Top Drone Industry News 29 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 29 2017. 

I enjoyed a few warm days of spring here in Minneapolis. Any fellow drone pilots nearby who want to connect? Just get in touch, or come and meet me at Drone Focus Conference in Fargo, North Dakota (USA) this week, where I’ve been invited to speak.

It’s really an exciting event! If you are planning to visit, use our coupon code FriendsOfSkytango to get $50 off your event ticket!

Hot topics this week: US New Proposal, DJI Spark, India Drone Industry, Tethered, Fines. This news roundup is supported by Drone Industry Insights.

Drone Laws & Regulations

The big news this week regarding regulation – at least for the U.S. drone industry – comes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie Savage, Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

In his article published a few days ago he reveals a 10-page draft and summary of legislation circulated in Congress and proposed by President Trump’s administration, which would give the federal government powers to track, hack, seize and destroy any type of drone and any data on the drone, without a warrant if the drone poses a security threat to an area designated for special protection over domestic soil.

This is raising eyebrows among aviation and drone industry experts. Some initial comments can be found in Sally French’s article on MarketWatch, and Christopher Korody offers a thorough review in his latest newsletter.

Adding an extra layer of complexity as well as elements of concern in the U.S. drone regulatory environment, Senator Dianne Feinstein has proposed the “Drone Federalism Act of 2017.

As Miriam McNabb reports in Dronelife, this Act would limit the scope of FAA’s preemption for drone regulations and provide states with rights to enact drone laws and issue restrictions on the time, manner, and place of civil drone operations. The Act also says that drones could not fly over private property without the permission of the property owner.

In the meantime, the Texas Senate has passed a law to forbid drones flying over stadiums and jails.

DroneU (great new website, by the way) interviewed John Taylor, who was the plaintiff in the Taylor vs FAA case which last week stirred the U.S. drone industry, following the Court of Appeal’s ruling against the FAA which removed the drone registration requirements for hobbyist pilots.

Last week I talked about the new drone registration rules just promoted by the Chinese Aviation Authority with the idea of providing better control and safety and boosting the commercial market. This week, I’d like to dedicate some space to another superpower, India.

I read an article in Business World on how a strict regulatory environment and lack of definitive laws are negatively affecting the growth of the Indian drone industry. Indian analysts and industry players all wish for a regulatory change which would allow a much faster growth.

The market for manufacturing civil drones in India is under $100 million, growing at a CAGR of around 21 per cent today compared to the US where it is over $1.5 billion, which means that there is huge growth potential in India,” says T.V. Mohandas Pai, one of the most influential Indian businessmen, and ex-member of the Board of Directors of the giant Infosys – which is heavily investing in drones.

Drone Industry News

Quite a few drone-related investment rounds were closed or announced this week.

The Israeli-Canadian startup SkyX Systems, that has developed a self-charging drone for use in the monitoring of long-range assets like oil and gas pipelines, has raised $5 million in VC funding from Chinese investment firm Kuang-Chi.

Lora Kolodny on TechCrunch reports that Echodyne Corp has raised $29Million in series B led by New Enterprise Associates to bring ‘radar vision’ to drones and self-driving cars. The new round of funding brings Echodyne’s total capital raised to $44 million.

The series B funding will be used for R&D, increasing production capacity to thousands of radars per year and developing software that works with their radars. Echodyne’s radar system is compact and lightweight enough to be flown onboard commercial drones. Here is a comparison of their radar vs LiDAR and convention radar systems.

American Robotics, a drone developer specializing in agricultural automation, has raised $1.1 million in seed funding, in a round led by angel investors and Brain Robotics Capital LLC, a fund focused on science-backed companies in the AI, Robotics, and IoT industries. The company develops drone technology to automate flights of drones in agriculture. More on this in an article by Frank Viluan on Xconomy.

Happy to hear that our friends and partners at DroneSar have become the first client of the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) in Ireland. ESA BIC is a network of incubators in Europe which help start-ups use space technology to solve challenges on earth.

DroneSar develops unique software for emergency response teams involved in search and rescue operations, and have recently partnered with DJI. They received  €50,000 in funding as part of the investment.

On the partnerships side, Alta Devices and PowerOasis Ltd have partnered to develop integrated solar and lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery power systems for UAVs.

