New Self-Flying Drone-No Controller Required

Skydio, a startup formed by former Google drone engineers, just finished production of a self-flying, hands-free aerial photography camera. The drone uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to fly by itself without the aid of a pilot.  This is done with technology similar to whats being used in autonomous vehicles, with adjustments made for the 3-D motion of flying and the lack of roadway structure.

The drone uses 13 cameras, GPS, and other sensors to follow a user without hitting obstacles. Users instruct the drone to follow them by opening a specialized app and connecting with the aircraft. Using this app the drone can be set to lead, follow, or orbit the subject.

The drone is currently selling for $2,499.



The Real Cost of Drones in Construction

Aside from the potential return on investment, which is different depending on the type of service the UAV is providing, here’s a cost breakdown just to purchase one UAV.

  • Drone & Controller: $1300 (quadcopter)
  • Enough batteries to work for 5 hours: 6 (@$100/each = $600) These will need to be replaced every 250-300 cycles
  • iPad for camera control: $800
  • Extra props, miscellaneous equipment for minor repairs: $200
  • Time invested to become proficient in piloting and working camera functions: 400 hours

The camera person will need to work closely with the pilot to develop communication skills and perform as a spotter. It’s not just taking off, taking pictures and landing. It’s understanding lighting conditions for superior camera control. Flying with precision into areas without incident, and building trust in your piloting skills.

  • Assuming a $4000/month per employee (x2)
  • 2 people for 2.5 months = $20,000
  • Total: $22,900 (and this is for 1 UAV. It’s best to have a minimum of 2 or 3 for unexpected outcomes)
  • This cost can be offset by the return on investment (ROI), which is different for every user in every industry

If you plan to provide a service to customers, you’ll need a fleet of drones (at least 2, but having 3 is much better), as you’ll crash it and need to be up immediately to finish the job. If you send it out for repairs, it could take anywhere from a week to 3 months depending on who you send it to.

Lost flying time is lost money. The drone makes you money when it’s flying for a purpose. It takes hundreds of flight hours to be proficient in not only flying but to react quickly with confidence when something arises with technology or the elements of weather.

Then you have insurance, usually a 2 million aggregate is acceptable, but check with your insurance agent on specifics because some companies will cover you - but only if you are qualified to fly. (Don’t you just love that small print?) So if you are in an accident and can’t prove you’re FAA qualified, you could not only be out a drone but liable for a lawsuit by flying in federal airspace without proper authorization. 



Using Drones for Real Estate Marketing Part III

This is a snippet from Drones in Real Estate, an online HD Video course available for real estate continuing education credit in several states. Select your state to see if this course is approved for continuing education.

PART 3 OF 3 | Read Part 1 or Part 2

RESORT AND HOTEL ADVERTISING. Similar to real estate videos, what better way to show off a spectacular hotel situated on the perfect piece of property than to provide potential visitors the kind of video footage and aerial imagery only a small drone can provide? In a time when hotels and resorts are fighting tooth and nail for advertising impressions and to stand out from the crowd on hotel booking applications and a glut of travel websites marketing agencies understand that unique video perspectives offer an edge in an otherwise tired marketing mix.

LOW ALTITUDE BANNER ADVERTISING. OK, not exactly a video-based commercial opportunity, but while I was writing an earlier article for on a beach in Cancun, I did see a hexacopter flying down the beach at water’s edge toting a banner advertising a local nightclub and had to chuckle. (The pilot was flying FPV (first person view) using a GoPro video camera mounted on the aircraft and sending the video feedback to a monitor attached to his controller.)

When you show a savvy, creative business owner a drone, their eyes usually light up. It is easy to visualize the many ways in which you can improve the marketing presence of your company using the skies, and flying by your competitors in the process!

There are many different scenarios where you can use a drone for marketing purposes, such as:

  • Drone Advertising. Just about every company in the world can find a use in this! It is pretty much the same concept as an advertising blimp you see so often at large events, except for a fraction of the cost. Also, drone technology allows handlers to set automatic flight paths, speeds, and patterns that will allow you to get much more advertising bang for your buck.
  • Water-Side Fly Overs.  Any business that is on or near water (millions across the U.S. and the world) will love to get a gorgeous flyover of their establishment overlooking the beautiful water. Just think of every beach restaurant and bar on earth. In addition, marinas and the boating community will find it as an incredible way to increase exposure and get truly spectacular footage that can be used for a marketing campaign. Not to mention the ever-growing oceanfront hotel and condo properties that will surely love it.
  • Brand Awareness. Regardless of what type of company you're involved with and where they're located, everyone could use a little more brand awareness. If you're a real estate agent, you can take amazing shots of properties that will allow people who would normally not be interested or know of your brand to be instantly hooked. The idea of drones themselves is so fascinating to the public that by being one step ahead, your business can take off flying!



