said. Drone
racing is a brand new sport, so its a blank slate that will
allow for this type of experimentation.
Another unique feature will be multiple online
broadcasts, which will be occurring simultaneously with
the main feed on ESPN, with multiple crews providing
real-time updates from around the island.
Were also talking to a 360-degree camera company
about installing their systems at different locations around
the trackin the freestyle area, even in the pits and
the pilots flying booth, Scot added. That way, people
can choose what they want to see, and using a pair of
virtual-reality goggles, they can actually look around the
environment, like they are actually standing right there.

An Unexpected Journey
The extraordinary pace at which all of this has come about
is especially remarkable to me because I was at the first
U.S. National Drone Racing Championship last year in
Sacramento, California, and hosted the online coverage
Scot Refsland, organizer of As those changes started happening, suddenly of the event. Although I had the same goal as Scot has
the U.S. National Drone Racing they were interested in a multiyear deal, then an laid out for Governors Islandto help the people who
championship, is bringing the
event to Governors Island in
international distribution deal, he said. Thats why it couldnt be there physically feel as if they are part of the
New York harbor and to the took eight months to negotiate this contract: Every time eventthe tools at my disposal were comically low tech
95 million American households it got bigger, it got bigger in our favor, but it took time to by comparison.
that receive ESPN. sort all of it out. The first few hours of the broadcast were run through
a cell phone when the
There was an undeniable energy that you could feel walking around the pits and fairgrounds Internet server
failed, and our live feed from
the staging areas. It was like a family reunion, a gathering of kindred souls. the aircraft on the course

Above: A racing quad turns and

burns at one of the qualifying Traction from Interaction was provided byIm not making this uppointing a video
racing events being held across
The coverage on ESPN will be like nothing that has ever camera at a 5.8GHz monitor draped with a piece of black
the United States in the run up
to the Nationals, being held in been seen before, according to Scot, who draws on the fabric to eliminate glare. The course timing system worked
August. (Photo by C. Tyler Foley) 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger camp classic The Running inconsistently, and the weather was brutally hot.
Man as well as The Hunger Games series in an effort In spite of the problems, however, there was an
Above right: Pilots from across
to characterize how the audience will participate in the undeniable energy that you could feel walking around
the United States and around
the world came together in the eventwhether on Governors Island, the site of next the pits and the staging areas, where the racers were
pits at the 2015 U.S. National years U.S. National Drone Racing Championship, or preparing for their heats. It was like a family reunion, a
Drone Racing Championship in 10,000 miles away. It really doesnt matter where you gathering of kindred souls from every corner of the earth.
Sacramento, California. At this
are, he explained. The problem is how do you make a People I had met online or watched in YouTube videos
years event on Governors Island
in New York City, you might bunch of gnats flying around a football field exciting? We were suddenly standing right in front of meand we just
have the opportunity to experi- consider every single fan to be a remote fan. talked with the easy familiarity of friends.
ence that same atmosphere One concept is to introduce augmented reality (AR) into Scot, who organized that first event and asked me
via virtual reality. (Photo by
the pilots goggles to allow the audience to choose what to host the coverage, is promising to deliver that same
Ruben Jauregui)
sorts of challenges they face: asteroids drifting through the experience to the entire world, and I, for one, couldnt be
course or a swarm of meteors crashing down on the field. happier to be taking the journey with him. K

Your Birds-Eye View
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see what its been missing, and do what you need it to. Precision ag,
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The new Vue Pro R gives you radiometric images with accurate
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drone can do more than ever.

Learn more at today!



Model: RXD250
Manufacturer: RISE ( This perfect first racer can take a beating!
Type: FPV racer
Size: 250mm

Weight: 10.6 oz. w/ 1300mAh LiPo
Motors: 2280Kv brushless (included)
s we all know, crashing and drone racing go
Battery: FlightPower 3S 1800mAh 30C LiPo hand in hand. Of course, theres always a little
( more crashing when youre learning, and thats
Speed controls: 10A brushless (included) where the RISE RXD250 comes in. Made out of
Flight controller: CC3D using LibrePilot carbon-fiber and foam, it comes completely assembled
Radio: Tactic TTX650 w/ TR625 (
and is ready to accept your receiver and first-person-
Price: $199.99 view (FPV) equipment.

+ Completely built and receiver ready HIGHLIGHTS are surrounded by foam, plastic,
This 250-size racer comes or carbon ber, so there isnt
+ Carbon-fiber/foam construction built for a
beating completely built with just about much risk of damaging anything
everything to get airborne, so all expensive. The landing gear is
+ Open layout for FPV gear you need is a receiver and battery. strong, but it has plenty of ex,
+ Easy to program, fun to fly The ight controller, motors, and so it wont just break o; it does a
speed controls are all securely nice job of protecting your battery.
mounted and ready to run. A Deans There is plenty of room for all your
plug mounted on the bottom electronics and even a rubber-
right next to the battery mount mounted plate, for an additional
has a Velcro strap that will keep action camera on top of the frame.
your pack in place. LEDs on the There isnt much to the
bottom help with orientation, and instruction manual because the
there is even a power plug for your drone comes already built, but
FPV transmitter, which has been the info in it is important. The
soldered in place. The RXD250 has ight controller uses LibrePilot,
a specic place for every piece of and the manual gives you specic
equipment, so there is absolutely conguration settings that should
zero guesswork on placement. be checked every time you use
The layout is open yet still the software.
protected. All the key components

The landing gear allows the RISE RXD250 to sit just high enough to take o easily from most
grass elds.

July/August 2016 53
The foam composite arm and extra area around the 2280Kv brushless
motor do a good job of protecting it.

aerial recap
I flew the RXD250 with and without FPV gear and was impressed by how well it
performed. Taking off with the FPV gear obviously required a little more throttle,
which was to be expected, but once in the air, it was pretty nimble with both
setups. Even in Stability mode, it had nice response and reacted quickly to input
and direction changes. It was easy to toss around, but it still held its line well. The
wind pushed it around a little more than something of the same size, probably due
to the extra foam, but it wasnt unmanageable; it just needed a little extra input.
For a drone that is built to withstand more crashes and hits, Im impressed
overall with how well this 250 handled. I didnt test the durability of this drone by
crashing it on purpose, but it looks and feels as if it could take a beating. Its easy
to fly and the controls are smooth, but it still has the juice when you want it. All
Above: The built-in guides keep the antennae at the correct angle and my flights were done with a FlightPower 3S 1800mAh 30C LiPo, and the RXD250
distance apart for good radio reception. Below: The RXD250 does not easily had five-minute-plus flights, so time in the air wont be an issue.
come with any FPV equipment, but all of the brackets and connections
are there for easy installation.

