The camera drone start-up, Lily Robotics, was a much talked about venture by a company who launched back in 2015. Their promotional video blew everybody’s socks off with what they made the new gadget look like it could achieve.
The camera appeared to be able to follow you wherever you went, and when pre orders were made available, millions of folks came forward to reserve one.However, after hitting some developmental snags, the company made the unexpected announcement that it was going to close for business. Not a single drone had been sold. They went on to release a statement about refunding those who had placed pre orders, but what exactly went wrong? Was the Lily camera drone a failure that had potential, or just a fantastic flop?
Lawsuits filed against the Lily camera:
On the 12th Jan – the exact same day that the company announced they were closing their doors for business – a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the people of California. The suit alleged that the company responsible for creating the Lily camera drone, produced a promotional video that was purposefully misleading and led viewers to believe that the drone had capabilities far beyond what it truly had. They also accused the company of using a GoPro camera and a manually operated drone from another company, to shoot the footage and give a false impression of the Lily drone.
Unfeasible shipping estimates and rule violations:
The promotional video was also accused of showing a company that gave its customers completely unfeasible shipping estimations, that was in violation of several rules because of this, and had no workable system in place to cope with the huge numbers of international orders that it received.
A video that went viral:
The promotional video was viewed millions of times and orders for the camera drone reflected this interest, with more than 25 million dollars raised in pre-order sales in the six weeks after the video was released in 2015.
A product that was never shipped to anyone, anywhere:
After all the hype surrounding the Lily camera drone, not even a single product was ever shipped to any customers, anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, promises were still being made to those customers that they’re much anticipated new gadget would soon arrive.
The lawsuit claimed that in fact, Lily Robotics didn’t even have a prototype of the wonder gadget with all the features that it was shown of having in the promotional video, when it was shot, and that they used prototypes for advertising purposes.
So, was the Lily camera drone a fantastic failure?
This is a tough question to give a definitive answer to. It’s clear that if the Lily camera drone could really do all the things that it claimed it could – and which were clearly shown in the promotional video – then it would have been a resounding success and not a flop. But, it seems that the drone was not capable of performing the amazing feats seen in the video, otherwise surely the product itself would have been used? Did this mean that the company had lied about what their product was capable of, or did they simply run out of funds to continue experimenting with the drone?
The answer to this is still not clear, and while Lily Robotics stated that it would refund all the pre orders as quickly as possible, why they couldn’t raise more funds from investors to continue developing the gadget, is a mystery.
Drones, as we all know by now, have a multitude of different uses of which most are positive, such as providing stunning aerial video, monitoring wildlife, delivering parcels and aid packages, and even helping to assess storm damage or find survivors, but it seems that now, they are also being used for other less commendable purposes.
From snooping on other people’s properties and their activities, to smuggling drugs over the walls of jails, it seems that criminals are now using drones to aid them in their misdemeanours.
Drones and how they are being used with criminal intent:
By spraying drones in dark colours, and covering their lights, unmanned aerial devices have been flown over the walls of prison yards at night time, to deliver packages of drugs and other contraband to criminals locked up inside.
Legislation is in place to convict those found guilty of such activities; and can carry sentences of up to 14 months depending upon the country it takes place in, but these are not the only instances of drones being used with criminal intent.
A drone forced five flights at London’s Gatwick airport in the UK to be diverted in recent months, and multiple unmanned aerial devices have been caught up in interrupting the work of the emergency services and posing a threat to wildlife.
If this is a pattern set to continue, just how will law enforcement deal with this?
Identifying criminal pilots:
This is often an impossible task; drones are relatively cheap and very easy to come by, and almost anyone can get their hands on one. Not only that, but governments and law makers are struggling to keep up with the pace of the seemingly endless erroneous uses for drones.
It turns out that more police forces now are engaging with special teams of forensic drone detectives, whose job it is to track down those responsible for flying drones with criminal intent.
So, how can criminal drone pilots be identified, particularly if only the drone is found or fragments of it if it crashed? Or what happens when the police have a potential suspect in custody, but no drone has been found?
Fingerprints and SD cards
Drones are made up many digital elements, and even the devices that control them, such as smartphones and GPS sensors, all form part of that complicated digital world. But, even if you manage to locate the smartphone that controls the drone, each device uses a different operating system, so those responsible for analysing the data will need to be up to speed with each varying system.
Devices recovered from crime scenes such as penitentiaries,can be analysed for flight log data and even DNA and fingerprints on them; the sharpness of the rotors on many drones are quite sharp, often retaining traces of skin cells.
SD cards are invaluable when found, since they may hold incriminating video evidence, and even batteries may retain fingerprints from when they were inserted.