Using Drones for Real Estate Marketing Part II

This is a snippet from Drones in Real Estate, an online HD Video course available for real estate continuing education credit in several states. Select your state to see if this course is approved for continuing education.

PART 2 OF 3 | Read Part 1

The potential of drones has been recognized in the real estate industry, and more people prefer to use drones for commercial purposes, specifically those in the real estate marketing business. This is chiefly because drones can be used to capture stunning images of properties for use in property listings, hence making it easier to sell or earn some popularity in the market. Drones use groundbreaking technology to allow for an innovative new way to market a property.

Just imagine viewing a new property through aerial footage. Wouldn't it be beautiful? Think about the endless marketing possibilities for this type of videography and photography. A drone can easily be equipped with a high-resolution camera enabling it to capture still images and shoot video that was previously incredibly difficult to be obtained. Consequently, this will allow potential buyers to view the photos or video to get a feeling for the size and layout, the architecture and the land of the home.

Some caution must be considered though when approaching a listing to shoot. The neighbors need to be made aware of your intent to fly if they are relatively close. All of our flight operations were met with positive attitude, some curious and others will ask if they can watch you operate. It gives you a chance to explore the positive side of drone operations with those that aren’t sure of this new emerging technology.

  • 85% of buyers/sellers want an agent who has video marketing
  • 15% of agents have a video presence
  • One video is equal to 1.8 million words
  • One video is equal to 3,600 web pages of text
  • 80% of viewers will remember it
  • Success in videos relies on creative production



Using Drones for Real Estate Marketing

This is a snippet from Drones in Real Estate, an online HD Video course available for real estate continuing education credit in several states. Select your state to see if this course is approved for continuing education.


When it comes to real estate, a video has been shown to attract sellers AND buyers, boost listings and increase sales. Video promotions are highly sought, and you’ve no doubt noticed that video results are appearing along with text-based results when you search for anything in Google or other search engines these days. But not all videos are the same!

The most effective videos are the ones that evoke emotion. Creating that sense of belonging. Visualizing their family living in that home, spending time together entertaining friends, children playing in the den or taking in some sun on the beach.

Many real estate agents have obtained aerial photography using airplanes and helicopters, which can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per flight and limit the number of properties you can afford to shoot. Drones can significantly cut the cost of shooting elevated imagery. Viable models start at a few hundred dollars, and camera attachments are moderately priced and enable you to use their aerial footage on many more listings, regardless of price range.

Depending on your equipment setup, drones can shoot stills, video or both. You can edit and share the video using a number of tools and without extensive experience or expertise. Drone operation mostly requires a steady hand and a cool head. There's no need to hire a professional pilot. And even if you do choose to outsource your drone photography, it might still be less expensive than hiring an airplane or helicopter.

Homeowners want to be represented by agents that present their property in the best way to get top dollar. Buyers love to watch and connect with high-quality video. When you provide quality services, you can expect better exposure and ROI for the agent AND the property. Drones make aerial imagery affordable.



How Are Drones Being Used for Businesses?

The following is a snippet from our Drones in Construction course.

Drones are being used in a growing number of industries. Here are a few short examples of how you can use drones to enhance your business.