Get Race-Ready Above: The battery is

mounted below and cen-
You have to crawl before you can walk, and you have to tered on the frame for a low
walk before you can run. FPV racing is definitely running center of gravity and good
at full speed, so if youve never flown a quad before, fly handling. Left: Each arm has
a smaller unit around the house so that you can get LED lights installed that are
used to how to control it and even try flying under and easy to see while flying.
through obstacles.
When youre ready to move on to your racing quad, a
250mm-size model, like the RXD250, is a good choice. Fly
it around in an open field and get used to the controls,
hovering and moving around imaginary obstacles. When
you feel comfortable, open it up and fly forward at the
fastest speed possible. This will be your normal racing
speed, so get used to the angle of the quad and see
what its like to make quick turns and other maneuvers.
You are now ready for FPV flying!

Bottom line All in all, the RXD250 is a great racing drone to start with. You can have it ready to fly in the time it takes to
charge a battery. It handles well, is easy to fly, and is built for those inevitable crashes. K

air support

Autel Robotics
X-Star Premium
This intelligent camera drone will turn you into a pro
TeXT & PhoToS by Kevin MccarThy

his year, consumer-
drone hobbyists are
benefiting from the
fierce competition
among drone manufacturers.
Autel Robotics has every
intention of being a fierce
competitor with its new X-Star
line of aerial-photography
drones. The X-Star has been in
development for some time,
and that looks like it was a
huge benefit for the freshman
consumer-drone manufacturer.

HIGHLIGHTS 64GB micro SD card preinstalled
The Autel Robotics X-Star Premium in the camera. All of this is neatly
comes in two colors: white and packed in its place when it ships
orange. Its camera is capable of to the customer. There is even
12 megapixel stills and full 4K room to store whichever tablet the
footage at both 24 and 30 fps. The owner chooses to use.
camera lens has a 108-degree After unpacking the X-Star
eld of view, larger than others Premium and placing the 3S
but without the bothersome sh- 4900mAh smart LiPo battery on
eye eect common with todays the charger, take some time to
action-camera footage. For those read through the well-written,
not shooting in 4K just yet, you will easy-to-read user manual. It will
be happy to know that the X-Star tell you exactly where to go to
Premium will capture video in 1080p download Starlink, the companion
at 120 fps for those incredible app. Available for both Android and
slow-motion shots. If that were iOS, Starlink allows you to make
not enough, 720p at 240 fps is use of the 720p live-camera view.
also available. Setting the X-Star Starlink is also where the camera
Premium further apart is the fact settings can be adjusted to suit
that the entire gimbal is removable, each usersettings such as white
which would lead us to believe that balance, ISO, and frame rate, among
Autel Robotics has some upgrades others. The app is also how the
in store for its owners. user makes use of ight modes like
Each Premium model comes in Follow, Waypoints, and Orbit. These
its own custom-made case, which ight modes complement the three
contains molded foam to hug the standard modes: GPS, ATTI, and
drone and its accessories without Intelligent Orientation Control. The
rubbing any of them. The case will Starlink app has too many features
hold the drone, the radio, two full to list here, but the best thing about
sets of propellers, and the included it is that all the features are easy
battery charger, and has room for to nd, and moving around in the
four batteries plus one installed in app is truly intuitive, which will be
the aircraft. The Premium model a huge relief to those new to app-
also ships with a SanDisk Ultra assisted drones.

Right and below: Autel Robotics

designed the X-Star case not
only to protect the drone but also
to allow owners to travel with
it. The case meets the maximum
allowed size for most airlines with a
combined length, width, and height
dimension of 45 inches.

Model: X-Star Premium
Manufacturer: Autel Robotics (
Type: Camera drone
Size: 350mm
Weight: 3.13 lb.
Motors: Included
Battery: 3-cell 4900mAh (included)
Speed controls: Included
Flight controller: Included
Radio: Included
Price: $899.00

+ High-quality drone
+ Start/stop motor and pause buttons
+ Ergonomic radio
+ Included case

July/August 2016 57
ToTal ConTrol aerial recap
While the radio layout for all drones is, without a doubt,
similar, Autel Robotics radio unit is unique. The radio With the flight battery fully charged, the app loaded on my iPad mini 2, and the
offers a start/stop motor button, one-button takeoff/ radio fully charged, I was ready for my first flight. Getting in the air was quick
land, a return-to-home button, and a pause button. The and easy. I powered on the radio and then the aircraft, both with a three-second
pause button is yet another safety feature designed for hold of each power button. Once both were powered up, I connected my media
those new to the drone hobby. This button will pause
device, using a USB cable that plugged into the back of the radio, and opened the
the aircrafts motion allowing the pilot time to regain
orientation. app. The radio, with its included LCD screen, told me which step was next. Once
The camera controls are worth noting as well. All Starlink was connected, it took over duties and notified me when the aircraft was
are within fingertip reach, so you dont have to remove ready for flight by giving me a green light, which also indicated that it was safe for
your hands from the radio to reach any one function. GPS flight. To start the motors, you can use either the single button on the radio
The camera tilt wheel is on the left side along with the or the familiar down-and-in or down-and-out stick movements. Once I started
flight-mode switch, while the wheel on the right controls the motors, they jumped to life, and the aircraft beeped with a unique tone. Once
the camera settings. The photo button, on the back in the air, the X-Star was fast! And it felt faster, thanks to the responsive controls.
side of the radio, is exactly where the right index finger The controls were familiar, and everything was easily within reach of my fingers
naturally rests. The same is true for the video start/stop
with little wasted movement. The claimed flight time of 25 minutes wasnt too
button on the left side.
The media-device holder is spring loaded and will far off the mark, either. My first flight was 21 minutes before I received the low-
easily accommodate a full-size iPad Air. Add that to the voltage warning. A red glow around the screen and a vibrating radio announced
textured rubber grips for the hands and it turns out to that it was time to land the X-Star.
be one of the most ergonomic radio packages currently
available with a ready-to-fly drone system.

The stock UV lens filter is removable, so its compatible with third-party lens filters. Easy access to the micro SD card slot and micro USB cable port allows for simple image

Bottom line At $899, the X-Star Premium is an incredible deal. It boasts all of the expected safety features, like a low-
voltage warning and a return-to-home function as well as a Beginner mode. Autel Robotics wisely decided
to use a dual GPS/GLONASS system, meaning that there will be few, if any, times that you find yourself
without a GPS signal, and the company has included its own Starpoint Vision Positioning module for indoor
flights. The included case and lower price for additional flight batteries ($119) should put the X-Star at the
top of the must-have list for both new and experienced pilots. K



o Professional Cases
(GPC) has been part of
the rotor-drone revolution
from the very beginning. I
know because I was there,
at the fabled Multirotor
Challenge at Palomar RC
Flyers field in Fallbrook,
California, in March
2013. That was where I first met Rick and Beth
Bohlman, who founded GPC after doing
a favor for a family member
that turned into a business
opportunity they never
My brother bought a GoPro
camera at Costco, and hes a
pilot, Rick recalled. He always
likes to take care of his stuff, so
he came by my office with the
camera and asked if I could make
a case for it.
Although GPC got its start in
2011, Rick and Beth have been in the
case business for more than 20 years.
Their original company, Casemanstill in
business today and still being run by the couple
manufactures cases for military and industrial users. This case
After making the original GoPro case for his brother, is among the
innovative designs
Rick had a thought: Since I had already put together the developed by GPC, capable
design, Ill go ahead and advertise it. It caught on, and of carrying both an Inspire 1 and a
Phantom. The company developed the
people started buying those, and then I started getting concept after listening to its customers, who
requests for a case to hold two cameras, then three, then reported regularly traveling with both aircraftas a
primary and a backup.
12and it just took off from there.

