Top Drone Industry News May 1, 2017

Top drone industry news, hand-picked for you by the Skytango team with comments from Steve Flynn, Skytango’s CEO. Edition: May 1 2017.

Skytango’s popular industry news roundup is back! After intense months of development, I eventually found some time for writing. Wish us good luck on May 10th, Skytango is one of the 4 finalists at FutureScope’s startup competition.

Hot topics this week: 3DR’s funding, DJI’s latest releases, drone deliveries, drone journalism in the U.S. and drones in filming.

Drone Industry News

3DR just raised $53 million in a series D funding round led by Atlantic Bridge. The capital raised will be mainly used to boost the leading product of the company, Site Scan – a complete drone data platform for the construction and engineering industries.

UAS Weekly reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published more than 200 facility maps to streamline the commercial drone authorization process. The maps show the maximum altitudes around airports where the FAA may authorize part 107 UAS operations without additional safety analysis.

The Center for the Study of the Drone – perhaps my favorite source of information on the drone industry – published “Drone Incidents: A Survey of Legal Cases”, an in-depth study on 30 legal cases in the U.S. involving drones, that have resulted in some form of legal or disciplinary action by local authorities. This study is part of Drones at Home, a three-part study on the landscape of drone use and regulations at the local level in the United States. If you missed the first two studies, they are available for download.

Drone delivery is still a hot topic.

Singapore’s national postal service, Singpost signed a partnership agreement with Airbus Helicopters last week which aims to develop an aerial drone delivery system for urban environments in the region. Skyways is the name for this project which will kick off initial trials by early 2018. The pilot will involve transporting small packages using a drone around the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus.

Talking about deliveries, the Chinese e-commerce giant is planning to build around 150 airports aimed to be used for drone delivery. The company will target rural areas, far from cities with a high population. By doing this, has more room to test their services without the government imposing rules due to the danger of drones flying over buildings, restricted areas, and crowds.

Another topic which got lots of media attention in the last couple of weeks is drone transportation. Drone Industry Insights provides an overview of this fast-growing sector in a good recap published on DroneLife. Don’t miss their interesting industry snapshot.

Interdrone has released the first in a series of white papers examining specific vertical commercial drone markets: “5 Valuable Lessons Learned About Drones in Construction”.  The report has been produced by Christopher Korody and Colin Snow, of Skylogic Research – both top industry analysts.

Aerial data specialist Airware recently signed a global distribution agreement with Swiss drone producer senseFlyParrot’s subsidiary – to bring the survey-grade eBee Plus, an ultra light-weight fixed wing mapping drone, to its enterprise customers. Distribution partnerships are playing a big role in market expansion strategies of several key industry players.

How are the U.S. going to use drones for infrastructure management and inspections? Randy Goers of the Drone Radio Show interviews Brigham A. McCown, Chairman and Founder of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure in his latest podcast. By the way, Randy has launched a fundraising campaign for his podcast. It’s one of the most insightful resources in the industry, so please contribute to keep it alive.

Talking about podcasts, I really enjoyed Ian Smith‘s new quarterly Drone Industry Review on his Podcast. Great effort to recap what happened in the industry in Q1 2017. You can listen to the podcast, or even check Ian’s transcript and move straight to the topics of interest. Thanks Christopher Korody for mentioning this great resource.

Industry Stat

In January of this year, the FAA announced that the number of drone pilots in the U.S. was just under the 20,500 mark. In April that figure grew to over 32,000, reported Gary Mortimer on SUAS News.

New Drone Products/Ideas

I’m seriously impressed by how prolific DJI is.

