Category Archives for "Octocopters"

2014 – The year the DJI Phantom became famous


The original DJI Phantom

As the year draws to a close and we look back on 2014 we can see a year that marked a huge amount of change and development in the world of unmanned aviation. By far the most obvious difference to this time last year is the way in which multirotor craft, and in particular quadcopters, have become popular and newsworthy. The original DJI Phantom was released in January 2013 and is still a strong seller as its price remains affordable for many hobbyists, but this Christmas sees an unprecedented amount of sales and many thousands of people are going to be opening a box on Christmas morning containing either a Phantom or some other remotely controlled multirotor.

As well as DJI Innovations, manufacturers like Hubsan, 3D Robotics, Parrot, and many others have each staked a claim in the rapidly expanding UAV territory.  For some the target market is indoor and outdoor hobby flying, while others are researching and developing UAS for the commercial arena.  Aerial drones are most widely known for their use in aerial photography, but the many uses in surveying, agriculture, for thermal imagery, marine exploration, wildlife monitoring among others have proven that it is the commercial world in which there is the greatest scope and benefits.  If there’s a dull, dirty, or dangerous task that could be done by a drone then there’s a team developing a UAV for the job, if it’s not already on the market.

DJI Phantom 2 Vision Ground Station upgrade

Waypoint flying on autopilot

History has shown us how new technology is often met with suspicion and concerns over safety and privacy. “It’ll never catch on” is one expression of skepticism.  “Criminals and terrorists will use this against us” is another, and if I had a pound for every time I’d read or heard something along the lines of, “Yes, but I don’t want one of these things spying on me….” then I’d probably be able to afford a DJI Inspire 1 and still have change.  Anything new and unfamiliar can provoke such reactions and you only have to reflect on the arrival of mobile phones and the internet to see examples of how it takes time for new technology to develop and for the general population to adapt to it.  The process seems to follow a familiar pattern, but eventually not only are these things accepted, but we make use of the advantages it brings and build businesses for which it becomes an essential tool or medium.  We do so in the full and certain knowledge that the technology can be used against us because we know it does more good than harm. In short, we learn to live with the risks while developing ways to reduce them.

CAP 1202 UAV Safety You Have Control

Learn the basic rules

However, the stories that are making the news are those that involve alleged near misses between drones and conventional manned aircraft.  The idea that a quadcopter might get sucked in the engine of a airliner on final approach at Heathrow is one that is guaranteed to keep journalists busy for a while yet.  No one doubts that there are risks, but the debate is about the scale of these risks and the odds of any disasters being caused by UAV of any type.  One way of mitigating the risks is education, and the contents of the CAA’s CAP 1202 leaflet should be memorised by anyone flying a UAV of any size.  Putting a copy of this leaflet into every box containing a quadcopter sold in the UK would be both an easy and effective way of reminding owners of their responsibilities.

During 2015 the hobby and commercial use of drones will continue to increase, and if we extrapolate the progress so far then it’s likely that there will be many more licensed operators and enthusiastic amateurs.  Drones, combined with advances in robotics, are likely to continue to make headlines.  Let’s hope the media starts reporting on the many benefits and advantages instead of continuing with the all too predictable and scaremongering bylines.  The use of UAV in monitoring wildlife and surveying crops are two of many examples of how we may not only recognise their benefits, but also come to rely on them for essential information about the environment and the food supplies needed for an ever increasing global population.

CAA CAP 1202 – You Have Control – UAV Safety Notice

CAP 1202 UAV Safety You Have Control

In the interest of promoting UAV safety and the legal and responsible flying of unmanned multirotor aircraft the CAA have issued CAP (Civil Aviation Publication) 1202 – “You Have Control”.  If you’re new to the world of quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters, helicopters, and fixed wing unmanned aerial vehicles then this guide should serve as a useful reminder of the very basics in terms of operational limits.

You can download a copy direct from the CAA’s website here.  The leaflet has been reproduced in its entirety below.