A nice piece by Jeremiah Karpowicz on Commercial UAV News shows the potential of drones in construction projects. He interviews Ravintheran Kugananthan, Project Engineer – Tunnels and Platform at Laing O’Rourke, engineering enterprise working on one the largest construction projects in Europe, a new railway which will open through central London in 2018.

My usual picks of DJI news this week.

DJI offers Dronelife some more info into their controversial decision to tie their drones functionality to an activation process required with the latest firmware update. Once updated, some drone functionalities could be restricted (ex. flight altitude) or disabled (ex. live camera streaming) if your drone is flying in an area where it shouldn’t fly.

DJI has experienced sales decline in China following last week’s introduction by the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority of stricter rules which now require registration for all civil drones weighing more than 250 grams, but it’s not planning to leave their home market, reports South China Morning Post.

Drone Technologies, New Products & Ideas

Other DJI-related news: DJI Spark is the king in this news section this week. I read Lisa Eadicicco’s review on Time, Petapixel’s review,sUAS News’ article and WeTalkUAV’s faqs on this new amazing entry-level drone which integrates gesture recognition and obstacle avoidance technology for only $499. Sally French offers a good comparison between Spark and Mavic if you are wondering which you should buy.

2 interesting tethering systems have been announced this week.

The first – the T1 Tether System, a direct power supply system for prosumer drones – comes from the Chinese MMC, as sUAS News writes. The second – FUSE, a tethering system designed for DJI Inspire drones – comes from tethered drone manufacturer Drone Aviation Holding Corp. (DAC), as Unmanned Aerial writes.

Last week, I mentioned an MIT-developed drone technology able to frame the perfect shot while avoiding objects. This week I read that MIT is also working on algorithms to tackle the challenge of avoiding obstacles at high speeds.

At present, there’s a limit to how fast autonomous vehicles can fly while safely avoiding obstacles, due to technical limitations in image processing speed. The algorithm developed by MIT allows the camera to simplify the scene to its most essential visual elements, which potentially enables the development of faster drones.

3DR is back in the news. After releasing an all-new version of their web application, Site Scan Manager last week, this week 3DR launched Perimeter Scan, a brand new flight mode for architecture, engineering and construction professionals, which allows the capture of vertical and oblique structures and façades with autonomous drone flights.

The Netherlands-based drone company Atmos UAV, a Delft University of Technology spin-off, has launched Marlyn, a lightweight drone specifically built for mapping jobs, able to fly automatically, effortlessly and at high wind speeds.

Can you imagine a drone able to carry a 1-ton payload?, China’s giant online retailer, announced plans to develop a drone aircraft capable of carrying a ton or more for long-distance deliveries. The 350 million customers company, which has been testing drones for deliveries since last year, would use drones to expand to rural areas where distances and delivery costs rise.

From drones able to carry a ton to mini drones: Sally French did a nice review of Flybrix Lego mini drones, which she describes as a great pack to learn flying!

Industry Stat Of The Week

$200,000 and €8,000!

$200,000 – that was the fine the Chicago-based aerial filming company SkyPan settled for in January 2017 and agreed to pay to the FAA, after flying illegally several times between 2012 and 2014 in dense, urban environments and in congested airspace over Chicago and New York City (originally, the FAA had proposed an eyebrow-raising $1.9 million fine).

The reason I’m bringing this up now is because I’m wondering how much the FAA will propose fining the vlogger, Casey Neistat, who this week announced in one of this video (at 1’38”) that he is under FAA investigation for his flights conducted in New York.

Neistat’s videos often feature drone footage from high above roads, freeways, buildings, and large groups of people (here are some examples reported by DroningOn). They also feature flying at high altitudes (above 400ft), beyond line of sight, in close proximity to or flying in no-fly zones and Controlled Traffic Regions.

The FAA investigation? About time. A large YouTube following is not a license to behave recklessly.

€8,000 –  that’s the likely amount of the settlement the superstar violinist André Rieu agreed to pay a few days ago to the Dutch Civil Aviation Authority, after a lengthy investigation by aviation police, reports Laurens Schellen in the Dutch newspaper De Limburger (thanks DroneWatch for the shoutout).