The future of drone crime:
Unfortunately, experts believe that the possibilities for drones being used in criminal ways, is limitless, and that we are only just beginning to see the ways in which they can be used to commit such atrocities as terrorist attacks, for example. This means that identifying the pilots of these devices, is ever more vital and urgent.
With unmanned aerial devices becoming more popular and more widely available – and as technology advances – the ways in which drones may be used to commit crimes or aid in atrocities, is only going to increase.
There seems to be an unending variety of constructive uses for drones, and they continue to be one of the most remarkable inventions of modern times. Whether they’re used for military purposes – as they were initially designed for – or for humanitarian purposes, the question remains:
Hi-tech pests or hi-tech blessings from above?
Experts predict that drones will go on to continue providing us with a cheap, easy to use and vastly versatile way of being able to gather data, from perspectives that we have rarely had access to before. Should we then be excited about the future of drones, or worried that these unmanned aerial devices that seem to be able to do so much, will eventually become tech pests? Let’s take a closer look:
Benefits of drones used for humanitarian and wildlife/crop preservation purposes:
It’s clear that if drones can be used to help in emergency situations – whether aiding rescue attempts or delivering supplies and medicines to areas unreachable on foot or by helicopter – it would be nonsensical to think of them as being tech pests, particularly with their potential to help save lives.
Take wildlife preservation as another example: the RSPB in the UK have been using drones to monitor endangered birds that lay eggs or roost in remote locations, and in countries like Africa, drones have been used to help locate, track and potentially deter, wildlife poachers. Again, difficult to see how this can be anything but a positive use of UAV’s.
And in Japan, drone technology is being used to develop a UAV that can reduce the need for harmful pesticides. Drones fitted with infrared and thermal cameras shoot targeted doses of pesticides where they detect congregations of insects that cause damage to crops, limiting the exposure of the crop to the harmful chemicals.
Difficult to find any negatives associated with the use of drones in any of these scenarios, isn’t it?
Advantages of drones used for military purposes:
In warzones and military combat, drones can save lives. A drone can take the place of a member of military personnel when in a combat situation, and greatly reduce the potential for harm to human lives.
UAV’s are much cheaper to buy and run than traditional airplanes used in combat, and due to their size and ability to fly lower, the risk of damage to military hardware is significantly reduced.
Accuracy is also a significant plus side of using drones in warfare; since they can pinpoint accuracy from a far greater distance, they are able to minimise collateral damage to cicilians and infrastructure.
One other hugely beneficial aspect of a drone in a combat zone, is that it can be used to spy on the enemy and generally increase opportunities for surveillance, reconnaissance and general military intelligence.
Each of these points are hard to argue with, and referring to a piece of tech equipment that may save a soldiers’ life as simply a tech pest, is difficult to swallow. However, there are some documented cases of drones being a distinct disadvantage in military combat, as you’ll read below:
Disadvantages of drones used for military purposes:
While there can be little doubt that drones are ingenious inventions, in military circumstances, they do have their limitations, one of which is that they are unable to communicate with civilians on the ground, and cannot capture military personnel who may be surrendering.
Civilian losses are always a risk when drone warfare causes collateral damage to human lives and property, and their use has been known to be counterproductive in some regions of the world, particularly with those cultures who believe the use of drones to be a sign of weakness and of cold heartedness.
There is also the concern that with drone warfare being likened to combat style video games, ethical decisions are lessened, and their impact not assessed sufficiently.
Then there is the overwhelming concern among many, that drones will simply start removing the need for humans in many different industries and workplaces, and while this may be true in some cases, humans will always be needed to oversee them, and drones of course, need qualified and skilled operators.
This month, DJI released a new 6K camera with the same-sized sensor as an Arri Alexa Mini (super35) that fits exclusively on their drone the “Inspire 2.” The specs on this thing are insane for a proprietary drone camera and is complimented by a new set of lightweight, high-quality lenses they’ve designed.
We’ve had the opportunity to have had the X7 early to really get down and dirty with it and we’re frankly stunned with the image quality and aesthetic it produces. Senior colorist Stephan Nakamura (Kill Bill, Fight Club, Pirates of the Caribbean), who works at one of Hollywood’s most premiere color studios Company 3, has said that, “I can’t even tell the difference between that [the X7] and the other cameras that we used for the movie in general which is amazing for a drone camera.”
Don’t just take our word for it, take a look at a short video we put together showcasing some footage we recently shot of it (watch in 4k):
Capturing wildlife shots can be breathtaking and inspirational, whether you’re doing so for personal use or as a professional, but you must still follow the guidelines set out by the FAA to avoid the risk of incurring penalties.