Rick and Beth Bohlman, partners in
life as well as business, originally
established GPC to provide rugged
transportation options for the
ubiquitous GoPro Hero sports
camera but quickly found a more
compelling market in the nascent
rotor-drone industry.

July/August 2016 61
Go professional cases

The Phantom Menace Rick made the requisite measurements and designed a case to
It was still the early days in the evolution of drones as weve come accommodate the now-famous flying white object.
to know them today. At the same time this was happening, here at As soon as we made that case, things really started to snowball, he
the Roswell Flight Test Crew, we were upgrading the MultiWii flight recalled. Right off the bat, I put together cases for the TBS Discovery,
controller on our home-built flagship hexacopter, RQCX-3 Raven, the Cinestar 8, the SkyJib, and the DJI Flamewheel series, which was the
using a promising new system with a funny name: the NAZA, sold by a predecessor to the Phantom and still very popular back then.
company out of China called DJI. Another coincidence served to cement GPCs place as the leader in the
Back then, if you wanted to record high-definition video in the air, market for custom-built cases for rotor drones.
GoPro was really the first and only choicewhich is why the original DJI 3D Robotics has their San Diego headquarters only about a mile down
Phantom, released in January 2013, came with a mount for the GoPro the road from us, and there was a guy working with them who had done
some business with us through Caseman. So when
they needed some cases for their early prototypes,
they reached out to us, Rick said. Then, when the Iris
came along, we developed a custom case for that, and
weve been joined at the hip with them ever since.

Just in Case
The process of designing a case for a new drone
begins with a series of precise measurements in
three dimensions to determine how it will fit inside the
protective foam cushion that will surround it. There are
three different means of deriving these measurements.
The company that is manufacturing the drones can
share their computer-aided design (CAD) drawings with
us, which makes it easy, Rick explained. Alternatively,
they provide us with a nonfunctioning shell of the
aircraft or even a working prototype.
If neither of those are a possibility, we work from
photographs of the dronebut that can be tricky

We look at the DRones

intenDeD useR. if its a
pRofessional aeRial cineMa Rig
thats Meant to be a WoRkhoRse,
they coulD be out shooting all
Day, so theyRe going to neeD a
lot of batteRies.

because of parallax, which can make it difficult to judge

the exact size of the different components.
Its tricky, to be sure, but Ive seen it work myself.
GPC designed a custom carrying case for RQCX-3
Ravenas awkward and gangly a shape as you could
ever hope to seeand as a unique and fragile artifact,
the best we could do was send photographs.
When the case arrived, Raven slipped inside like it
was a bespoke suit from a tailor on Savile Row.
Once weve got the measurements, we evaluate
the drone as to where and how it needs to be supported
Top: GPC Project Manager Jordan Mueller checks the final design of a new foam set for the DJI Phantom 4, and protected, said Rick. Will it be resting on its arms
using CAD software. or just the ends of the arms where the motors are
Above: Headquartered in San Diego, California, GPC shares a building with its sibling company, Caseman mounted? Or will it rest on the landing gear?
doing business for more than two decades in the military and industrial sectors. After that, we figure out how the radio and the
accessories are going to fit. We try to organize the case
Hero as standard equipment. This fact led to another unlikely connection, in a logical manner, so that like parts are grouped together. We also look
steering Rick and Beth toward their destiny. at the drones intended user. If its a weekend warrior, they may only
We had a guy who had purchased one of our GoPro camera need space for a couple of batteries. But if its a professional aerial cinema
cases, and he got in touch with us and asked if we made a case for the rig thats meant to be a workhorse, they could be out shooting all day, so
Phantom, Rick said. I didnt know what that was, so I started looking theyre going to need a lot of batteries.
around on the Internet. When the top-down 2D layout is complete, a production engineer
His search led him to Wattflyer, which, in turn, led him to Jim Bonnardel figures out how many layers of foam will be needed, and the most
of the Silent Electric Flyers of San Diego, California, where GPC is based. efficient, cost-effective way to cut them. The foamincluding the
A few hours later, Jim came running through my door, holding a signature GPC blue topis then cut using a water-jet system, and the
Phantom, said Rick. individual layers are stacked up like a wedding cake and glued together.

Left: Renowned aerial cinema-
tographer Eric Cheng used GPC
cases to get his aircraft safely to
the Holuhraun lava eld in Iceland,
where he captured extraordinary
imagery of ongoing volcanic
eruptions. (Photo courtesy of
Eric Cheng)
Below left: A porter carries DJI
drones protected inside GPC cases
deep into the jungle of Vietnam for
Romeo Durschers groundbreaking
expedition to the Son Doong Cave.
(Photo courtesy of Romeo Durscher)
Below: The Roswell Flight Test Crew
deploys a rotor drone equipped with
a FLIR thermal-imaging camera at
the scene of a structure re that
completely destroyed a home in
rural Clackamas County, Oregon.

July/August 2016 63
Go professional cases

Above: Traveling off-road across the island of Kauai in Hawaii, GPC cases protected aerial
cinematographer Max Seigal from dust, mud, and sudden tropical rain showers.
Left: Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, aerial cinematographer Nick Lang was among
those GPC users invited to test the companys new custom backpack for the DJI Inspire 1.
In response to requests from customers who needed to haul the DJI Inspire 1 into remote
locations, GPC designed a custom backpack that features plates of G10 fiberglass
to create a light, sturdy bag that retains its shape and provides ample protection for
the aircraft.

the major manufacturersDJI, 3D Robotics, and Yuneecto the point that

GPCs input has affected aircraft design.
DJI brought us in to take an early look at the Inspire 1, and right away,
I realized that trying to fit it into a case in landing mode was going to take
up a huge amount of space, said Rick.
At his suggestion, DJI updated the aircrafts firmware to provide a flat
transport mode so that it could travel inside a case small enough to be
checked as standard luggage on a commercial airline flight.
Here at the Roswell Flight Test Crew, GPC has long been our official
We use really high-quality foam, so it has a better ability to retain its travel sponsormaking it possible for us to conduct our outreach and
shape over time, Rick said. Lesser-quality foam tends to deteriorate training activities across the United States as well as to provide show-
over time, so your aircraft and your accessories can start flopping around floor coverage from major industry events.
inside the case. GPC has also supported other drone teams conducting humanitarian
For Beth, good design and quality materials do more than protect the and educational efforts, such as responding to the Nepal earthquake
drone. They also offer a testament to the professionalism of its user. or helping the Boys & Girls Clubs teach students about STEM (science,
We hear back from people all the time who make their living with technology, engineering, and math) subjects.
drones, and the one message we get consistently is the impression our Its really fun being part of a growing industry, said Rick. Coming out
products make on their customers, she said. Its like putting on a nice of the corporate worldwhere youre talking to robots on the other end
suit when you go to a job interview. of the phone, who are just trying to grind you down and get the lowest
If your gear is well organized, people are going to assume that you are price possibleits nice to work with people who appreciate attention to
well organized. If youre carrying everything around in plastic bags, youre detail and craftsmanship.
not making a good first impression. The most exciting thing is that were still right at the starting point of
this new industrywhere the cell phone was 25 years ago or where the
Part of the Community computer was 40 years ago. We feel extremely fortunate to be working
Having grown up in the drone community, its no surprise that GPC with the people who are developing these new products and to have
remains a part of it. The company enjoys close working relationships with them value our input. K