For a more thorough understanding of the CAA rules and regulations regarding the operation of unmanned aircraft in the UK’s airspace you will also need to study sections 166 and 167 of CAP 393 (Air Navigation: The Order and the Regulations), and CAP 722, both of which can be retrieved from the CAA’s website.  It’s recommended that you check the site for the latest copy on a frequent basis and register for the free subscription service which will inform you of any changes to the regulations for unmanned aviation, UAS, and drones generally.

CAP 1202 UAV Safety You Have ControlCAA CAP 1202 – You Have Control – UAV Safety Notice

The Drone Aerial Photography Age


Drone Aerial Photography

Drone Aerial Photography – accessible to almost anyone

The drone aerial photography age is well under way.  The pace has picked up noticeably in 2014 and the media has caught on to this revolution in technology and is reporting on it with increasing depth and frequency.  Well-known faces in the public eye are using drones and this celebrity endorsement is adding to the interest and the buzz.  Martha Stewart’s blog post containing stills and video is an example.

Tens of thousands of sUAV are now being used by people all around the world.  At the moment most of this activity centres around experimentation with aerial photography using drones like the DJI Phantom range.  Amateur drone flyers are taking stills and videos and uploading them to YouTube and other social media every hour of the day.  Put the search phrase DJI Phantom into YouTube are you’re likely to see well in excess of half a million results, much of them being the uploads of amateurs flying their Phantoms for the first time and eager to share their experiences.

News, TV, and film makers have been using quadcopters, hexacopters, and octocopters for many months now.  With increased rotor power comes bigger payloads and that means heavier and more sophisticated cameras.  A lot of the aerial shots you see on news items and other TV is now shot with drones, and the perspective provided by this aerial imagery is helping film makers create documentaries that are astounding in they that they reveal the Earth from low level altitudes and a slow speeds.

Researchers and scientists and discovering ways in which drones can be used to collect data and monitor environments that would otherwise be impossible without many hours of human work.  In the commercial sector, companies of all kinds are finding uses for UAV that will give them a competitive edge and speed up or enhance their ability to bring their goods and services to their customers.

Meanwhile, the military has broadened out and extended its range of UAV from the massive Global Hawk to nano drones like the Black Hornet.  On land, in the sea, and particularly in the air UAV and robotic technology is being developed at such pace that it’s hard to keep abreast of it all.

In the UK, those in the media and photography businesses mentioned above will be well aware of the necessity for a commercial licence to operate their drones.  They will probably be either BNUC-s or RPQ-s qualified.  They will consequently be familiar with the CAA Rules and Regulations regarding the operation of unmanned aircraft and aircraft systems, and they will carry full commercial insurance which is much more comprehensive than that of the BMFA which provides insurance for amateur flyers.  Civil aviation authorities in other countries have yet to produce guidelines or they are playing safe by imposing draconian bans.

During the 20th Century aviation developed from its rudimentary beginnings to supersonic flight and the Space Age.  Computing power began its growth from the latter half of this period and continues to evolve now.  In the 21st Century technological progress continues at such a rate that it’s difficult to predict where we’ll be by the end of this century.  All we can see from recent years is that the pace of development shows no sign of slowing down.  Devices that we thought state of the art ten years ago now seem hopelessly out of date.

There’s never been a better time to enter the drone aerial photography age or the UAS world in general.  It’s a technology revolution that offers opportunities for people of almost any age or ability.  Whether you’re a young adult looking for a career or someone with most of your working life behind you there are plenty of reasons to start viewing the world and all is beauty from the perspective and viewpoint provided by a drone.

Seeing the world from a low altitude and slowly passing over locations that we have long since taken for granted reveals them anew and gives them a fresh perspective.  Pilots of manned aircraft realised this a century ago.  Drones provide the means for all us to appreciate the natural world, landscapes, cities, and oceans in a way previously denied to us.

You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.

~ Amelia Earhart