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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Oct 7th, 2016)

A quick note:

Recently, Austin from the Inside team was interviewed on the Commercial Drones podcast. Afterwards, we thought Ian Smith (who hosts the podcast) seemed like an awesome person get involved in the Inside Drones newsletter. So, we're having him guest edit the newsletter for the next week – and maybe longer! See more about Ian below.
Today in drone news: The fall of 3D Robotics, Drone data plans, Mavic Pro Goggles review, eBee drone expanded, Drones disinvited to air shows.

In one of the first hands-on reviews, Engadget covers DJI's recently announced FPV Goggles for the Mavic Pro. The (pretty awkward looking) all-white 1080p headset puts you directly in the pilot seat of DJI’s latest drone. Though quite bulky, Engadget says the goggles feel light on the head, offer great brightness and clarity, higher resolution than all of their competitors, and even boast a completely wireless connection. The cost, however, is still unknown. – ENGADGET

Verizon announced it will soon begin offering wireless drone data plans, working in conjunction with drone manufacturers. While hobbyist use cases are easily imagined, the underlying revenue driver will likely be based on commercial applications. For example, sending live video of an oil and gas pipeline inspection over 4G LTE, or piloting a drone remotely from hundreds of miles away. Pricing on the drone data plans will start at $25 per month for 1 gigabyte of data and $80 per month for 10 gigabytes. As of today, there are no readily available drones with embedded 4G LTE modems onboard. – WSJ

The eBee Plus drone is a larger version of the standard eBee and features a new, in-house camera that was developed purposely for aerial drone imaging, dubbed S.O.D.A. (Sensor Optimized for Drone Applications). The eBee line of drones have been incredibly popular for commercial operations in various industries, particularly in high-accuracy surveying. The larger eBee Plus model increases endurance to 59 minutes (able to map 540 acres in a single flight) and comes equipped with RTK/PPK GPS. The drone ranges from $18,000 to $28,000, depending on options. – NEW ATLAS


Forbes chronicles the Crash of 3D Robotics, North America’s largest consumer drone manufacturer. 3D Robotics has been on a steep decline for the past 18 months, hemorrhaging $100 million in cash, laying off over 150 people, and shuttering doors on at least two offices. The crash, perpetuated by DJI’s dominance of the drone market, was exacerbated by misguided leadership and poor allocation of company resources. As a front-row seater, 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson said, “It was just brutal.” – FORBES

AT&T hopes to use drones to identify areas without cell phone coverage within the massive interior of the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. When the stadium fills with people, these “dead zones” become more troublesome. When tens of thousands of people fill the same arena, network consistency suffers. AT&T hopes the drones can effectively diagnose these areas so that fans can stay connected during packed events. – WASHINGTON TIMES

ICAS, the International Council of Air Shows, wants drone owners to “leave the flying to the professionals" at air shows. With over 300 air shows per year and more than 10,000 specific performances, air shows are an incredibly dangerous place to fly a drone. By taking a lead on this issue, ICAS hopes to raise awareness to maintain a spot-free drone incident record. – AOPA

Scientists in Switzerland have developed a compact, fixed-wing drone with foldable wings, designed for search and rescue operations. The design is based on beetle wings. When folded, the drone saves 57% of the space its wingspan usually takes up and will allow emergency response personnel to react quicker in mission-critical rescue scenarios. Performance of the drone is nearly unaffected compared to similar, non-foldable designs. – NEW ATLAS



At the drones subreddit, members are talking about Forbes coverage of the crash of 3D Robotics. Arvzi writes, "That's really too bad. 3DR had great people and a great culture in and around it... I wish them nothing but the best, despite what's happened." Drone_entus, however, has a litany or reasons he blames for company's failure, including that they "heavily relied on one drone" and that drone "had no style."

VegasKL adds, "True. They failed to innovate at a fast enough pace and DJI absolutely stomped them in that regard... I think with proper management they could have edged out a nice accessory market. Their PixHawk was really nice and an evolution (PixHawk2) on that would have probably sold well if they could control the knockoffs. On top of that, they could have targeted the sensor and video markets. A good sensor package (vision add-ons, etc.) to integrate with their autopilots as well as a counter to the Lightbridge could have sold well (imho). DJI has API's but aren't open (you have to essentially use all their stuff or get limited functionality), so a niche there would be to develop what DJI is developing, but with open standards." And touristtam says, "This competition on the hardware side is what has been happening for the personal computer and more recently for the smart phone. How they did not see it coming is beyond me."


Guest editor Ian Smith is the creator and host of the Commercial Drones FM Podcast, which has generated over 41,000 downloads in its first 3 months. The podcast focuses on the projected $20 billion commercial drone industry and sheds light on the people, concepts, and global industries who already use drones in their businesses today. Ian, a commercial helicopter pilot, has been part of the commercial drone industry since 2013 and works in Business Development for DroneDeploy in San Francisco.

Our own Austin Smith appeared on Ian's podcast yesterday. Give it a listen here!

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Did you know we have a whole stable of newsletters, and plans to launch many more? Here are a few you might like:

Inside VR & AR – Inside Security – ReadThisThing
Inside Electric Vehicles – Inside Drones – Inside Daily Brief 
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