Ares Z-Line Crossfire

An out-of-the-box racer that gets the job done

ith an exploding first-person-view (FPV) racing
scene going on right now, it was only natural
for Ares to put its hat into the ring, and it has a
very nice offering with the ready-to-fly Crossfire
250mm class-racing quad. This bird has twill-weave, matte
carbon-fiber construction and comes with all of the FPV
equipment installed.

Model: Crossfire
Manufacturer: Ares Z-Line (
Distributor: Firelands Group (
Type: FPV racer
Size: 280mm
Weight: 19.75 oz.
Motors: 22042300Kv brushless (included)
Battery: 3-cell 2200mAh (included) + Easy to set up
Speed controls: 12-amp continuous (included) + Stable flight in all modes
Flight controller: 32-bit (included)
+ Prepainted stock canopies
Radio: 6-channel (required)
Price: $349.99 + Spare parts available

HigHligHts booms coming from each side,
This bird not only is fully which attach to one parallel boom
assembled but also comes with that has motors and landing feet
a 3S 2200mAh battery, which is at the each end. The boom braces
easy to take in and out without need to be tightened; this can be
removing the canopy. We got done once you have made sure
the preinstalled ultramicro, that all the motors are level. After
200mW 40-channel 5-band the initial check and tightening, I
video transmitter with the 720p never had to worry about them
high-resolution camera with a coming loose, and the arms were
120-degree field of view. I can say secure for all my flights. The red
from experience that the wide LED lights that are on the back of
angle and quality of the video is the center booms are bright and
right up there with all the other easy to see during the daytime.
racers that I have been flying. The The instructions detail how to
flight controller comes preloaded install your radio receiver and give
with the latest Cleanflight directions on downloading the
software and can be programmed Cleanflight open-source software
with multiple flight modes. for programming your flight
The powerful 2300Kv controller to the receiver. You
brushless motors provide a fast will need to learn how to use the
flight and are more than enough software from the website, and
power to be competitive. The there are also a number of how-to
carbon-fiber frame has two single videos for this on YouTube.

Above: The 720p high-

resolution camera
with a 120-degree
field of view is already
mounted at the most-
used angle. If you need
a little more or a little
less angle, just move
the board to the cor-
rect slot.

Left: The powerful

2300Kv brushless
motors are mounted
and ready to go. Just
install the correct
props to each motor,
and dont forget to
ensure that all the
bolts are tight.

July/August 2016 67
Notice how each connector is well marked and colored coded to allow
easy connection to each channel on the receiver. Be aware that differ-
ent receiver brands will need them plugged into different channels.

aerial recap
Once the flight controller is programmed and matched up to the receiver, it is time
to put on the props and head to a park or flying field. With the first couple of flights,
you should start out in the stabilizing mode to get the feel of the quad and then
turn it down on each flight until you have it adjusted to your flying style. I found the
Crossfire to be a very stable flier in all flight modes, and this thing is pretty quick. It is
not the fastest one out there, but its speed is competitive with many of the racers
flying at events. The FPV features work perfectly with my Fat Shark goggles and
the Ares Z-Line FPV monitor. You can fly it with or without the canopybut it does
look good in the air with it on and the weight gain is insignificant, so why not run with
it? Depending on how you set up this bird, you will find that it can be a docile flying
machine or a responsive racehorse. Overall, I really enjoyed flying the Crossfire, and
since getting it for the review, I have been having a great time with it out at my local
flying field.
The flight controller is already installed, connected to the speed con-
trols, and ready to go, as is the video transmitter.

Ares Z-Line FPV Monitor Being able to see the aerial

Another option that many people dont think of is using monitors made for FPV racing instead of goggles. Both have
image on a high-definition,
their merits, and it is really up to the pilots as to which one they prefer to use. For this review, I decided to use the Ares 7-inch monitor allows the pilot
Z-Line FPV Monitor made just for this purpose. This 7-inch monitor has 5.8GHz diversity receivers built in along with a to see more detail.
rechargeable battery. The monitor has two antennae and a nice folding sunscreen. The first thing that I did was to snap
on the sunscreen, which provides the much-needed shade for proper viewing in the bright sunlight. Then I mounted it on
a photography light stand at the height that made it easy for me to look right into it while I was sitting. There are various
buttons on the screen for making adjustments to the band and channel selections (even a scan mode). Once I had my
channel locked in, I adjusted the brightness and contrast for the lighting conditions. I have to say that it was easy to see
the screen even sitting out in the sun, but I was fortunate enough to sit in the shade, which made it even easier to see
the screen. Coming from always using goggles, I had no problem flying with the monitor, and there were even a couple of
advantages. First, I did not need to remove my glasses to race (which I have to with goggles); there was also no weight
resting on my head from the goggles. Second, I was able to look up and land my quad by line of sight, which, for me, was
much easier and made for less wear and tear on my quad. If you get a chance to try out a monitor, go for it. Even if you
dont prefer to fly with it, you can leave it on for spectators to enjoy.

Bottom line What is there to say? You have a racing quad that has an attractive price point, comes ready to fly, and only
needs a little time for setup. This is the perfect quad for the newbie racing pilot who wants to get in the air
right away and start flying with his buddies on the weekend. K

Available as an ARF, $259
or as a complete Bind-N-Fly, $459.

With its all carbon 250-class

airframe the KMR 250 can be
set up as a first time FPV ship
or a World Class racer.
All Carbon Airframe Onboard Voltage Tester
NAZE 32 flight controller Onboard lost model alarm
20 Amp Opto ESCs Many Filtered power ports
Twister 2204-2300 motors 3 or 4S Battery Input
700 line fast CCD camera Front and rear LEDs
Onboard 5V/3amp BEC Lost model alarm

Winner of the Prestigious

Seff Best New Product Award


Atlanta Hobby has provided beginners and world champions
with the best RC and hobby products at the lowest prices since 1978.

Elanview Cicada
A high-quality camera drone that wont break the bank

o youve been wanting to get a first-person-view (FPV)
quadcopter but have been put off by the complexity
or high cost? Well, the new Cicada by Elanview might
be just the thing for you. This feature-packed compact
camera drone will have even a novice shooting HD videos and
stills in no time.