Here are a few pointers, tips and guidelines to ensure that when you’re flying a drone near wildlife – whether with the intention of photographing or filming them, or simply just going near them in passing – that you don’t get into trouble with the authorities, or pose a threat to humans, birds or animals.
Take the time to find out where you can and cannot fly your drone:
Recreational or professional drone use
Drones may be flown by members of the public for recreational purposes, or by individuals for professional purposes, only when in accordance with FAA model aircraft laws.
Fly below 400 feet
Drones can only be flown below a height of 400 feet, and you must watch out for surrounding obstacles.
Watch out for designated wilderness areas
Drones are technically classed as ‘motorized equipment’ and ‘mechanical transport’ and cannot take off, land or be operated from areas that have been legally defined as ‘wilderness areas’. Please check with your state or federal authorities if you’re unsure about the area that you plan to fly your drone in and around.
Areas that have had ‘temporary flight restrictions’ or TFR’s placed upon them, are out of bounds for drones. You can always check with the FAA for up to date information about TFR’s.
Keeping wildlife and wild areas safe from harm:
Wilderness or ‘primitive’ areas are usually out of bounds for drone operators, especially as they are often places in which the public seek peace, quiet and solitude.
Keep a safe distance from wildlife
It may seem obvious, but it can be easy to get carried away when flying a drone and forget how invasive they can be, particularly to wildlife. Flying a drone close to birds or animals can distress them at the very least, and in some cases, the shock can lead to death.
If you are caught intentionally causing distress to wildlife with a drone, such as by flying close to animals when they’re rearing their young to gain footage or images, you get into a lot of trouble with the FAA and local authorities, not to mention local wildlife conservationists.
There are state regulations in place that limit the use of drones to detect wildlife or fish, and you must never go near animals or birds from a vertical position with a drone.
Operating a drone safely when near wildlife:
Always keep your drone within your line of vision, and if you see that you’re flying close to birds or animals, react swiftly, but safely.
Learn to fly
While many people think that drones are easy to fly and can be operated by anyone, it’s always worth taking a few lessons to learn how to fly one correctly, especially if you want to avoid making mistakes that have the potential to be harmful to wildlife or even humans.
Whether you’re flying a drone for recreational purposes, or for professional reasons, you must always stay at least 5 miles away from airports and runways. Failure to comply with this rule could see you facing a stiff penalty.
Respect certain areas
If the wildlife that you are attempting to track, film or photograph are close to, or directly within a noise sensitive area like a trail head, campground or visitor centre, then you must be respectful and avoid flying your drone there.
Whatever you are filming and wherever you are flying, you must obey privacy laws, and if you’re uncertain about whether you can operate your drone in a certain area, it’s best to err on the side of caution and stay well away.
Never forget that the FAA have authority over all airspace, and whether filming wildlife or simply flying your drone for fun, you must always comply strictly with their regulations and guidance.
For those of you who are new to the world of drones…where have you been?! Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have taken oven the recreational world and are already being used in many industries, such as e-commerce, real estate and movie making to name but a few.
Drones come in many different designs, sizes and with varying technological features, and if you’re looking to purchase one for yourself, a lot will obviously depend on your budget. Some of the major features of drones that will affect their price, are such things as camera specs, social media compatibility and in-built tech like processors and storage. One feature that is important to a drone though, is GPS compatibility. Most drones at the top end of the budget scale, have GPS compatibility, while those at the lower end, do not.
So, is it worth paying extra for this feature? Here, we look at how important it is that a drone be compatible with GPS:
What will you be using your drone for?
If you’re going to be flying your drone only at home or perhaps at the office, then the chances of it crashing or flying away are greatly reduced, making the need for GPS compatibility, equally reduced. However, if you’re going to be flying your drone in public places or taking it on vacation with you, then this feature becomes vastly more important.
To help you decide if GPS is going to be important in the drone that you want to buy, listed below are some of the features of GPS connected drones:
Some features of GPS enabled drones:
This feature is increasingly being used in the smaller drones, and gives them the ability to be able to hover above the ground in one place. If you were to fly your drone and have it hover seven feet above the ground, it would hold that altitude and location even when you’re not holding on to the control.
This feature is particularly handy for novices who may begin flying their drone, and then suddenly realise that they don’t know what they want it to do next, where they want it to go, or how to avoid an upcoming obstacle.
Return to home
Common in mid-range drones, this feature enables drones to return to the point from which it took off in case of an emergency, should you lose the signal, or its battery level is dangerously low.
This feature is usually enabled at the touch of a button, which can be reassuring for novices.