  1. Agriculture: An IR (Infra-Red) camera can sense plant health to determine the onset of a disease that is undetectable to the naked eye. The UAV use could save upwards of $125,000 in pesticide use for a whole field (one application) by containing the disease early on.
  2. Utility: Provide inspection services in the fraction of the time it takes a crew of 2 to do the same work in one 8-hour day. Saving upwards of $1800/day. There would be multiple crews performing inspections where the UAV could do it in one day.
  3. GIS: A survey crew (2@ $180/hour) would take 8 hours ($1440) to set multiple ground control points for an 8-acre parcel that the UAV could map in 1 hour, with greater precision. The larger the location, the higher the cost for a 2-person crew to set GCP. One day of surveying is equal to 1 hour of drone mapping and surveying.
  4. Construction: How long would it take to measure every corner on the outside of a home being built? Every window and door opening, just for starters? You could fly the UAV and map the dwelling in 1 hour to post process in your office later with millimeter accuracy. Have a custom home you're showcasing and want to sell your services better? Use the UAV for cinematic exposure of your work, using still images and video elements. It captures the creative mind of those looking to buy and engages them to reach out to your company which can accelerate sales.
  5. ExcavationHoles dug, dirt moved. How much?  Map the site in less than an hour and determine how many cubic meters were added or removed. Pre-map the site before excavation is ever performed to see where the dirt needs to be moved and placed. Depending on your flight overlap, you could get your measurements down to one inch or less.

These are just a few examples of how a UAV could benefit a business or industry. There’s only one limitation, and that's your creativity to engage this technology in your business application.

Sometimes training exclusively on a system isn’t possible and once a UAV mishap happens, costs go up by replacing technology and expected savings on the anticipated use of technology goes down. Planning becomes harder with unknowns. This is why hiring a UAV company can save time, money and provide the expected outcome more quickly.



All commercial drone pilots must possess a Remote Pilot in Command Certificate which can be obtained by passing the FAA Remote Pilot in Command Exam.

Step 1: Pay the $5 fee and register your aircraft
Step 2: Pass the $150 Small UAS Remote Pilot Exam – exam prep is available here.
Step 3: Pass a TSA background check
Step 4: File FAA Form 8710-13

Check out our Complete Guide to Commercial Drone Use for more information.


4 Ways to Use (& Potentially Use) Drones for Construction

The following is a snippet from our Drones in Construction course. This course is approved for continuing education in multiple states.
Follow the link and choose your state to get started.



Monitor job site progress. Drones can be used to remotely monitor job site progress to make sure things are on track and to create immediate, real-time changes or adjustments as needed. The footage can be sent in real time to clients, investors and lead persons on the job. Architects and engineers can gain immediate access to the job site on screen, rather than having to make the trip out.

Measure stockpiles/excavations. Catch major and minor deviations. Computer technology can compare what's on the plans to what's happening in real life. Images from the drones can be fed through specific software to compare it with the plans. This type of surveillance can show you if walls are misaligned or if a window is missing or installed in the wrong place, for example.


Increasing job site safety. Your drone surveillance can show you whether or not your workers are using best practices - regardless of whether management or an OSHA safety inspector is on site. You can correct these behaviors immediately and workers will be more apt to use best practices when they know they are being watched. The drones can also access dangerous or hard-to-reach areas, such as an unfinished roof, allowing inspectors or specialists to assess a particular challenge or issue, and make recommendations for changes, or improvements without putting themselves at risk.

Reduce the amount of high-risk work performed by humans. Currently, only smaller hobby-type crafts - mostly good for video and photo only - are allowed to be used in any type of construction site monitoring capacity. However, as legislation
continues to address the needs and wants of the public, larger drones - even with permits - will become the norm. These drones will have nanobot technology, allowing high-risk work to be done by the drone, rather than humans, further enhancing job site safety conditions.

A recent article in Construction Executive states, "drones show potential to aid job site safety and efficiency." And, a similar article on is titled, "Need Construction Site Surveillance? Hire a drone." We can see it now, once the legalities have been worked out, construction sites will have large signs saying, "Warning: This job site is monitored by drones with cameras.” In most cases, construction companies contract out for drone work, however, they can certainly become an in-house operation as well with the right training and resources.


Reduce construction theft. We half-joked that construction sites may soon post signage announcing they are surveilled by drones. However, this type of surveillance could drastically reduce construction theft. In addition to preventing in-house theft, occasional fly-bys of vacant sites can deter vandalism, theft or loiterers from placing your job site on their rotation.


This may be a stretch, but someday drones could be used to transport materials. If drones could transport materials from one side of the job site to the other, there will be less manual labor needed from the workers. This would be especially helpful in the hard to reach areas, where workers might have trouble moving materials with ease. The weight of the objects being transported would be an issue, though, depending on the size and power of the drone being used. Another issue would be how they would pick up the materials- manually attached by a human or mechanically with a claw or net.