HIGHLIGHTS provided by four brushless motors and

The Cicada comes packed in a sturdy 4-inch downward-facing propellers,
box that has a compartmentalized whose tips are protected by small
foam insert that keeps everything removable bumpers (although there is
well protected and easy to transport. really no need to ever remove them).
Included are two hard-cased LiPo Using the controller app is intuitive
batteries, an AC charger, three sets and has several user-adjustable
of spare propellers, a few spare prop settings. You can choose between
screws, a screwdriver, and (of course) outdoor and indoor use, which
instructions. It comes fully assembled, basically enables or inhibits GPS and
and the only thing required to get return-to-home capability. When
airborne is to charge the batteries, ying, the phones screen becomes
download and install the Elanview app the camera monitor, and the ight
to your Android or iOS device, and link controls, various input menus, and
it to the Cicadas Wi-Fi signal. displays are discreetly superimposed
Isolated from chassis vibrations on-screen. At the bottom of the
by foam and rubber grommets is a screen, there is a slide button to bring
simple but stylish body that houses the Cicadas motors to a low-speed
the camera, battery, three-axis gyro, idle, readying it for ight. This same
barometer, GPS sensor, and micro SD slide also acts as an emergency motor
memory card slot for recording. cuto in ight if things should get
Thrust for this 170mm quad is out of hand.

The Cicadas f/2.8 camera does a great job under less-than-

perfect lighting conditions, such as this uorescent no-ash
The camera on the Cicada is a Sony
indoor shot. The phones screen is in the decluttered ight display,
showing just the basic info needed for ight. 1/2.3-inch sensor, featuring a 169-degree
f/2.8 lens. It has 15 degrees of manual
vertical adjustment to fine-tune your viewing
angle. To take pictures or video, you need to
insert a micro SD memory card in the slot on
the side of the main body. This also allows
you to save images and videos as well as
download them to your phone (even while
flying) to easily share them on the web.
There are three modes to choose from:
1080p HD video, 16MP single still, or 10MP
burst, which shoots 10 stills in short
successiongreat for capturing action
Image quality is excellenteven under
low-light conditionsand there are no parts
of the airframe in the shot.

Model: Cicada
Manufacturer: Elanview (
Distributor: Hobbico (
Type: Sport FPV
Size: 170mm
Weight: 8.3 oz.
Motors: Brushless (included)
Battery: 7.4V/1000mAh LiPo (two included)
Speed controls: Factory installed
Flight controller: Factory installed
Radio: Android or iOS device (not included)
Price: $199.98

+ Light but sturdy airframe
+ Long flight time
+ Easy-to-use interface
+ Great image quality in both video and
photo mode

The 16Mpx f/2.8 camera is mounted on a manually tiltable head,

which allows adjustment of the lens so that you can get that perfect
camera angle in ight. The main body of the Cicada is mounted via
rubber and foam, which ensures a vibration-free image.
Battery access is via the rear hatch on the Cicada. The hard-shelled
LiPo automatically makes the connection once in place. Removal is
made easy with the help of the clear pull tab. aerial recap
My first flight was outdoors at a local field with plenty of room. After performing
the quick calibration steps (recommended prior to every flight), I brought it to a
waist-high hover and found that the GPS kept it nice and steady despite a bit of a
breeze. Once I got the feel of the controls, I flew around using FPV, made easy by
Control-Input Methods the clear camera image. I tested the return to home, and it came quite close to the
There are three control modes to choose from. The
launch point; the auto-land performed just as well, bringing it down to a safe landing
default (and my favorite) is Key Pad mode, which has
arrows that you press for all inputs; release the arrow,
every time. Gusty conditions sometimes caused the Cicada to bounce a bit during
and the model stops. Stick mode mimics a standard RC landing because the barometer couldnt get a steady reading in ground effect, but
controller; you slide virtual sticks in whichever direction the shock-absorbing arms took it all in stride. Under calmer conditions, it set down
you want the model to move. Gravity Sensor mode uses smoothly every time.
your phones accelerometer to control fore/aft and side- I also flew the Cicada around my house, but the signal lag makes FPV a bit difficult
to-side movement, while vertical and rotational control in confined spaces. Its best if you fly it line of sight indoors, unless you have plenty of
is via arrows. room to maneuver.
There are also three sensibility settings to choose The batteries each provide a good 13-plus minutes before the low-battery
from, which are basically three modes of tilt sensitivity,
warning vibrates the phone, leaving you with plenty of time to safely return and land.
which control its directional speed. You can also select
which side of the controller is vertical/yaw and directional
input (aka mode 1 or 2).

The setup menu by Elanview is intuitive, and it takes no time at all to adjust your prefer- Its a good idea to perform the calibration procedure prior to each flight after the Cicada is
ences. Here is a shot of the mode-select screen, where you can choose between the shut down. This just makes sure that everything is set to neutral and ensures a more stable
U.S.-typical mode 2 and the Euro mode 1. flight. The phone prompts you through each of the steps and takes just a few seconds.

Bottom line With an easy-to-use flight-control interface, long flight time, and a great camera, the affordable Cicada just
might be the perfect gateway into the realm of FPV camera drones. Youll quickly see what all the hype is
about. K



fter mastering some of the standard
camera moves that most drone pilots
should know, you will want to move
your filming/flying up to the next
level. Standard moves such as the
fly-through, birds-eye view, and pullback shot will
allow you to tell your story with an aerial viewpoint
that matches your ground shots. In our Setting the
Scene feature in the May/June issue, we discussed
some basic maneuvers, and this month we will look 3
at some more advanced moves. These techniques
will require a higher level of piloting skills and camera
movements to elevate your video and storytelling.
The cool thing is that some of these maneuvers
can be done automatically with some of the newer
drones, such as the Yuneec Typhoon H and DJI
Phantom 4. You as the pilot and camera operator will
still have to know, however, when to start and stop
them at the right time to create a smooth transition
from one scene to another. Lets take a look at some
of these advanced flight techniques.


direction of
overhead drone

This is a slow and steady movement that brings the camera through
the scene, building up as it passes the main subject to reveal what lies
ahead. This can also be used to explore the scene as the drone passes
through a building or passageway to let your audience know where your
character is heading. This will require great concentration on the pilots
part because the drone will need to travel at a constant slow speed for
the video to look good. Youll need to practice, and youll have to travel
the ight path over and over again until it ows and looks smooth.
Then practice with the actor until the drone is almost dancing with your
subject through the scene. This move is similar to the y-through but at
a much slower speed, which can vary at the start or end.
An example of this would be two hikers climbing up a hill toward the
ridge. The drone starts behind them and slowly catches up as it passes
over or beside them to reveal the landscape to the audience; this gives
the viewer an idea as to what lies over that hill for the hikers. Another
use for this drone movement would be to follow an actor through an
alleyway. As he comes around the corner, he stops; the drone slowly
follows, and while maintaining the same distance and keeping the actor
in the frame, the drone/camera slowly starts to reveal what is around
that corner.


