News: MultiRotors, Drones, Aerial Photography & Video

EXO440 Recon Quadcopter by Ecks MultiRotors

I haven’t posted in quite awhile and I’ve never posted a product for the sake of posting a product until now. I’d like to state that I am not being compensated in any way by Ecks Multirotor and that this is NOT a paid advertisement. I’m posting this because the new EXO 440 Recon frame caught my attention and I think it’s definitely worth a look. Cameron from Ecks is a great guy and he does some interesting and original work in the area of frame design so I always check out his Facebook Page to see what it is he’s up to at the moment.

In the past Cameron was kind enough to sell me a prototype 2-axis gimbal for my Sony NEX5R. I bothered him about it because he was the only one on the market making a gimbal out of 2 solid pieces of billet aluminum. It is a piece of artwork. That said, his work is top notch and I urge you to check out his website and vimeo page when you get a chance and contact Cameron if you have any questions about this extremely well designed frame.

Now lets get to the Multirotor at hand – the EXO440 Recon Class Quadcopter. Specifications are as follows:
440mm Lightweight Carbon Fiber Frame
DJI E300 Propulsion System with self-tightening props
Landing Gear
Antennae Holders
Foam protective bottom
Battery Straps
Flight time – up to 23 minutes

Load up your Memory Sticks, Ready your Gimbals, Charge $$$ for Work!

Federal Judge rules commercial drones are legal

Update: March 7th, 2014 – The FAA will be filing an appeal. Read the info in their link to UAS Operations as well. They have valid points and I may have sounded the celebration alarm a bit too soon.

Commercial Use of Drones is Now LEGAL!

A federal judge has ruled today that commercial drones are legal in U.S. skies, citing that the Federal Aviation Administration has not made any legally enforceable rules against such operations. Great news for us photographers/cinematographers! We can now charge for work without fear.

To be perfectly clear, this ruling applies to the hobby RC type drones you see here on this website – NOT to full sized military drones. So calm down naysayers, no one will be flying over your house in a full sized turbine aircraft tomorrow morning. That said, they may well be flying over the house your neighbor put for sale to take photos for the real estate company handling the listing.

The ruling came out of the FAA’s case against Raphael Pirker (we know him as Trappy). The FAA attempted to fine Trappy $10,000 for the conduct of his flight operations during the filming of a commercial for the University of Virginia. The case has been going on for some time and Trappy was defended by our friend and fellow local flyer, Brendan Schulman. Mr. Schulman’s main argument was based on the fact that the FAA had no enforceable regulation or rule applying to model aircraft or in classifying model aircraft as Unmanned Aircraft (UAS) according to current FAA guidelines. The full decision text is here: FAA v. Raphael Pirker.

The FAA still has the opportunity to appeal the decision – and if it does, the case will go to the Washington D.C. U.S. Court of Appeals.

My take on what this means for those of us out there that want to make some money with our lightweight flying machines: Read more

Journalist Sues CT Police Who Grounded His Drone (Phantom 2 Vision)

Issues with Drone JournalismPhoto Credit: Pedro Rivera

Every time there’s an idiot out there that does something to screw up this hobby and potentially my photography/video profession, I tend to take it personally. There was the Fool in Manhattan, another random nitwit flying over a crowd of people, and now our current journalist friend here. Thank you Mr. Pedro Rivera for bringing QuadCopters and Drone Photography into the public eye once again under a negative light.

The story goes like this: Mr. Pedro Rivera works as a freelance journalist (does that mean unemployed?) for WFSB Television in Connecticut. He was flying his little plastic toy Phantom 2 Vision over the site of a fatal accident scene; with a dead body still on site. The Hartford, CT Police Department were concerned for the victim’s privacy and in their attempt to control the accident site they asked him to stop flying in the area. Police then questioned Rivera and he was allowed to leave. He stated to police that he was not filming/photographing as a journalist for WFSB Television, but as a private citizen. Right, sure. He’s chasing accidents with a Phantom because he’s got nothing better to do with his time. I feel sorry for his family then. The only ID he had on his person was his WFSB TV ID card.