An autonomous flight is possible when GPS locations are established on your computer or hand-held device, and then when you say ‘go’, the drone flies off on a predetermined route without you even needing to touch the controls.
Newer and higher priced drones come with ‘safe flight technology’, which allows drone operators to appoint areas where they don’t want their drone to fly, and this can (and should) include airports and other restricted air spaces, which can get you into a whole lot of trouble!
So, in conclusion, you can see from the features above that having a GPS enabled drone is of great advantage, particularly to novice operators, but of course your budget may restrict you as to how many of these features your new drone might possess.
Drones are often the subject of negative PR in the news, but despite this, some major news organizations are in fact responsible for helping to promote drones and are encouraging the industry to grow. Below are just a few of the ways in which this has happened:
Flying over heads Major news organization, CNN, was the first company to receive a waiver to be able to fly over people, and they did so by working closely with the FAA and their Pathfinder Program.A lot of hard work and effort went into achieving this, and CNN have paved the way for other news organizations to receive their own 107.39 waivers, meaning that the future for drones used by journalists within broadcasting, is getting brighter all the time.
The good stuff The drone industry is an ever growing and fast paced one, and news organizations know and appreciate the fact that they are often responsible for the way in which the public view drones and the activities they are used for. In giving coverage of drone stories, such as when they are used in search and rescue attempts or to help monitor and preserve wildlife, news organizations are helping to promote them as playing a positive role in our lives.
Birds eye views Helicopters used to be the only way that news organizations could bring aerial news footage to viewers, and as this was a costly and time-consuming affair, it happened rarely. Nowadays, with the increased availability and relative ease of use of drones – not to mention the lower costs involved – aerial shots can be televised far more frequently, and the public get a much better perspective of news stories and events.
Disaster relief It was probably hurricane Harvey that first highlighted how useful drones can be in disaster scenarios, but news organizations have in fact been using them to cover disasters for some time. Drones can get right in to the heart of disaster zones and provide up to date images with no risk to human life, not to mention helping to share information with local authorities and rescue teams.
Drone ambassadors As mentioned under the first heading, news organizations are often responsible for changing perceptions about the use of drones in our everyday lives, and for helping to pave the way for government agencies and organizations the world over, to normalize the use of drones and create policies for their safe usage.Some news organizations have been given permission to fly drones in areas that otherwise wouldn’t be permitted, and when they do this responsibly, they set a precedent for other companies and organizations to be granted similar permissions.
There can be no question that drones are here to stay, and when major news organizations promote their effectiveness in certain situations, their use will only increase, and provided the FAA continue to be satisfied with how their limitations are being respected, the sky is quite literally the limit for drones.
Drones. Tiny flying devices that zip around the skies controlled by a human holding a remote control. For many, drones are simply toys, and flying them is nothing more than a hobby or pastime, while others use them for legitimate purposes such as photography or recording videos. They don’t sound particularly dangerous, but could they have the potential to cause serious accidents such as an air disaster?
One recent incident in the UK certainly gave cause for concern, when a drone crashed into an Airbus 320 that was approaching Heathrow airport. Thankfully the plane went on to land successfully and no major damage was recorded, but could this be a worrying sign of things to come?
How many incidents have been recorded of drones interfering with aircraft?
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK, state that to date there have been many incidents involving drones at UK airports, some of them having been classed as near miss scenarios, and the threat is in no way limited to British skies.
The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) reports that they receive a minimum of 100 reports of drone incidents at airports or in registered airspace each month. One such report involved a drone that was seen flying over Los Angeles airport at the same altitude that aircraft fly when in a holding pattern. The potential for an accident there is obvious to anyone.
Istanbul airport is the fifth busiest in the entire world, and a drone was recently spotted flying overhead despite the protection zones that are in place to prevent remote controlled crafts from being able to enter.
Drones have also been recorded flying onto the lawn of the White House, and in France, French authorities reported numerous incidents of drones being flown over their nuclear facilities a few years back, proving that it’s not just our airports that are potentially at risk.
How can we tackle the problem without banning drone use?
Global sales of drones are set to continue growing, and it’s clear that their popularity isn’t likely to wane. Many people use drones responsibly, along with companies who use them for wholly legitimate purposes, so banning them is not an answer. Making our skies safer, however, is a priority, if recent events are anything to go by.
Most aviation authorities around the world are trying to put into place the same regulations, but each are struggling to enforce them successfully. Detecting drones is perhaps the main cause of concern, since most air traffic control radar systems are designed only to detect and identify large aircraft, not little toy unmanned vehicles that fly at lower altitudes.