The Chinese drone giant has been extremely active in the last period, announcing major releases in a short span of time. While waiting for DJI’s mystery event in late May – according to TechCrunch, they could reveal the little Spark – I’m going to recap on DJI’s announcements in the last couple of weeks:

  • the Ronin 2 – upgraded and updated version of the stabilizer for professional filmmakers
  • the Cendence – a new, highly customizable remote controller capable of streaming broadcast quality signals
  • the Trackenna, directional array antenna able to boost signal transmission to over 6.2 miles
  • the DJI Goggles – I read with interest the Digital Circuit’s review of these glasses – and the world’s first integrated 100-Megapixel aerial platform, which includes a DJI M600 Pro drone and a Hasselblad H6D-100c camera.
  • the Phantom 4 Advanced – the latest addition to the Phantom family. The Phantom 4 Advanced offers similar capabilities and benefits to last year’s Phantom 4 Pro, with a price cut. The upgrades to the original 4 model include a new camera, with a 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor that can shoot 4K video at 60 fps, a variety of automatic flight modes and improved internal storage and battery life amongst others.

The Phantom 4 Advanced was announced just a few days after Yuneec had launched a new live streaming feature for it’s Breeze camera drone which will allow users to live stream on Facebook and YouTube with RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol) compatibility. Fliers will be able to stream live in 720p HD video which is controlled by the Breeze app for iOS and Android users.

Talking about live streaming, 360 Designs have revealed a new drone which carries the company’s 6k 360 VR video camera, will have the capability to live stream from the DJI Matrice 600 PRO. Users will be able to access live 360 degree video broadcasts from the sky in the not too distant future!

From Japan, the TLC giant NTT Docomo has launched a spherical drone display – an unmanned aerial vehicle that displays LED images on an omnidirectional spherical screen while in flight. I see great potential for entertainment and advertising.

Drone Journalism

Are you planning to become a drone journalist in U.S.? Here is a neat introduction on how to fly drones for journalism, published on Medium by Will McDonald of the Yakima Herald-Republic (and Part 107-Licensed Remote Pilot).

Looking for tips on what drones you should use for drone journalism? Check the drone configuration used by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which have 40 drone journalists operating in the U.S., directly from the voice of Jeff Rose, UAS Chief Pilot of Sinclair.

Last week I listened to an interesting radio talk on St. Louis Public Radio with David Carson, a photojournalist with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (which recently incorporated drone-journalism) and Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), on the ethics of drone journalism. 22 minutes well spent.

Aerial Filming & Photography

Have you checked our latest articles on the Skytango blog? We interviewed 3 great aerial filmmakers.

We sat down with Laure Muller Feuga, director of Snowglobe: Ascend To The Source (winner of the 2016 Blue2Blue Drone Film Festival), a short magical story of a man’s journey through the mountain waters for a child’s toy.

Nestoras Kechagias and Athanasia Lykoudi, Skytango members, talk about the making of Digitized, their title sequence video winner of the Promotional Category in the 2016 Flying Robot International Film Festival in San Francisco, an excellent example of aerial content and graphic integration.

We also launched a new series of posts dedicated to great aerial showreels.

The first in this series is Danny Cooke.  Danny is the creator of a stunning showreel showcasing a rare aerial view of Pripyat, the city evacuated shortly after the Chernobyl disaster.


Drones were used this week in a widespread Search & Rescue mission at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, U.S., in an attempt to find two hikers who went missing in the national park. The Grand Canyon is the only national park in the U.S. with its own fleet of unmanned aircraft for locating people. It currently has five drones and four certified operators, reports Astrid Galvan of Associated Press. Drones dramatically increase the ability to keep the search operators safe, in the words of Grand Canyon chief ranger Matt Vandzura.

If you want to get an idea of the potential of drones for good, check the finalists and the winners of the UAE Drones For Good Award – probably the best competition dedicated to transforming innovative drone technologies into practical, realizable solutions for improving people’s lives.

Drone Events

May 6, 2017 is the third International Drone Day, with over 150 simultaneous events happening around the world. We interviewed David and Sarah O’Neal, who launched this event 3 years ago.

Upcoming B2B events:

Drone Film/Photo Festivals

Now open for submissions:

Video of the Week

A few months ago we wrote about Intel breaking their own world record by flying 500 drones simultaneously for ‘Drone 500’. At this year’s Coachella Festival, those same drones (Intel’s Shooting Stars) were used in a sky show at the festival, and with stunning results! See the drones in action for yourself here.

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