This ight move is similar to the birds-eye view, with the camera
looking straight down as the drone increases in altitude. The main
dierence is that, as the drone moves up, you kick in some yaw and start
to spin the drone/camera in a circular motion. This will give the feeling
of stress, anxiety, vertigo, or confusion to the audience. It is also a good
way to show the surrounding area with a slower movement. The speed
at which the drone rises and twists correlates to the feeling you want to
6 present to the audience.
An example of this use is the shooting of a scene where the actor
comes upon the dead body of a friend; while holding the body, he looks
to the sky and cries out. The camera drone is directly above with the
camera pointed straight down. A slow ascent begins toward the heaven
as the camera drone begins to turn. The audience will feel the loss of
life and sadness associated with it. This type of shot could be used
in a dramatic lm. Now take that same scene, with the camera drone
again directly above with the camera pointed straight down. But this
time, there is a fast ascent toward the heavens while the drone spins
quickly. Now the audience is left with the feeling of fear, terror, shock,
and confusion with that loss of life. This type of technique might be used
for a horror lm. The speed at which this maneuver is performed can
change the emotion you want to convey to the audience.

July/August 2016 75

Create this eect by ying around
your subject in a 180-degree arc, while
maintaining the cameras position
rmly on the subject. This can include
an altitude gain or descent as the
drone moves around the subject. The
multirotor does not necessarily have to
y in a circular pattern; you only need
to have the camera rotating to follow Flight path
the subject as the multirotor passes of overhead
during the yby. drone
One such use of this move is to
circle around the backside/front of the
subject to the front/backside to see
the persons expression or what he or 4 5
she is looking at. Another use is when
the drone is approaching an oncoming
subject that is traveling toward the
drone. As the person passes, the
camera does a 180-degree turn,
tracking the subject while they both
travel in opposite directions.

As you would expect from the
description, the drone will need to
y around your subject in a complete
circle. The distance relationship
between the multirotor and the
subject or point of focus can change
during the circle y-around. This
move reveals the landscape around
the subject, and depending on the
landscape, it could be a very dramatic
shot. Many of the newer drones can
perform this maneuver automatically
with Circle Me function, in which
the camera drone travels in a perfect
circle around the pilots transmitter.
Another automated program is Point
of Interest, where the pilot sets a
GPS point, pulls the drone out from
that point to the distance the pilot
wants the drone to y, and starts
Flight path
the program. The drone will then y
of overhead
around that point until the pilot enters
another command.
Imagine two people walking to the
top of a sand dune; the drone performs
a 360-degree turn around them,
showing that they are truly in the 4 5
middle of nowhere. Another example
of where you could use this maneuver
is if you tried to re-create that famous
scene in Rocky where Sylvester
Stallone runs up the stairs and starts
his dance of success with his hands
over his head. In the movie, the camera
rolled around him on a track showing
his success and happiness. In your
movie, you could do that with the drone
creating the same shot or with the
drone slightly higher to make the scene
distinctively your own.


July/August 2016 77


This ight move is a combination of a y-through and the birds-eye
view. It is performed by ying toward your subject, but as the camera 4
drone catches up to the subject, you slow the multirotor down and
slowly angle the camera down as you pass over the subject. If your
subject is active in the frame, you can even halt the forward movement
of the multirotor to concentrate on the birds-eye view. Now the
movement of the drone can continue in many dierent directions: in a
circular fashion over the subject once the tilt down is established; up to
a higher birds-eye view; or over the top, moving the camera backward
to get a front view of the subject showing what is behind them
(basically, where the drone came from).
A typical shot where this would be used is where the drone is
following a motorcycle rider ying down the road. As the drone catches
up with the rider, the camera is panning down until the drone is directly
over them. It pauses even with the rider and you see him looking
behind. Then the camera performs a 180-degree turn as the drone
moves ahead of the rider. The drone then drops down a little as the
camera tilts up to reveal that he is being chased by a motorcycle gang.



Having a foreground subject
close to the camera while
the background is much
farther away will create a
parallax movement. Any
drone movement, such as
panning or a crane type of
upward movement, will cause
the foreground to appear as
if it is moving much faster
than the background. The
closer the camera drone is to
the foreground subject, the
more pronounced the parallax
movement would be. This
happens because the eld
of view of the close object
will travel over it faster than
it does on the background.
While this is not necessarily a
shot type, it is worth keeping
in mind when you set up
dierent shot types. The
amount of parallax movement
will also change depending
on whether you are shooting
with a wide-angle or a
telephoto lens.

Panning Speed
On all the shot types, it
is important to note that
you will need to control
the panning speed of your
gimbal; this should be
possible on many types of
multirotors. So when and
why would you change the
speed of the panning? That
depends on how close your
subject is to the drone
and how fast the drone is
traveling. For example, if 3
you are doing a close flyby
to your subject and want
to pull off a 180-degree
wraparound as you pass
by, your camera panning
speed will have to be set
to the fastest setting to
perform this in sync with
the speed of the drone.
Take that drone up to a
much higher altitude or
farther away from your
subject as it passes by and
it will take much longer to
move by the subject, even
at the same speed. As a
result, the panning speed
for the camera gimbal will
not need to be as fast. K

July/August 2016 79

Helimax Form 500

Heavy-lifting sport utility drone

elimax has plenty of multirotors made for your
flying style, whether its 3D or photography driven.
Its new Form 500 is designed to be a sport flier,
photo/video platform, or a payload lifter. Molded
plastic is the main construction material, and the Form 500
is outfitted with everything youll need to get flying.

HIGHLIGHTS balance charger makes quick work of

Since the Form 500 is a very stable charging the included battery pack,
aircraft, a beginner could operate it, and more included goodness comes
but I recommend that a new pilot in the form of a Tactic 810 transmitter,
enlist help from an experienced which comes bound to the aircraft
operator. Likewise, the assembly with all the appropriate switches
of the machine is straightforward. preprogrammed for ight. A simple
The instruction manual is short sport-camera mount is included,
but has just the right amount of and due to the payload rail system,
information and photos to go along an optional gimbal is available. The
with the steps outlined. An included bright yellow body is easy to see in
hex driver and four fasteners anchor ight, and in addition to the LED lights,
the four motor arms in the proper more orientation aid comes from
positions. All motors, speed controls, two orange visibility balls that are
and wiring come installed and attached to the two front gear legs.
connected. Multicolored LED lights, Self-tightening propellers make life
the receiver, and the ight controller easy, so be sure to follow the correct
also come wired and ready to go. A prop orientation for positive results.

Model: Form 500 + Heavy-lift-capable
Manufacturer: Helimax ( with rail system
Distributor: Hobbico ( + Multiple flight modes
Type: Utility drone and GPS lock
Size: 500mm + Transmitter has
Weight: 62.6 oz. wireless trainer
Motors: Helimax BL3726 (included)
Battery: FlightPower 3S 5000 (included) + All-inclusive package
Speed controls: Helimax 10A (included)
Flight controller: Helimax FCB (included)
Radio: Tactic TTX 810TS (included)
Price: $300.00

July/August 2016 81
A bright yellow body with cool-looking accents covers the bulk of the
airframe and electronics. Four screws hold it in place.