Rieu, one of the world’s most successful touring musicians, and his production team had their drone confiscated by police after filming for the famous 2016 concert in Maastricht. They were flying above the city center (which is forbidden by current NL drone regulation), at night, in a CTR zone (Maastricht has a busy regional airport), in close proximity to the 12,000 people attending the concert, and without a permit.

Drone Journalism

The new proposed rules in the U.S. I mentioned earlier in the Newsletter, as highlighted by Maya Kosoff on Vanity Fair, “would also ostensibly not make exceptions for drone journalism—recording via drone—allowing police officers to shoot down reporters’ drones, alongside drones perceived as terrorist threats or invasions of privacy“.

News University, a Poynter Institute e-learning project, is offering a free “Drone Journalism School Webinar”, which will be broadcast at 2 p.m. EDT on June 14. Participants will learn the fundamentals of the FAA Part 107 drone pilot test, the evolution of drone laws, the value of drones beyond covering breaking news, and new drone uses from around the world.

Moving to another continent –  Irene Wangui, an Africa program consultant at the International Center for Journalists, provides on IJNet a good recap of the latest workshop from Code for Africa on drone journalism in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The article offers some good tips to drone journalists: plan ahead, get a good fixer, invest in drone capabilities beyond aerial imagery, and take photos on the ground to supplement the drone images.

Aerial Filming & Photography

An article on AFR offers a peek on the making of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, which the aerial filming company XM2 was involved with.


Canadian-based GlobalMedic’s RescUAV team, in partnership with Aeryon Labs, helped 4000 people return home after a fatal landslide in Colombia. GlobalMedic’s team was equipped with a generator, two Aeryon SkyRanger (UAVs), a laptop, and Pix4Dmapper Pro to face the challenge of operating in a disaster zone with difficult terrain and limited power and data access.

The environmental non-profit Lindbergh Foundation and the deep learning neural network software company Neurala have joined forces to combine drones and AI to stop poaching in Africa. Neurala‘s deep learning neural network AI will boost the capabilities of the drones used in the anti-poaching Air Shepherd program. Neurala taught its technology what elephants, rhinos and poachers look like, so it can accurately pinpoint and mark them in the video.

Speaking of animals –  researchers at Duke University and SAS developed an interactive software that can read digital images of animal footprints, captured via smartphone or even drones, and accurately identify species, age and sex of the animal that made the tracks. The software is really important for wildlife conservation researchers and scientists which can better estimate a species’ numbers, assess its movements and population dynamics, and map its distribution.

The colliding Flyability drone explored Sicilian caverns to train astronauts. The drone deliberately bumped into its surroundings to build a map of the cavern.

A team guided by Bill Allen of the University of Missouri is using drones to inspect Missouri water towers. This project is funded by the state Department of Natural Resources, with the goal of assessing whether drone inspections are effective in surveying towers to maintain the safety and viability of public drinking supplies.

ABC shows how drones can help farmers. Australian cattle farmer Cameron Nield uses a drone to muster his 10,000 Merino sheep in paddocks up to 4,000 hectares (15.4 square miles) in size.

Drone Events

Even if Xponential closed its doors a couple of weeks ago, I’m still reading articles on it. This week, on the National Robotics Education Foundation (NREF) website, I came across a visual gallery with nearly 300 fascinating photos of the expo, shot by Lucien Miller. Thanks! – it’s a lovely treat for drone enthusiasts.

The World of Drones congress in Brisbane, Australia has been officially announced by Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. World of Drones is part of a series of initiatives co-funded by the Queensland government to promote the adoption of innovative technologies, and will cover topics such as the new drone economy, safety, smart cities, emergency response, and environment and conservation. I’ve been invited to speak there – come and meet me on August 31-September 2, 2017.

Upcoming B2B events in the next 30 days. The list is getting longer and longer:

Drone Film & Photo Festivals

You are still on time to submit your aerial film to DroneUp International Film Festival 2017, an international drone film festival which takes place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in August. You can do it for FREE using our coupon code which will give 100% discount on the submission: DroneUpandSkytango.

Now open for submissions:

Video of the Week

Wild Antarctica was filmed and produced in 4K by New Zealand cinematographers Aliscia Young and Richard Sidey during several short expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula in early 2017. Very happy to read that a special UAV permit was obtained to capture the aerial perspectives. Well done!

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