Aerial imaging using small, unmanned aircraft systems. Also, I work at DJI.

I was part of a great interview on Monday on some cliffs overlooking a beautiful Northern-Californian beach. The waves were breaking in tight sets, and the aerial view straight down was spectacular. Shot in Adobe DNG raw using a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter.

I was part of a great interview on Monday on some cliffs overlooking a beautiful Northern-Californian beach. The waves were breaking in tight sets, and the aerial view straight down was spectacular. Shot in Adobe DNG raw using a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter.

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It turns out that you *can* stuff a DJI 2.4G Bluetooth Datalink (buy) and an iOSD mini (buy) into the shell of a Phantom 2. This flagship Phantom 2 is configured with Ground Station support, a Zenmuse H3-3D 3-axis GoPro gimbal, GoPro with Ragecams lens mod, and Boscam TS353 5.8G 400mW FPV transmitter. The radio has a Black Pearl 7” monitor with integrated 5.8Ghz diversity receiver mounted on a Rave Aerial Video monitor mount.
I’m going to test it out tomorrow. Hope it works well. ;)

It turns out that you *can* stuff a DJI 2.4G Bluetooth Datalink (buy) and an iOSD mini (buy) into the shell of a Phantom 2. This flagship Phantom 2 is configured with Ground Station support, a Zenmuse H3-3D 3-axis GoPro gimbal, GoPro with Ragecams lens mod, and Boscam TS353 5.8G 400mW FPV transmitter. The radio has a Black Pearl 7” monitor with integrated 5.8Ghz diversity receiver mounted on a Rave Aerial Video monitor mount.

I’m going to test it out tomorrow. Hope it works well. ;)

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Here are a few sample raw Adobe DNG still pictures from the new Phantom 2 Vision+, for your evaluation. The download is good for 14 days. Photos were taken from right above the Wynn’s swimming pool, insured and with permission, during a media event.

Here are a few sample raw Adobe DNG still pictures from the new Phantom 2 Vision+, for your evaluation. The download is good for 14 days. Photos were taken from right above the Wynn’s swimming pool, insured and with permission, during a media event.

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Hello, everyone. Details are out about the new Phantom No Fly Zones and how exactly they restrict your flying. This new feature will be activated if you update your Phantom 2 series quadcopter to the newest firmware (3.0). If you do not want to be subject to this new restriction, you may elect not to install the update. You can also switch your Phantom to Naza-M mode. (Update: R&D confirms that the feature does affect Naza-M mode in Phantoms, but not the standalone Naza-M controller).

The No Fly Zone restrictions are different than are the restrictions in Ground Station, which are more conservative and do not let you set waypoints within 5 mi (8 km) of any major airport.

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DJI announced the Phantom 2 Vision+ today. It features an integrated, 3-axis-stabilized, 14-megapixel camera capable of shooting at 1080/30p (or 720/60p), and talks to an app on your smart phone to give you liveview from the camera as well as useful telemetry like battery life remaining. It also allows you to take pictures, start and stop video, and change lots of camera settings like exposure. And, 3-axis, gimbal-stabilized video is ridiculously stable.

We shot and edited some videos using the new Vision+ (below).

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Some folks have been expressing concern (in the internet freak out sort of way) out about a page on the DJI website that says, exactly:

"Intro: In order to increase flight safety and prevent accidental flights in restricted areas, Ground Station includes a No Waypoint Zone feature. Each No Waypoint Zone covers an 8KM (5 mile) radius of major airports. Inside these areas, waypoints cannot be set."

Note that all this page says is that that when you use Ground Station, you cannot set Waypoints within 5 miles of major airports (Class B, if you want to look it up). There is a scary map that shows the no-waypoint zones. Note also that this page does not say anything about no-fly zones.
As part of the Fly Safe initiative, there will be safety measures that restrict flying around airports, but it will be much less conservative than the no-waypoint feature. Full details about the new Fly Safe features will be out shortly. DJI could certainly have done better about releasing all of the information at the same time. We’ll do better, next time.
Update: More details are out!