OrientatiOn tips
Even with perfect eyesight, aircraft orientation can have
its challenges. Sunlight, fog, air traffic, and other stimuli
can block your view at times and cause an uncomfortable
situation. Being able to quickly and easily realize your
quads direction and attitude of flight will help save
aircraft and generate better flight success. The Form 500
has two almost fluorescent spheres that attach to each
front arm. These are highly visible, and I view them as
headlights. No matter which direction the model faces,
they are easy to see, directly and peripherally. Additionally, aerial recap
the LED lighting helps as there are red and blue pairs for
front and rear identification; they are quite visible during Helimax notes that this 500-size multirotor will carry quite a payload (more than
the day but, obviously, can provide more of a presence at 2 pounds), which covers quite a few camera types and FPV packages. Perhaps you
night. Use these markers to help your orientation in flight could even rig up a beverage delivery, create a flying Halloween decoration, or have
and keep your bird flying where and how you want it to. some other fun with this capability. The included 3-cell 5000mAh LiPo battery pack
can provide flight times of up to 15 minutes, depending on the payload. Once you
power up the Tactic radio and plug in the flight pack, three flight-status LEDs let you
know when you are ready for liftoff. After arming the motors, the power available
allows the Form 500 to climb out quickly. A spring-loaded throttle makes it easy to
maintain altitude, and there are flight modes for altitude hold, GPS lock, intelligent
orientation control/headless mode, and return to home. All of these modes are
accessed with two of the radios three-position switches. During hovering tasks
and forward flight, the model was very responsive and did a good job of maintaining
position. Some dampening in the factory-set controls made for smooth transitions in
flight from fast forward back to hover and vice versa.

Right: A view of the

underside shows room
Bright and daytime-visible LED lighting will help with orientation as for large flight packs and
well as with your night flights. the two aluminum rails,
which can accommodate a
variety of accessories.

Left: The 3726 brushless

motors run smooth, are
labeled as 800Kv, and turn
the big props with ease.

Bottom line You will likely spend more time waiting for the battery to charge than assembling the Form 500. The
prefabrication level is high, so getting it in the air is easy, and having fun with this drone is even easier. K


Changes to the FAAs

UAV Policy
This spring, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made a number of exciting
changes to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) policy, which, it is hoped, will lead to easier
integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). These steps are moving toward making it
easier for companies to operate legally in the United States to do lifesaving work and bring
jobs to America.
Jeffrey Antonelli, This article will give an overview of the new changes, which include updates to the FAAs
Antonelli Law Section 333 exemption grants, the blanket certificate of authorization (COA), and commercial
UAV registration. It will also discuss recommendations made by the Micro UAS Advisory and
With a legal
background in Rulemaking Committees (ARC), which might be integrated by the end of 2016.
corporate outside
counsel, civil litigation,
insurance defense, More Aircraft Approvals ground level, as long as they remained ve miles from
and intellectual In March 2016, two exciting new developments were airports. The FAA has recently raised the ceiling to
property and drone/ made to the way that the FAA issues Section 333 grants. 400 feet above ground level, a move that it estimates
UAV law, Jeffrey began The rst is giving new exemption recipients approval to will reduce the number of site-specic COA requests by
flying radio-controlled operate every UAV weighing less than 55 pounds that 30 to 40 percent. This development will also help direct
aircraft several the FAA has previously approved. The most recent list, much-needed manpower to reviewing higher-risk
years ago, which published June 7, 2016, had 1,298 approved UAVs. This list requests to operate, including those within ve miles of
lead him to research
includes many of the usual suspectsall of the DJI and an airport, in a more timely fashion.
new technologies,
3D Robotics productsas well as all of the custom-built
including first-
person viewing (FPV)
UAVs that the FAA has approved, including iCam Copters Easier Commercial Registration
and drones. LLCs GT80X and seven military-grade drones built by The March/April Legal View column discussed the FAAs
Lockheed Martin. new controversial requirement that model-aircraft
In addition to allowing petitioners more exibility in hobbyists register on the FAAs website. This website has
their UAV choice, this approval will reduce the number of recently been open to commercial UAV registration. Unlike
amendment requests that the FAA receives, allowing the hobbyist registration, which is a one-time process for
agency to review new requests for exemption in a timelier model-aircraft operators, commercial UAV registration,
manner. As of the date that this article was submitted even in the online form, is aircraft-specic and requires
for publication, the FAA is approving petitions that were the model and unique serial number for each aircraft.
originally submitted in the fall of 2015more than six Additionally, the $5 fee per aircraft still applies. Registrants
months ago. While six months is a short period in the will receive a unique registration number for each UAV
grand scheme of human history, it is enough delay to registered through the online system. (This is not an
potentially strangle the nascent U.S. drone industry and N-Number, which can only be obtained through the
cause many companies to do business in other countries. traditional pen-and-paper method and requires a carbon
form and notarized signatures.)
A Higher Ceiling for the Blanket COA There are many benets of online registration, the
The second new Section 333 policy is an update to primary one being the ease and speed of registration
the COA that comes with the exemption grant. Last for multiple UAVsanother laborsaving change that the
March, the FAA began issuing blanket COAs, allowing FAA has made to limit the manpower needed to review
petitioners to operate nationwide up to 200 feet above N-Number paperwork. Owners of UAVs weighing more
than 55 pounds will still need to register their UAVs
through the pen-and-paper method.

Late-Breaking News! Micro UAS ARC Recommendations

Finally, on April 1, 2016, the Micro UAS ARC issued its
Just as we went to press, the FAA announced a new rule for commercial-use recommendations for allowing unmanned aircraft to
UAVs less than 55 pounds. It will take effect in late August 2016, and requires operate over individuals, something currently prohibited
pilots to keep their drones within visual line of sight during daylight and for commercial operators.
twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights. The new regulations also address The ARC recommended dividing UAVs into four
height and speed restrictions and other operational limits. Drone pilots must separate risk categories. The lowest level of risk,
be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS Category 1, involves a UAV weighing less than 250 grams
rating, or be supervised by someone with a certificate.Team RotorDrone (0.55 pound)approximately the weight of two sticks of
For more information, go to butterincluding payload. The ARC determined that the
level of risk of injury or death to individuals, should a UAV


The ARCs recommendations for allowing
unmanned aircraft to operate over individuals,
something currently prohibited for commercial
operators, are expected to be put
into place by the end of 2016.

