6/30/16

US sUAS/Drone Owner Maps

Last month, the FAA released location data for registered drone owners. Shortly thereafter, Airmap made a heatmap of drone owners, and released it via twitter. We've taken a little more time, and done some assessment of the top 5 states for drone ownership.
There's no surprise here, Silicon Valley has attracted a huge number of UAS hobbyists. 3D Robotics, the leader in US drone manufacturing, is headquartered in Berkley California.
Texas is another state with a large population, and lots of land to fly in. Texas has the distinct honor to host the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence, one of only 6 FAA-Designated UAS test facilities.
An early misconception was that Florida had a much higher than average number of drone pilots per the rest of the population. In the slide above, you can see that as a whole, the US has 1 registered drone pilot for every 669.1 people. Florida comes in at slightly more populous with a ratio of 1:534.6, the 12th highest.
New York owes it's placing in the top 5 largely due to dense population cluster in New York City. Flights over NYC often spark debate, as it's very difficult to avoid flying over people in such a dense city. To make matters worse, irregular winds and GPS multipathing make the risk of losing control of your aircraft even higher. High profile Youtuber Casey Neistat has been called out for his controversial flights over the city, but at this time has not been fined, or commented on his flights. New York is also home to NUAIR, another FAA-designated UAS test site, in Griffiss International Airport.
 It's hard to see a definite correlation between drone ownership and Pennsylvania, beyond shear population.
As a bonus (or lagniappe, as the Cajuns would say it), we also did an assessment of Louisiana. Although Louisiana ranks low on the list, the state been looking into passing more strict rules regarding UAS. This would set a dangerous precedent, as it would open the floodgates to the creation of a patchwork nightmare of drone laws throughout the nation. This patchwork would be difficult to understand and follow, and even harder to enforce. This issue has appeared at least once in courts before, in Gustafson vs City of Lake Angeles, but in the realm of manned aircraft. The result? "Air traffic must be regulated at the national level".

If you would like to see an analysis of your state, feel free to contact us!

Floating - Litchi App Test

Every now and then I hear buzz about the Litchi app (Autopilot for modern generation DJI drones), and finally had the time to check it out. The interface is like a mix of Tower and DJI Go, and easy enough to use. You can see the video from my test, above.

6/27/16

Baby Shower

Over the weekend I had an opportunity to catch some footage at a friend's baby shower. Best wishes to the family, and their newest addition!

6/20/16

Drone Owner Height map - Free .STL file for 3D Printing

 As we've been discussing over the last month, the FAA released partial data of their sUAS owner registry. Using said data and the marvel of thingiverse, we can 3D print a physical height map of drone ownership in the US.
You can get the file for your own use here. Thanks for looking!

6/19/16

Drone 3d Models - Just a Test

 This week I've been playing with generating 3d models from drone flights. It's surprisingly easy - I'll do a full writeup and video in the coming weeks. These were generated with Agisoft Photoscan, low resolution processing.
The real trick is going to be modifying these models for 3d printing. I'm looking forward to it!

6/10/16

Louisiana Drone Owner Map

As we discussed in one of the last posts, the FAA recently released location data of registered US sUAS (Small Unmanned Aerial Systems, like "Drones", multirotors, rc helicopters and planes) owners. Data is most interesting when displayed visually, so I through it in some GIS software and went to town.

A few notes:

  • This only represents registered owners. That means people (not number of drones) who meet the criteria, and have voluntarily complied with the FAA's registration requirement. Many RC enthusiasts have chosen not to comply, so these numbers are in no way complete. Furthermore, many people believe that the registration only applies to multirotors ("Drones") - This is not the case.
  • Registrations follow population centers. The higher the concentration of people, the higher the likelihood of drone ownership. Some people have claimed that these represent "pockets of rich people"; Aircraft can be purchased for as little as $50 that meet the registration requirement. I would argue that this is an oversimplification. Population density, disposable income, and predisposition to tech savvy all come into play, as do local weather patterns, legal landscape, and societal norms. As my sociology professor once said, "A simple answer to a complex social issue is often a wrong answer".
  • Law Enforcement entities can gain a deeper understanding of patterns by plotting location data and sUAS related incidents.
Every year, Louisiana is faces issues with hurricanes, flooding, and wetland loss. UAS can function as a force multiplier for first responders and other officials in response to each of these issues. The Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation in Corpus Christi already assists the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in monitoring Texas wetlands. Similarly, Texas Equisearch utilizes drones to help find missing persons. Imagine if Louisiana could replace dozens of $1000/hr+ helicopter flights during hurricane response and Mardi Gras with low cost UAS technology. Take a page out of Texas's book!