Some folks have been expressing concern (in the internet freak out sort of way) out about a page on the DJI website that says, exactly:

"Intro: In order to increase flight safety and prevent accidental flights in restricted areas, Ground Station includes a No Waypoint Zone feature. Each No Waypoint Zone covers an 8KM (5 mile) radius of major airports. Inside these areas, waypoints cannot be set."

Note that all this page says is that that when you use Ground Station, you cannot set Waypoints within 5 miles of major airports (Class B, if you want to look it up). There is a scary map that shows the no-waypoint zones. Note also that this page does not say anything about no-fly zones.

As part of the Fly Safe initiative, there will be safety measures that restrict flying around airports, but it will be much less conservative than the no-waypoint feature. Full details about the new Fly Safe features will be out shortly. DJI could certainly have done better about releasing all of the information at the same time. We’ll do better, next time.

Update: More details are out!

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I spent the weekend in Baja California playing with gray whales, which was amazing. While I was there, I sent a DJI Phantom 2 Vision into the air to take some shots of the area around Laguna San Ignacio, including salt flats and a mangrove system that is flooded with every high tide (and has tons of bird life). I love coastal desert environments!

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When I travel with my DJI Phantom, I usually use a Nanuk 940 case with pick ‘n pluck foam. It comes full of foam cubes that are partly stuck together, and you just rip out cubes to make space for whatever you want to put in the case. The Nanuk fits into overhead bin space in most airplanes, and also fits in that carry-on tester you see at airport gates. I like the Nanuk case better than the Go Professional case that a lot of people buy because I could configure it more efficiently, and can fit a full FPV setup in there with both monitor and goggles.

I’ve also lashed my Phantom to the outside of a backpack, which works pretty well for hiking, but leaves the Phantom and gimbal exposed to the elements.

Today, I tried something different. I packed a Phantom into a Think Tank Airport Acceleration backpack (the current version is the Airport Accelerator Backpack), which is the pack I normally use when I travel for underwater photography. The entire insides of the backpack can be removed and reconfigured, which makes it perfect for holding large things like quadcopters. I configured the large divider panels so they hug the contours of the Phantom, giving me plenty of space to put in the radio, which has a Black Pearl diversity receiver monitor attached to it via a Rave Aerial Video 3D-printed monitor mount (the best one, in my opinion). I also can fit a bunch of extra batteries (or two Phantom 2 battery chargers, as shown in the pictures), and a bunch of other accessories. The separate computer bag (integrated, in the new version of the backpack) can be used to hold a computer and/or iPad, etc.

The backpack is pretty bulky, but it is a lot easier to carry around than a hard case!

I know of a couple dedicated Phantom backpacks being developed right now by third parties, so it looks like there will be some off-the-shelf options soon.

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Balancing your radio is key to the usefulness of a neck strap. The Balancing your radio is key to the usefulness of a neck strap.

One of the biggest improvements to the way I pilot came from switching from using only thumbs on the radio sticks to using a two-finger pinch on each one. I found that I was able to fly competently using thumbs if I was calm, but that I was often unable to tell where I was in the stick range if I became nervous. Using two fingers on each stick allows me to establish a reference point with my index finger at all times, and I am no longer ever lost in the stick range, even when flying FPV using goggles.

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The incredible pace of aerial-imaging technology

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Earlier this week, DJI announced the Zenmuse H3-3D 3-axis gimbal for GoPro HERO3 and HERO3+ cameras. Traditional, 2-axis gimbals correct against unwanted movements in pitch and roll, but don’t have a 3rd motor for correcting movements in yaw (turning from side to side).

When shooting video from a camera mounted on a 2-axis gimbal, twitchy pilots, gusts of wind, and other environmental factors can easily cause unwanted wiggles in yaw, which are hard to smooth out during editing. New, 3-axis gimbals (both from DJI and 3rd parties) will pretty much eliminate unwanted yaw wiggle, and videos will be buttery smooth in even harsh aerial conditions.

I’m writing that rather casually, but it is really freaking amazing that you can now put a completely-stabilized HD camera into the air for minutes at a time for less than $1,000 (cheaper, if you build a ship yourself).

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