of this weight operate directly over them, is low enough

that no operational restrictions beyond those proposed by
Part 107 would be necessary.
For larger UAVs, weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds,
the ARC determined that they may operate over people
if they do not exceed the impact energy threshold
an operations manual with information regarding flights
over individuals.
The full Micro UAS ARC report is available on the
FAAs website.
The ARCs recommendations are expected to be put
into place by the end of 2016. It is uncertain, however, how
specified for each category, as certified by the manu closely the FAA will follow the ARCs recommendations. For
facturer using industryconsensus test modes, and if its example, the sUAS NPRM (small UAS Notice of Proposed
operator complies with operational restrictions specific to Rulemaking), which I have discussed in previous Legal View
each category. columns, reportedly was very different than what was
Category 2 would allow operations over people as long suggested by the ARC instituted to give suggestions.
as the UAV is 20 feet above them or 10 feet laterally away.
Category 3 would allow operations over participants in Bottom Line
the operation or in closed or restrictedaccess areas I applaud the FAA for implementing policies that are
with permission of the site owner but would prohibit broader for commercial UAV operators. I have been an
operations over crowds or dense concentrations of advocate for fewer restrictions on operators for a long Disclaimer: None of this
people. Category 4 would allow operations over crowds as time, and its great to see the FAA expanding the ability article constitutes legal
long as the operator complies with industry standards and of commercial UAV operators to do business. Every day, advice. Please consult an
has a documented riskmitigation plan. I talk with companies and individuals who are excited attorney if you have legal
To qualify for a particular category, the UAV to take this industry to the next level. The FAA has not questions. Antonelli Laws
manufacturer will need to submit documentation to the kept up with industry but is taking stepsalbeit small associate attorney Amelia
FAA certifying that the product meets industry standards, onestoward making regulations that fit the needs of Niemi assisted Jeffrey
label the packaging of the UAV appropriately, and provide this industry. K Antonelli with this article.

July/August 2016 85
Asked Answered

Expert solutions to common questions by John Reid

any frame. Of course, this happens so quickly that our eyes

Why are there different frame rates for perceive that data as if it were full frames. In contrast, the
some of the screen resolutions on my progressive frames actually display a full frame (all the lines of
camera? Which frame rate should I use? data) each time that an image is displayed. In most cases, you
will see this represented as 30p or 60i. Both show 30 frames
Answer: Most cameras have the option for pilots to of data per second; 60i just does it at half a frame each time.
select not only the screen resolutionsuch as 640x480, Which is better: progressive or interlaced? Generally
1280x720, or 1920x1080but also different frame rates for progressive is regarded as the better resolution, and heres
each resolution. These can include 24, 25, 30, 60, or even up why. Lets take 30p and 60i as an example. The 30p video
to 120 frames per second (fps). But before we can talk about displays a full frame each time; the entire snapshot is displayed
frame rates, we need to know what the i and p that follow for 1/30th of a second and then the next for 1/30th of a
the capture frame rate mean. Video is nothing more that still second, and so on. If you freeze the motion, you will see a
frames shown in rapid succession; each frame has a little In most cases, you complete unbroken picture or image. With 60i, however, only
different placement of the moving object in it, so when they will want to go with half of the image is up for 1/60th of a second, which means
are delivered at, say, 30fps, the object appears to our eyes the progressive that if the motion were stopped, we would only see half the
to be moving. Now, there are two different ways to show this capture. But if you image/resolution of the frame; the second half of the image
movement per frame and that is where the i and p come in. are shooting fast- would already be gone. This type of projection/resolution can
Simply stated, the i or p after the capture rate indicates moving objects, as cause artifacts to appear in the video and tends to blur detail
whether the video is interlaced (i) or progressive (p). of moving objects because we are viewing half of one frame
is the case in many
Interlaced frames show only half of the image at a time. If, for with half of a different frame. In most cases, you will want to
example, you have 720 vertical lines of resolution, the first
sports activities,
go with the progressive capture. But if you are shooting fast-
frame will show all the odd-numbered lines from 1 to 719. The the interlaced moving objects, as is the case in many sports activities, the
second frame will show all the even-numbered lines from images give the interlaced images give the impression of less flicker or jumping
2 to 720, the next frame will again show all the odd-numbered impression of less movement between frames and may look more smooth, even
lines, the one after that the even-numbered lines, and so flicker and may if at a slightly lower resolution.
on. So you really never actually see a complete image in look more smooth. Here is where the concept of frames per second (the

When your subject is moving, you might

want to consider using interlaced video to
soften the flicker in the video.

number of frame or photos taken in one second) comes in. The Above: This image aircraft. This means that when the aircraft is flying toward the
standard frame rates used in the United States and Canada compares some of pilot, most of the flight controls will be backward.
the common video
are the NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) resolution sizes.
When I shoot and fly by myself, I prefer to fly in Pilot mode;
standards of 24p, 30p, and 60i. The rest of the world uses thats because my camera will generally be facing forward,
Below: This is just
the PAL (Phase Alternating Line) standards of 25p and 50i. A an example of some
so the nose of my aircraft is the direction that my camera is
frame rate of 24p was used for film cinema and so now, when of the many video facing. I find it much easier to follow my subject this way as all I
video is shot at 24p, it is said to have a cinema-like motion format sizes available have to do is keep the front of the multirotor facing toward my
blur, although more is required than just frame rate to make to the pilot. subject and it will be in the frame most of the time. Flying in
a true cinematic movie. The best and most often used frame this mode, however, does require you to be a confident flier. It
rate is 30p in the resolution that you prefer using (640x480; is easy to get confused when the drone is farther away, and if
1280x720; or 1920x1080, 2K, or 4K). If you like shooting sports that happens to you, there are a few things that you can do to
and action subjects that are moving at high speed, then you regain your orientation. One option is to let go of the sticks and
might want to try 60i and see how that looks. If you are looking let the aircraft hover in place, then give a slight forward bump
to output the finished piece with slow motion, shoot at 60p on the stick to see in which direction the aircraft flies. In most
or 120p if your multirotor camera allows it. cases, this will give you the answer you need
Remember, 60i and 60p are different; 60i to figure out which direction the aircraft is
takes half a frame every 1/60th of a second, facing. A second option is to hit the flight
for a total of 30 complete frames per second, mode switch back to Smart mode, then pull
and 60p takes a full frame every 1/60th of a back on the stick; the multirotor will head
second, for a total of 60 complete frames back in your direction. A third option is that
per second. you can hit the return-to-home switch and
let the drone fly back to you.
When I am flying with a designated
Whats the best flight mode cameraman who is controlling the camera
to use when I am doing gimbal, I like to fly in Smart mode. Because
when youre working with another person
videography/photography? who will be looking through the camera,
Answer: This answer might be different his movement might be in a separate
for every pilot out there. Your choices are direction than the one in which your drone
GPS Assist, also called Smart mode, and is traveling. Most of the commands from the
Angle/Attitude or Pilot mode. In Smart cameraman will be something like go left
mode, the multirotor syncs with GPS or move forward. It is much easier to do
satellites and uses the transmitter location this when youre in Smart mode because
as a point of reference for directional control. left will always be left and right will always
In this mode, it does not make a difference be right, regardless of the position of
which way the drone is facing; right and the multirotor.
left will always be that direction. In Pilot The bottom line? Try out the different
mode, however, when the pilot pushes the modes on your multirotor, and choose the
stick forward, the multirotor moves in that one that suits your flying style. K
direction relative to the front/nose of the

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