Top Drone Industry News 15 May 2017 Skytango

Top drone industry news, hand-picked for you by the Skytango team with comments from Steve Flynn, Skytango’s CEO. Edition: May 15 2017. 

Hi there, I’m just back from Bristol, where I was speaking at Dronetech Europe 2017. Great line-up and crowd! I’m getting ready for the Drone Focus Conference in Fargo, U.S. – my next speaking commitment on May 31, 2017. Hope to get to meet there with Elaine Chao, the U.S. secretary of transportation!

Top news of the week: Every Video Now Required By Law To Contain Some Drone Footage, reports the Waterford Whispers News – sorry, couldn’t resist a bit of Irish satire 🙂

(Real news, as in – not fake) hot topics this week: Parrot Refocus, UTMs, Drones are the new UFO, News from Xponential! This news roundup is supported by Drone Industry Insights.

Drone Industry News

French UAS company Parrot re-positions its consumer drones for commercial uses like surveying, mapping or agriculture.

Parrot is creating a new division dubbed Parrot Professional, building drones for the prosumer category, and soon to launch three new UAS including the Disco-Pro AG, with autonomous flight-planning software, the Bebop-Pro 3D, with aerial image capture for 3D modeling and the Bebop-Pro Thermal, with a thermal imaging camera.

Earlier this year, Parrot announced it was laying off 300 employees, about a third of its entire drone operation. Parrot’s strategic refocus follows the steps of 3DRobotics, which in March 2016 had cut jobs and moved into the commercial market, under DJI’s huge competitive pressure.

Yuneec may also be experiencing financial problems, which the USD$60 million funding from Intel doesn’t seem to have solved. reports that the company suppliers are protesting in front of the company HQ to get paidYuneec, like 3DR and Parrot, has been forced to lay off part of their staff, following a decline in sales and shrinking margins due to DJI’s price war to the bottom. Thanks to Christopher Korody and to We Talk UAV for spotting this news.

An announcement from Xponential comes from PrecisionHawk, which has opened access to its PrecisionMapper professional mapping and analytics software for free. With the software, drone operators can snap an unlimited number of photos, create maps without resolution limits, and run algorithms to analyze their data.

DJI, in the meantime, has partnered with DroneDeploy, to provide construction enterprises with an all-in-one new construction mapping software.

2 more interesting partnerships were launched this week.

Dutch UAV manufacturer Aerialtronics and RAE Systems BeNeLux, a provider of gas and radiation detection systems, have teamed up to develop hazmat detection systems for UAVs, while the Canada-based drone manufacturer Draganfly Innovations Inc. and counter-drone company Radio Hill have partnered to develop an anti-drone patrol solution.

On the funding side, Fortem Technologies, Inc. announced the closing of a $5.5M investment round led by Signia Venture Partners and Data Collective (DCVC). Funds will be used to scale their “DroneHunter” counter-drone solution.

I read a few FAA-related articles this week.

A report published a few days ago by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) examines the reported close calls between drones and crewed aircraft. Looking at data collected by the FAA, the report findings are that, out of 1,270 apparent drone sightings, only 44 of those encounters (3.4%) were real near misses or close calls with drones.

The same percentage applies to 2016 and 2015 data. As Richard Hanson, President of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, comments: “Drones are the new UFOs. Back in the 70s and 80s, everything pilots saw was a UFO. Now everything they see is a drone”.

The May/June 2017 issue of the FAA Safety Briefing, the FAA magazine, focuses on the world of drones. It’s definitely recommended reading! You can download the whole issue in pdf or pick specific articles via the FAA Safety Briefing page.

An interesting article by Paul Cianciolo published on this issue provides a guide for law enforcement officials on how to deal with UAVs. It examines all the possible aspects to check including the registration, the safety of the operation, the pilot’s certification, the type of airspace where the operation is taking place, the location and possible TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) etc. Good reading, especially for a drone operator.

Changing topic, you are still in time to nominate a woman you think should deserve winning the 2017 Women To Watch In UAS Industry Award, organized by Women And Drones, in partnership with Drone360 Magazine and the ASCEND conference. Deadline for the applications is May 15, 2017 so hurry up!

This award celebrates women impacting the drone industry through achievements in technology, business, government relations, advocacy, research, journalism, education, agriculture. We interviewed Sharon Rossmark, founder of Women And Drones, on the genesis of Women And Drones and of the award.

We have also published a useful article for women in drones. Are you a woman working in the drone industry, or want to work in it? Here are 6 empowering actions you can take to learn, share experiences, and get inspired!

Drone Technologies/New Products & Ideas

UTMs (UAS Traffic Management Systems) are definitely a trending topic this week.

NASA and the FAA have been working on the necessary requirements for a system of air traffic control for drones. The article published in Phys – and previously in LA Times – gives a peak at how this system will likely work, providing constraint notifications and input flight information to drone operators who will have to comply.

Talking about traffic control for drones, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, and AUVSI have announced a request for information (RFI) on traffic management systems for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The plan for ICAO is to explore possible solutions for a global UTM.

The FAA also offers an article on FAA Safety Briefing proposing FAA’s current view on UTM.

Airbus Group Inc. announced at AUVSI’s Xponential the launch of a new commercial drone services start-upAirbus Aerial, which will focus on developing new imagery services leveraging data and analysis of information provided by drones, satellites, high altitude aircraft and other sources.