So firstly, all recreational drone owners and users should be required by law, to register with the relevant aviation authorities, and be mandated to undergo training before they fly. This is what happens for commercial drone operators; they must prove that they’re capable of safely flying a drone.
Then, secondly, sensors and intervention procedures need to be improved and updated. This may prove tricky and costly, but what price can be put on safety in the air, particularly when public safety may be at risk.
Domestic drones are fun to use and provided operators are responsible and abide by the laws put in place to protect the public, then there should be little cause for concern. But rogue operators who flout the rules and regulations, may be at risk of causing serious harm to others and stricter measures should certainly be taken to prevent such occurrences.
The explosion of drones has been fun. But now it’s time to get serious – better an exploding drone than an exploding plane.
Tech toys tend to bring out the excitable boy in even the most grown up of men, and this year, there is a gift that will be sure to revive memories of their lost childhood and rekindle their desires for fun and adventure; the drone, or to give it its full and official name: the UAV or unmanned aerial vehicle.
But before you rush out and purchase a shiny new drone for the man-child in your life, there is something that you should be aware of; if you’re buying a drone for your significant other, be warned that they will ‘play’ with it obsessively for at least the first week, and if your relationship is in the midst if its romantic beginnings, then you can forget about going out for candle-lit meals or walking hand in hand along the shores of a lake. You could still walk hand in hand along the shores of a lake with your beau, but his other hand will be firmly grasped around the remote control that operates his new tech friend.
The constant need for batteries will also dominate your lives over the festive period, and you’d better hope that the little shop around the corner that is open 24 hours, has its shelves fully stocked with them, or the rage followed by tears that will ensue, will be enough to spoil anyone’s Christmas.
On a positive note, your partner will thank you profusely for your gift (once he’s finished playing with it), and he may even be inspired to buy you something that isn’t a household appliance next festive season:
‘But you were always saying how you wanted a new vacuum cleaner, I don’t understand?’
Frank said with a boyish pout.
‘Yes darling, but not as a Christmas gift,’ Christina blubbed.
Depending on your budget, you could blow it and really make the man in your life’s eyes light up Christmas morning with a top of the range, all singing, all dancing drone, or you could start off with a cheaper version that will quench his appetite for gadgetry, without breaking the bank. Either way, drones generally don’t disappoint, and whatever your relationship with the recipient of this tech gift is, they will be chuffed to find it in their stocking this year.
Thousands of new commercial drone operators are expected to continue entering the US job market, and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), predict that almost all these will be small businesses. With the industry suddenly being flooded with new operators, it’s going to be hard for these new drone businesses to stand out from the crowd, even if they have extensive flight experience and an FAA certificate. Regardless, if you’re interested in starting a career in the drone industry, what skills will you need?
Listed below are just a few of the most important skills that you’ll be required to possess:
Being up to date with your business skills
Clients of commercial drone businesses want what any other client does from a business; professionalism, hence they will choose the provider that presents the most professional profile. Ensure that your standard contract included proof of insurance, proof of your certification and any liability waivers that might be necessary. Investing in a lawyer who specialises in the drone industry might be wise, since they will have a better understanding of such issues as copyright laws and credit card transactions, to name but a few.
Getting to grips with the regulations:
You must continually keep yourself up to date with any changes to the FAA regulations by checking their website, and your clients will want to feel confident that you know how to fly legally. Familiarize yourself with any specific local regulations, and you’ll find help with this available from many different online resources.
Being able to communicate well with your client base:
It isn’t enough to simply post footage of drones being flown, you’ll need to show potential customers that your company can meet their needs. Clearly display your FAA certification and the fact that you are licensed and insured, and even offer references. Pay attention to any questions your customers may have, and respond efficiently to all inquiries.
Specialising in photography or videography:
It’s a known fact that many of the best drone operators began their careers as photographers or videographers, and went on to learn how to operate drones. If you want to be successful as a drone operator who also shoots photographs and videos, then you must be creative and skilled at it. It cannot be learnt along the way, and your customers will quickly pick up on the fact that you’re a novice and take their business elsewhere.
Knowing how to present your final package:
Be clear to your customer about exactly what it is that they will get from your service, and leave no questions unanswered. Ask them what their minimum requirement is, and then offer to go a little above and beyond, wherever possible. Offer clients a flat price if you can, since that avoids their concerns of having to pay more than an estimated price if you charge them by the hour.
The popularity of drones seems to know no bounds, and many more industries are realizing the benefits of them with respect to saving time and money, and offering perspectives that are otherwise not available.
Clients want professional drone operators who can offer them exactly what they want, while remaining within the confines of the law, and if you’re looking for a career in this exciting new industry, then you’d better get smart, and fast!