Top Drone Industry News 5 June 2017 Skytango

Top drone industry news, hand-picked for you by the Skytango team with comments from Steve Flynn, Skytango’s CEO. Edition: June 5 2017. 

Drone Focus Conference is over for another year and what a great event. I not only got to spend a little time back on home ground but I also got to meet new and interesting players in the drone space and catch up with everyone else. Among the others, it was great meeting Randy Goers (Drone Radio Show), Sharon Rossmark (Women and Drones) and Espree Devora ( I’m now heading back to Dublin!

Hot topics this week: Drone Delivery, Safe2Ditch, Drone Games, Men Flying on Drones. This news roundup is supported by Drone Industry Insights.

Drone Laws & Regulations

After talking about China and India in my last newsletter, let’s move to Singapore and Japan this week.

The Straits Times reports that Singapore has joined the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Advisory Group of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation). The advisory group comprises eight countries, including the United States, France and China, as well as industry bodies like the global pilots’ association, and aims at drawing up global rules and regulations for the safe use of unmanned aircraft, including drones.

Drone delivery is a hot topic this week.

Japan plans to use delivery drones and driverless cars to boost its growth, reports The Japan Times. According to a draft of the “Japan Revitalization Strategy 2017”, a government plan detailing the country’s new growth strategy via the fourth industrial revolution, drone delivery services will start next year in mountainous regions, with the aim of introducing full-fledged, safe drone deliveries in densely populated cities in the 2020s.

Drones (and driverless vehicles, another technology identified by the Japanese government as a driver of the growth) are expected to facilitate prompt delivery services to and from remote islands as well as other places, and to significantly reduce logistic costs.

Drone Industry News

Speaking of drone deliveries, a new study from University of Washington researchers suggests last-mile drone delivery could lower the carbon footprint. According to the researchers’ analysis, drones are more efficient for pretty much anything up to a mile away.

I wonder if this is the reason why state-owned Russian banking and financial services company Sberbank is planning to deliver cash via drones?

They might find some ideas in this video showing how is already delivering via drones in China. The Huffington Post article where I found it reports that using this method, manages same day or next day delivery of 80 per cent of their orders.

On a different subject, Mark Kolakowski on Investopedia gives a good overview of the current status of the top consumer drone manufacturers.

Not surprisingly, DJI is leading the way, and their competitors Yuneec, Parrot, and GoPro are suffering from the aggressive and continuous flow of technological advancements by the Chinese giant.

While I agree with most of his comments, the title of the article (Drone Wars: Why Intel and GoPro Are Losing) puts Intel among the losers and I disagree with that. Intel has a lot more in the pipeline, and their interest in the drone sector is not limited to their investment in Yuneec  or to consumer drone manufacturing.

Indeed, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, interviewed a couple of days ago at the Code Conference, clarified that the company is definitely not making a consumer drone and that their interest is in data collection from commercial drones and in data processing.

The Wall Street Journal “Heard on the Street”  this week offers an interesting podcast with Dan Callagher, journalist author of a recent article on the pricing war in the consumer drone arena which I mentioned last week. The struggle of the companies fighting in this arena to get to profitability discussed in the podcast is also a topic of this WSJ article by Paul Davies. Thanks Christopher Korody for the shoutout!

Considering how competitive the consumer drone arena looks now for manufacturers, I don’t know how Snap will manage to succeed in it. The parent company of Snapchat has acquired the small drone manufacturer Ctrl Me Robotics for less than a million dollars. Ctrl Me Robotics was a startup developing aerial footage capture tools to movie studios. This move pushes Snap, which considers itself a “camera” company, even deeper into the hardware side.

Global Energy Transmission Corporation (GET) has raised a $2.5M seed round. The new funds will be used to develop GET’s industrial wireless power charging system and deploy wireless power networks across major cities worldwide, which could power heavy drone flights by wirelessly recharging onboard batteries for commercial parcel delivery services and other applications.

Drone games are trending this week.

Freedom Drone Sports and LuGus Studios partner to bring drones to life in a simulated video game environment. LuGus Studios is a Belgium-based video game studio developing the drone racing game ‘Liftoff’ which has around 40,000 active users.

Apple announced that its education programming iPad app, Swift Playgrounds will soon support robots and Parrot drones. The French drone maker added Playgrounds support for its Mambo, Rolling Spider, and Airborne drones.

Augmented reality technology company Edgybees has announced that its new augmented reality drone game will be available to play for DJI drone pilots using the Epson Moverio BT-300 Drone Edition smart glasses.

Now, some interesting partnerships.

Mobilicom and NextVision Stabilized Systems partner to offer a field-proven integrated high-end solution of encrypted bi-directional communication and a dual-channel EO/IR stabilized camera for commercial drone manufacturers.

Drone Complier announced that it has partnered with the Alliance for Systems Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) to support drone operations and compliance management.

Unmanned aircraft manufacturer Olaeris has signed an agreement with the Chinese government to build a manufacturing facility for its fully compliant drone.

Delair America, a Delair-Tech company, reached an agreement with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS USA) to perform a series of test flights in BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) scenarios at the Nevada Test Site.

Drone Technologies, New Products & Ideas

I read a piece on EETimes about NASA developing an interesting technology called Safe2Ditch which aims at improving emergency landing in case of UAS in-flight problems. Safe2Ditch could open the path to more commercial UAV operations over people and in close proximity to the general public, where reliability is critical.

A drone equipped with Safe2Ditch would continuously run self-diagnostics during flight to anticipate problems. If something goes wrong, Safe2Ditch is set to search its database for safe landing locations and autonomously land at the closest safe spot, with the primary goal being the safety of people, with a secondary goal being avoiding damage to the drone in the emergency landing.