Airbus Aerial‘s possible areas of interventions are mentioned in an interesting article by Justin Bachman on Bloomberg, which focuses on the challenge of dealing with the huge volume of big data generated by drones.

Other news from Xponential: Parrot‘s senseFly debuted senseFly Corridor, a new platform enhancement designed to simplify the UAS mapping of linear infrastructure and sites. The senseFly Corridor, a combined hardware and software solution for eBee Plus drones, allows commercial operators to plan an automated corridor mapping mission, containing one or numerous flights.

Roboticists at Carnegie Mellon University are training drones to experience what crashing is like (and how to fly better) by having them crash 11,500 times. The researchers are developing an Artificial Intelligence able to learn lessons from the crashes, to improve its flying behaviour, patterns and reactions, reports IEEE Spectrum. Here is the researchers’ paper – in the event you are thinking of crashing your drone that many times!

A California-based startup is developing the idea of a giant drone on the scale of jumbo jets for trans-oceanic deliveries. The Natilus’ – would be capable of carrying hundreds of thousands of pounds of cargo, reports Air&Space Mag.

Neurala, a software company specialising in deep learning neural network software which allows artificial intelligence to function similarly to a human brain by integrating sight, sound and other senses into one system – has announced they have developed deep learning software capable of learning without the need for servers running in the cloud. This can be used for drones too.

Industry Stat

61 meters & 60 miles this week!

200 feet (61 meters) is the altitude AviSight has been allowed to fly up to, when flying drones over the Las Vegas Strip, reports AP. The aerial company is the first U.S. company to receive a waiver from FAA to fly in this densely populated urban environment.

Even if AviSight‘s drones are currently not allowed to fly directly above people, it’s a promising step forward for other companies willing to film in other specific urban areas, where up to now flights were not permitted.

60 miles is the maximum distance Grand Sky’s autonomous drones will be allowed to fly beyond visual line of sight for testing purposes. Grand Sky is a drone park in North Dakota, USA which just received permission from the FAA to fly drones beyond visual line of sight.

Drone Journalism

Animal rights group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness has been using drones to document activities at feedlots and a livestock research facility in Nebraska, USA.

Speaking at Newsfront, annual marketing conference in New York, USA, Fran Unsworth, director of BBC World Service Group and Deputy Director of News and Current Affairs, highlighted the efforts the British broadcaster is making to incorporate new technologies like drones and 360-degree video into journalism and storytelling.

Aerial Filming & Photography

Are you planning to shoot with drones? John Reid on Rotor Drone Magazine offers a good introduction to frames and rates.

Don’t forget that drone shots should be used wisely for your storytelling purposes. That’s what I explain in my latest guest post on Audio Network Media‘s popular blog: 10 tips on how to tell a story with drones.

We updated our list of top drone film festivals. There are less drone film festivals running in 2017 than in 2016, but the quality is getting definitely better, and the biggest festivals are attracting more and more sponsors and submissions – a sign of market maturity?


Miami drone services startup Airborne Response has launched a new program – Airborne Incident Response Team (AIRT) – to train, certify and deploy drone pilots around the globe to assist in search and rescue missions.

Madrid-based startup Drone Hopper has unveiled at Xponential designs for their heavy-duty firefighting drone. The drone should improve safety, flexibility, and efficiency in fire suppression operations. The prototype will be ready in July 2017, while market launch is expected in 2018.

Somerset County in New Jersey is the first sheriff’s office in the United States to use the Indago drone, built by Lockheed Martin specifically for search and rescue operations of people with autism, Down syndrome and dementia. The drone is equipped with electronic location equipment which allows to deploy the drones quickly and find the lost people.

Sally French on the Drone Girl writes about NASA’s plan to use drones to explore volcanoes to improve the accuracy of ashfall measurements, in partnership with Arizona-based Black Swift Technologies.

Drone Events

AUVSI’s Xponential 2017 is now over. Starting from Intel’s CEO keynote, the event has been full of news and product launches as you can read in today’s newsletter. Did you miss it? Don’t worry, read Sally French’s recap of the event or Lauren Sigfusson’s great notes on Drone360. Also, Scott Simmie on The Digital Circuit offers some Xponential eye-candy!

Patrick Egan announced on sUAS News that video presentations from the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo are now available on the sUAS News YouTube channel. Lots of interesting presentations, don’t miss them!

The Center for Geographic Analysis of Harvard University just hosted a conference on drone applications in mapping. The Harvard Gazette comments on the conference and the pioneering works of the Director of the Center, Jason Ur.

The Commercial UAV Expo Europe programme is now available. I’m speaking there, come meet me if you are attending!

Upcoming B2B events in the next 30 days. The list is getting busier and busier!

Drone Film/Photo Festivals

Now open for submissions:

Video of the Week

We talked earlier about BBC at Newsfront. I love how aerial shots are beautifully integrated into the storytelling in this great example of drone journalism video produced by BBC News.

Silvana Lima is the best female surfer in Brazil, but in an image-driven market, she wasn’t considered beautiful enough to get full sponsorship up to 2015. But to comment on the insanity of that would take a whole other newsletter!

Thanks for reading and for sharing and as ever, safe flying.