Turns out WFSB Television saw it fit to suspend Pedro Rivera for a week, while Connecticut Police investigated whether he did anything illegal. The police informed news agencies that they were concerned about officer safety as well as the possibility of the drone intruding on the victim’s privacy. Valid points – no family wants to see journalist post bodies of their dead relatives — anywhere or any time. What about public safety though guys? Rivera was flying in a populated area on a busy street with cars, pedestrians, accident victim(s), and emergency personnel running around. Not the best place to put a 2.5 lb flying white (potential) falling rock 200 feet into the air (the altitude he was allegedly flying at).
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10 Reasons Amazon Prime Air Won’t Fly

In a recent PR stunt, claimed that it would soon be making small package deliveries by way of drones. They named their new service Amazon Prime Air. If the mainstream media knew everything that would be involved in making this a practical and realistic operation, their stories and reports may have had a different spin. Then again, Amazon has enough clout to get publicity when and where they want it and, let’s face it – all you need to do is mention “drone” and they’re all over it. Drooooone… What the whole thing amounts to is a clever marketing trick to get some attention during one of the busiest shopping times of the year: Cyber Monday.

I am not knocking Amazon as a company, I think they’re great at what they do. I myself order most consumer goods from them. But I must call them out on this claim of theirs and thank them for giving me a little laugh about how gullible, ignorant, and lazy our media personnel have become. Yes, we all want to believe that drones delivering packages to us is something that will happen soon. It is a damn cool idea and we all want our hoverboards, flying cars, and everything else Hollywood Sci Fi films have promised us. But hit the brakes! Delivery via drone isn’t going to happen any time soon for Amazon or anyone else. It’ll take some time. From the perspective of someone who’s been a Commercial Pilot for over 10 years and has been flying MultiRotors for just over 2 – I present to you 10 reasons why Amazon Prime Air just won’t fly:

1. Lack of FAA regulations governing drones and their operators. Specifically, we need some regulations governing the operation of small scale aircraft (such as MultiRotors) that would be tasked with flying unsupervised in the vicinity of people and metropolitan areas. I say “need” because you can’t trust random unregulated humans with maintaining public safety if there are no guidelines to follow. Humans just wouldn’t act responsibly enough if there were no rules. See the idiot in Manhattan for more details on that.

2. Our current equipment is not airworthy for operations over populated areas. Pending creation of the aforementioned FAA regulations, operators will have to ensure their equipment meets very specific standards to carry out a flight over a populated area. Since those standards have not yet been outlined it is my educated guess that the equipment currently available will not meet such standards. Every real aircraft has an Airworthiness Certificate, and I think commercial drones undertaking delivery jobs would also require such a certificate.
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e-volo Completes Indoor Test Flight of Full Sized MultiRotor

Karlsruhe, Germany – November 17th, 2013

Great news in the world of MultiRotors! e-volo just accomplished a successful series of test flights with their new full sized two seat MultiRotor, the VC200 also known as the Volocopter. Only 2 years after their first manned MultiRotor flight with the VC1 (see video below) they have completed a more refined prototype which includes a fully covered structure and a partially enclosed two person cockpit. They expect to prepare it for production in the coming years.

Indoor testing included multiple flights totaling 20 minutes of air time at altitudes of up to 22 meters. The e-volo team claims that some battery capacity did remain after the tests. Reading through their full blog post about the flight it seems that they were all quite pleased with these initial results. They were particularly surprised by the lack of visible vibrations from the on-board HD footage that was captured. They end their release with this statement: “Nearly all problems of normal helicopters are thereby solved.”

While I am thrilled to make this news posting, I would say that while they may think they’ve solved all the problems of normal helicopters, they’re about to encounter a whole new set of problems that arise when you try to throw 2 humans in a full sized MultiRotor and expect for it to fly safely for a useful period of time. My first thought is always redundancy. Before you catch me zipping to and fro in a full sized MultiRotor, waving to hot babes on the beach – we need to discuss systems. Based on my experience with real aircraft it is my opinion that there must be the following redundant systems: power supply, thrust, flight control. In the case of MultiRotors, I believe that it is imperative that these systems each be capable of operating independent from one another to keep the copter in the air in the event of single and multiple failures.
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