Safe2Ditch - Drone technology by NASA

Safe2Ditch – Drone technology by NASA – @ EETimes

AUVSI writes that Urban Aeronautics – which is developing a family of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft known as Fancraft – and Certification Center Canada (3C) have signed an agreement to explore opportunities for Fancraft passenger drones in the Canadian market.

The Belgian-based University of Leuven (KU Leuven) have developed a new generation of fully 3D printed, high-speed, long-range drones called CargoCopters, able to transport payloads up to 5kg, achieve speeds up to 150km/h and cover distances up to 60km doubling the range and speed of conventional multi-rotor drones.

People flying on drones are another trending topic this week.

I mentioned Kitty Hawk, the company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, a few weeks ago when they unveiled their prototype. They are back in the news this week. Business Insider got a peek behind the curtain at the training program of the test pilots of this flying machine.

The match ball for the 2017 Portuguese Cup final was delivered to the referee by a man on a drone. I couldn’t find any mentions of the machine build or of the company involved in the stunt.

Another way to use drones for entertainment: residents of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia welcomed the holy month of Ramadan with a spectacular light show in the skies. 300 drones were used for the 4-minute light show which formed a celebratory message for Ramadan in Arabic.

Industry Stat Of The Week

$499 vs $1,200 this week!

$499: the just released DJI Spark has a price point of $499.

$1,200: a comparable drone would have been sold at a $1,200 price point just a year ago, says Yahoo tech expert David Pogue quoted by Rob Wile on Time. Wile writes that $499 is about half the price of DJI’s other high-end drones, and that it stands as a significant milestone in falling drone prices.

But how much of this price reduction is due to technology advancing and how much to DJI undercutting profits to clear the market of competitors?

Drone Journalism

The Northeastern’s School of Journalism offers good tips for local television stations considering buying a drone, in a piece featuring an interview with Drone Journalism Lab‘s founder Matt Waite.

The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, guided by Kathleen Bartzen Culver, is partnering with the Poynter Institute, Google News Lab, DJI Drones, the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska, and National Press Photographers Association to host a hands-on drone journalism training in Madison June 16 to 18, 2017.

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.

Aerial Filming & Photography

I have been featured on Fipp. Journalist Jon Watkins interviewed me on the relationships between drone footage and the media industry, how the technology is developing and what are the main concerns for publishers in terms of responsibility and compliance of the footage they are acquiring and going to use.

Even if you are into tourism and travel marketing, there are reasons why you might decide not to use drones – this is a well-researched reading by travel bloggers Omo and Eulanda.

I also read an interesting interview with TheBlackDrone, one of the leading aerial cinematographers in Germany, by Zacc Dukowitz of UAVCoach.


Back to drone deliveries. Oliver Evans, Head of Global Business Development at Matternet, writes about the potential of drones in delivering drug and diagnostic or blood samples and how Matternet is already operating in partnership with Swiss Post for the delivery of lab samples between two medical facilities in the city of Lugano, Switzerland.

Drones used by conservationists at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, USA enabled the discovery of new populations of a number of species listed as critically endangered, in a cliff habitat in a nature preserve considered one of the most biodiverse eco-regions of the Hawaiian archipelago.

It’s amazing how much of a game changer this is for field botanists. Discovering a population like this would usually take days of searching under life-threatening conditions, but this happened in 20 minutes,

said Merlin Edmonds, one of the conservationists and drone pilot in the research.

Intel will provide drone-assisted advanced pitch analysis at this year ICC Champions Trophy, an international cricket tournament. Prior to every game, and Intel Falcon 8 equipped with advanced imaging and spectral cameras will fly over the pitch to capture high fidelity images of the playing surface and provide teams and audience with a detailed overview of the grass health.

A drone is going to be used in Amherst County, Virginia (USA) in the Project Lifesaver program, to find and rescue people with Alzheimer’s, severe cases of autism or Down syndrome wandering away from home.

The drone is equipped with a sensor, which looks for the project life saver bracelet, and that can find a missing Alzheimer’s patient up to five miles away, reducing response time and making the SAR operation safer for first responders than a helicopter.

Drone Events

I attended and spoke at the Drone Focus Conference and it was really a great experience. I haven’t found the time to write about it but Christopher Korody offers a great analysis of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s keynote on UAS integration in the U.S. airspace as does Leah Froats on Drone360.

The Commercial UAV Expo Europe is coming soon. Jeremiah Karpowicz interviews Kay Wackwitz, CEO and Founder of Drone Industry Insights, on the European commercial drone market.

During the event, the winners of the Drone Hero Europe competition will be announced. Take a look at the 31 contestants. Quite a few innovative companies in the list.

Upcoming B2B events in the next 30 days:

Drone Film & Photo Festivals

The SkyPixel Australia From Above aerial photography contest, launched with Tourism Australia, is over. The winning photos can be seen on SkyPixel’s website. Here is the Grand Prix winner, Refreshing Places to Float, taken by Airloft:

A post shared by Airloft (@airloft) on

Dronestagram just launched the 4th edition of their popular drone photography contest, supported as usual by National Geographic. Submissions end on June 30, 2017 so hurry up!

SkyPixel also kicked off a contest, their first aerial video contest of the year. The 2017 SkyPixel Video Contest runs from June 2 to August 2, 2017. Submit your video to any of three categories: Nature, City, or Sport.

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.

Drone Film Festivals now open for submissions:

Drone Photography Contests now open for submissions:

Video of the Week

This week, I read so much about DJI and how they are crushing the competition in the consumer drone sector, that I just felt I needed to talk about other options at least in the Video of the Week section.

This really creative 2-minute video shows what you can do with some DIY skills, a GoPro, lots of creativity (plus, serious piloting skills and professional editing). Muscle-Up by Robert McIntosh was shot with the world’s smallest high-definition drone.

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