Our Favorite Drone Photography From 2017

Dronestagam recently revealed their Top 20 Drone Photos from 2017. Here are a few of our favorites!


The photo above shows a group sailing on the dry mud of Burke Lake

Photograph by: MiloAllerton


Harvesting water lilies from a pond in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta

Photography by: helios1412

A scuba diver swims alongside a whale.

Photography by: DroneFilmsProject

Girls on Beach

Two Women, Two Stingrays

Photography by: tahitiflyshoot

Lunch on the Mercury Skyscraper in Moscow.

Photography by: Alexey Goncharov


A team explores the Melissani cave near the Greek island of Cephalonia

Photography by: Calin Stan


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Will the FAA Track Hobby Drones?

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) panel has begun recommending ways to identify and track drones in the air. This technology is key for the future of commercial drone delivery, however, the FAA has not been able to reach consensus about including hobby drones in the rule.

Drone hobbyists have asked for an exemption as they are already not allowed to fly drones out of eyesight. Commercial drone advocates, on the other hand, feel that leaving hobby drone pilots out of the new rule will defeat the purpose. Incidents like the September 21st hobby drone and airplane collision in New York have put added pressure on the FAA to increase regulations on noncommercial drones.

A controversial law passed earlier this month has reinstated the FAA drone registry for hobby drones. This law only allows the FAA to track drone ownership though, rather than drone location as they fly.

Do You Fly Drones for Commercial Purposes?
Check out our Online Remote Pilot in Command Exam Prep Program

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Flying your drone in the winter can be a challenging but rewarding experience.  Here are a few tips to keep you flying in the cold and snow.

  1. Check your user manual for winter flight guidelines.
    Exceeding the recommended temperature guidelines could put your drone at risk.
  2. Winter-proof the pilot.
    Be sure to dress appropriately for the colder temperatures. Wear warm clothing and be sure to invest in a decent pair of thin touchscreen gloves or a transmitter mitt.
  3. Keep batteries fully charged before each flight.
    Some drone batteries include technology that will automatically discharge battery power after a certain amount of inactivity.
  4. Make sure batteries are kept warm to preserve charge.
    If you’re going to be out in the cold for an extended period, you can keep your batteries warm by wrapping them up in a scarf, or a glove. Some pilots use hand warmers to ensure that they remain warm.
  5. Hover in flight for a minute or so.
    This will allow the battery to warm up prior to a long flight.
  6. Set your drone for the correct exposure and white balance for your snow landscape shots.
    While you have an exposure meter on your camera, you may wish to set your exposure manually. Settings may differ depending on which camera you use. Be sure to read your user manual for the proper settings. If your drone camera allows for manual setting of white balance, set it to 6500K for an average snowy landscape on a sunny day. Turn it up if the snow appears too blue, or down if it appears too amber.
  7. If you’re shooting video, you will want to use Neutral Density (ND) filters.
    Bright winter environments force the fixed aperture cameras (typical on most consumer drones) to set the shutter speed too fast and turn your video into a jittery mess. Adding a Neutral Density filter helps limit the amount of light entering the camera, lets you choose slower shutter speeds, and helps you create smooth looking videos.
  8. Steer clear of precipitation.
    Most drones aren’t waterproof and precipitation of any kind can damage the camera and gimbal, short out a motor, or cause other malfunctions to the drone or controller. If your drone does get caught in the rain or snow, land it as soon as possible. Make sure to dry off the props and body of the drone. In very cold weather, be aware that any moisture in the gimbal pads can freeze, which can impact the quality of your aerial footage.

Want to know more?


FAA Remote Pilot in Command Certification Exam Prep

Online HD Video Course - Instructor: Greg MacMaster
Get your Remote Pilot in Command Certification in order to use drones in commercial applications. New FAA rules make it easier than ever to become a drone pilot. This online course will prepare you for the FAA Remote Pilot in Command Certification Exam that you need to pass in order to fly your drone (sUAS) for commercial or business purposes.

Testimonial - "Just wanted to let you know I successfully passed my remote pilot exam! Thank you for a comprehensive course, you are a very competent pilot and I just wanted to say I'm one of your success stories." - Andrew Ortega


sUAS Weather

Online HD Video Course - Instructor: Greg MacMaster
This course provides an overview of aviation weather that sUAS pilots will find useful when planning day-to-day operations.
FAA Course# Drone Wx-CAS-2


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