The Flying Robot international Film Festival, the drone film festival I started 3 years ago, returns to the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco on November 16th. This event is always a culmination of a ton of work and passion, and that includes all the submitting filmmakers. We’re looking at a sold out show and several participating filmmakers coming in from out of town. I’m super stoked to see the audience reaction to several of the films that made the cut. My long time friend and collaborator, Ryan Junell, outdid himself on the title animation sequence, which I’ll post after the festival. So much to love about this year!
I launched the Flying Robot international Film Festival, the first international drone film festival, in 2015. FRiFF is a drone shorts festival focused on fantastic aerial cinematography, storytelling and the positive uses of drones. By many measures, the inaugural festival was a success. We received over 150 entries from 35 countries across 7 categories. We screened 20 selections and awarded prizes to 14 winners valued at over $10k. A number of well known drone industry companies and startups stepped up as sponsors. We sold out two screenings in San Francisco and took the inaugural program on the road to Australia, Indonesia and the Netherlands earlier this year.
Year two of FRiFF premiered November 17th this year, again in San Francisco at the Roxie Theater. More entries from more countries flooded in as the bar in quality and variety continued to elevate. New this year, we added the first ever Flying Robot Aerial Imagery Day. This all day event consisted of a series of presentations, talks and workshops on all things drone based aerial imagery. While not as well attended as I had hoped, the caliber and diversity of presentations were stellar. Plenty of lessons learned for next year.
Drones For Good
Something that doesn’t get a lot of ink in the hype around drones are their humanitarian potential. Drones are being used to deliver life saving medicine and blood to rural villages in Rwanda, to prevent poaching of endangered rhinos and elephants and to save the rainforests of indigenous lands in Panama. We have a Drones for Good category in FRiFF specifically for highlighting these vital stories.
Commercial Drone Operations — FAA Part 107
The Federal Aviation Administration oversees manned and unmanned aircraft regulations in the US. The FAA released their long awaited Small UAS Rule regarding commercial drone operations on August 29th, creating a path for drone pilots to legally become certified to fly for commercial purposes.
I soon decided to become certified as a Remote Pilot by taking the remote pilot certificate exam. It wasn’t very hard but did take a bit of studying. If you’re interested in getting certified for commercial operations, I recommend this resource put together by 3DR.
Now that I’m Part 107 certified, I’m able to do aerial drone work-for-hire. I did a fair bit this year, primarily capturing aerial footage for creative production companies and architecture firms. I plan to do more of this in 2017, as well as providing consulting services around commercial drone applications.
Looking Toward 2017
Drone innovation is accelerating at a breakneck pace. For something that’s really only been a viable option for little more than 3 years, it’s crazy insane how far things have progressed. In 2013, a quadcopter drone could barely find its own way home. Now consumer drones can capture buttery smooth 4k imagery, see objects around them, avoid or track them, fly repeatable mission paths, stay aloft much longer and can almost fit in your pocket.
Of course, drones are used for more than just capturing incredible photos and video. The commercial applications of drones are numerous. DroneDeploy is a well-funded startup that provides cloud-based photogrammetry services (3D maps and models created from aerial photos) for industries such as construction, agriculture, industrial inspection and mining. Their services are made to work with any drone, though it couldn’t be any simpler with those made by DJI. DroneDeploy just closed $20m in a Series B round this past August, adding rocket fuel to their efforts.
This December in San Francisco, Chinese drone maker DJI hosted DJI Airworks, their first ever enterprise drone conference. This event focused on industrial applications of drones across an array of industries. DJI brought together service providers, startup companies and early adopters who are pushing the envelope of what’s possible with drones in agriculture, public safety, construction and inspection. Commercial drones are projected to be a $127 billion market by 2020. This is not a bad horse to hitch your air wagon to.
FPV (first person view) drone racing is the adrenaline junky side of drones. It’s easy to see why this sport is so addictive and captures the imagination. I’ve built a couple drones for racing but readily admit my stick game isn’t nearly as good as the 20-somethings who live and breath this stuff on a daily basis. YouTube is chock full of masterful FPV racers & freestyle flyers doing their thing. Some recommendations: Rotor Riot, Mr Steele, Skitzo FPV, Zoe FPV, Vondrone, Aerial Sports League. Big money has already arrived in the FPV world. Top racers are being sponsored and flown to tournaments around the globe. This will only grow as more people discover this new sport.
2017 will continue to be interesting and innovative as drones become more accepted and commonplace in business, humanitarian work, art and leisure. I, for one, welcome our flying robotic overloads.
Anyone who has grown up in the Radio Shack era of electronics will instantly recognize Forrest Mims’ hand lettered book, Getting Started in Electronics. Star took three of Mims’ popular designs and is bringing them to life as electronic kits with Mims’ circuit diagrams rendered as lovely, functional circuit boards.
Star approached us to create the campaign video for her project, which we were extremely excited to take on. Not only is this such a cool project, but it gave us the opportunity to come up with creative ways to present Star and her work in the video. The design of the circuit boards, Mims’ books and the workbench setting all lent themselves to visually rich possibilities. Have a look at the video and see if you agree.
A lot has happened in my drone world this past year, though I really haven’t made much mention of it here. A quick recap of some of the highlights:
In February, I acquired a 3D Robotics IRIS, a fun ready-to-fly quadcopter with autonomous flight capabilities. I shot this fire aftermath video soon after.
Built my first quadcopter in April and participated in the Game of Drones – Aerial Action Sports League competitions at the Bay Area Maker Faire in May. Didn’t win any battles, but did hang out in the net a good bit.
Presented at dorkbotSF about my drone build and Game of Drones Maker Faire experience.
Shot a few dronies with friends using the 3D Robotics IRIS and a new DJI Phantom 2 Vision+.
Invited to O’Reilly’s Foo Camp where I hosted a session on drones with fellow drone pilot friend Chris Poole.
I’ve been really getting into shooting aerial drone video lately. I took my rig to Burning Man recently and here’s the results. This was shot using a DJI Phantom with an Arris CM2000 gimbal and a GoPro Hero3:Black in 1080p60. Be sure to watch in HD at full screen. Enjoy!
DEFCON: The Documentary, the film I helped shoot last year for intrepid nerd documentarian Jason Scott, is complete and ready for viewing. This doc chronicles the history of the world’s largest computer hacking conference, on its 20th anniversary as it took place in Las Vegas. There is so much packed into this. Even if you’ve never been to or heard of DEFCON, you’ll find this film to be quite accessible. Hundreds of hours of footage went into the making of this as did thousands of hours of Jason’s time directing and editing the thing. I’m quite proud of the results and am honored to have taken part in its creation.
I started a Meetup group for webcasters and live streamers in the San Francisco bay area. We’re having our first meetup event this Tuesday, June 4th at 7pm. Check the Meetup event page for details. This is the first of what I’m intending to be a monthly series. Each meetup will have two or three presenters covering the gamut of live streaming.
For this first one, I’ll do a quick slideshow presentation of my experiences producing events for Ustream and Eddie.com. Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent, will also give a high-level overview of BitTorrent Live, his latest creation. BitTorrent Live is a new peer-to-peer live streaming protocol that leverages peer connections to scale large live Internet broadcasts, potentially saving broadcasters a ton of money in distribution costs, while maintaining high reliability.
Since this is a meetup about streaming, we’ll of course stream the meetup. We’ll push to Ustream and BitTorrent Live. I’ll post the channel info here and in the group, check back or just come down and join the fun!