Learning how to fly a drone

23 Apr , 2015  

Florina found a helpful video tutorial on how to fly a drone. As she said on her blog, this might be a model of the type of skills someone would have to demonstrate in order to get a UAV license.

Along the same lines, Gary Gillam came across a nifty tablet/smartphone app that simulates flying a quadcopter. It’s called QuadcopterFx Simulator. Here’s the trailer:

Here is a link to the iOS (iPad and iPhone) version on iTunes.

Google Play has the Android version.

Gary loaded the app on an iPad, and Lea and a few other students played the simulation after taking the final exam today. I think it was Shivani who suggested that this simulation could be part of the UAV certification process. Obviously, it would be best to require prospective drone operators to fly a real UAV and demonstrate hands-on competency. But if that’s too bureaucratic, showing your ability with a computer simulation would be better than nothing. So I included this idea in our paper (which I’m about to email you).



Agenda for final class meeting

23 Apr , 2015  

1. Ice-breakers

Scary story #1 from today’s NYTimes:

Drone, Possibly Radioactive, Is Found at Office of Japan’s Prime Minister

Scary story #2 from today’s NYTimes:

Airmail via Drones Is Vexing for Prisons

Who knew?

An organization called No Fly Zone has introduced a website where individuals, business owners and others who do not want drones overhead can enter their addresses into a database. Those addresses will be provided to drone manufacturers who have agreed to program their devices not to fly over those locations.

Drone video of University of Richmond, via Facebook

After hours of flying drones and editing footage, we present the University of Richmond campus from a 500 ft. perspective. Student contributors: Drone Pilot – Killian McGiboney, Video Producers – Chris Miller & Quinn Hynes, Music Artist – Nick Yeutter

Posted by Forum Magazine on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2. What Matt Waite of Nebraska’s Drone Journalism Lab plans to tell the FAA

3. What we plan to tell the FAA (our paper)

4. Your final exam — start by 9:55 a.m. (at least 50 minutes)

Choose one of the two questions below. Write an answer of at least 200 words and no more than 400.  You can use any resources you’d like, including the Internet (with our class website) and our class paper (of which you’ll have a copy). Here are the questions you can choose from:

Option 1: Think of a scenario in which you might use a UAV to shoot video — it could be for news, an ad, a feature film, whatever. Assume you’re doing this in a country that doesn’t have any specific rules governing drones; the only requirement is “Just be safe.” Describe your scenario (what you want to shoot). How would you safely shoot your drone video? What precautions would you take?

Option 2: Imagine it’s 2016 and the FAA has adopted its rules governing commercial use of drones. Now somebody has to educate people about the rules. Who should do that? Propose a strategy for how to teach current and prospective drone pilots how to comply with the FAA rules. What kinds of organizations (such as the AMA or hobby shops) might be involved? And what should they teach? It’s OK to speculate on what rules you think the FAA will approve.



Dr. Bob Klenke speaking to our class

21 Apr , 2015  

Dr. Robert Klenke of VCU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering discussed the research he has done with model aircraft for NASA. A few takeaways:

Quadcopters can go haywire. Bob showed us a video of a drone that completely malfunctioned. It refused to obey the controller and flew off into a tree. Suppose it had hit a bystander?

Bob also noted that if you’re a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics‎ and you want to fly your UAV at an AMA flying field, you must demonstrate your flying skills. The rules proposed by the FAA wouldn’t require UAV pilots to pass a flying test.

There’s a wide variation among model aircraft. Bob has done research with a fixed-wing vehicle that has an 11-foot wingspan and weighs 50 pounds. That’s a far cry from a 4-pound quadcopter.

Engineering Professor Robert Klenke (Photo by Craig Zirpolo)

Engineering Professor Robert Klenke (Photo by Craig Zirpolo)


Agenda for Class #9

21 Apr , 2015  

Here’s the lineup for our penultimate class meeting

Ice-breaker: drone racing — who knew this was a thing?

1. Guest speaker: Dr. Robert Klenke, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University

Dr. Klenke’s research includes UAS.

2. We’ll review the draft of our white paper.

3. We’ll discuss what to submit to the FAA. (Should we submit the entire paper as a Word document? Or specific comments about certain rules? Should we submit one long comment — or multiple comments?)

4. Discussion of our final exam



Agenda for Class #8 — Thursday, April 16

16 Apr , 2015  

A few ice-breakers

(Via HuffPo) Spectacular Drone Photos Catch Famous Places ‘The Way They Were Designed To Be Seen’

This is the launch video for 3D Robotics’s Solo, a new drone from a new company that is creating a lot of hype at the National Association of Broadcasters conference happening now in Las Vegas. People are really stoked about it because it is incredibly intuitive to fly and has many features that make it better filmmaking tool than competitors, especially the cable cam function. The Solo is only $999, which is lower than the new DJI Phantom 3 by a few hundred dollars, but does not include a built-in camera.

UAS laws in other countries

Above the Law: How Drone Laws Around the World Are Affecting Production

Here is another rundown of the UAS rules in different countries, courtesy of the Missouri Journalism Drone Journalism Program. More…


Group presentations — great job!

15 Apr , 2015  

Here are your presentations about the use of drones in …



and cinema:


Agenda for Class #7 — April 14

14 Apr , 2015  

Ice-breakers du jour (from our Facebook group):

Craig Zirpolo:

I wanted to share a roundup of interesting UAS stories to kickstart ideas before the presentations on Tuesday. These are from the Drone Roundup by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.

Here’s an interesting story from Motherboard, the technology wing of Vice, about drones and journalism.

How students at OSU are using drones as scientific tools

Here’s a cinema-related story about the need for a UAS specifically for film.

Nick Atanasio (hilarious take on why drones have a bad rap)



Video of webinar on FAA rules

10 Apr , 2015  

I watched the webinar that the Kramer Levin law firm held Thursday about the FAA rules and comments. I think you’ll hear some good advice — tips that our class can use it preparing its comments for the FAA.


Agenda for Thursday, April 9

9 Apr , 2015  

The Kramer Levin law firm is holding a webinar at 2 p.m. today about the FAA rules and comments. Anybody want to watch it with me? If so, come to Temple 1149-B at 1:45. Here’s the link for the webinar.

Game plan for today’s class: We’ll spend half of the class talking about the white paper our class will generate — which will be the basis for our comments to the FAA. And then you’ll spend the other half of the class prepping for next Tuesday’s group presentations. More…


Recap of Tuesday’s class (& your homework)

7 Apr , 2015  

Hi, guys. Thanks again for your attention in class today. Let’s recap what we did — and what you must do over the next week.

In class today, we:

¶ Watched some ice-breaker videos; discussed the perspective than a drone can provide in an enclosed space (like a tunnel); discussed safety aspects of flying drones (like the Superman clip in the Wall Street Journal report).

¶ Discussed the group presentations that you will make next Tuesday (April 14). More on that below

¶ Perused handouts relating to the FAA’s proposed rules on drones; discussed comments submitted to the FAA; and discussed what we might submit as a class or as individuals.

Details on the above, including links to the videos and handouts , are on our agenda page.

Here’s your homework, as well as a direction for the next two classes. More…

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