CES 2016: Going Through the Looking Glass

By Kathleen Hickey

I was in Las Vegas last year during CES, but only for a day, and I did not attend. As I walked around Vegas, mainly shopping, I saw groups of CES badge wearers, and thought how amazing it would be to actually attend.

Fast forward eight months later, and I had started my blog. I registered for CES in October, and I'll say that the email confirming my registration was one of the best I had received that year. I was in, and three short months later, I was in Las Vegas, standing on the showroom floor.  

CES is a trade only event, and has various requirements to attend. Attendees are asked to provide credentials in advance to verify that they are affiliated with the consumer technology industry. It takes place in several locations throughout Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas Convention Center, and a number of hotels. Those locations were named "Tech East," "Tech South" and on, so they would be easy to find, and navigate through. Vendors were separated into categories based on  the type of technology they represent. DJI was under "Digital Imaging/Photography", and "Other Consumer Technology". There was not a specific Drone, UAS, UAV category. Most of my time was spent in Tech East, where the UAV and drone technology was located.

My first stop was at DJI. As always, they had an amazing booth, which featured all of their products and platforms. The new OSMO, released in October was a feature at the booth. OSMO is a handheld gimbal which features digital imaging, and advanced 3-axis stabilization system making it the first of its kind in a handheld camera. With OSMO, you can capture images with timelapse, tripod free long exposure, and 360 automatic panorama. The OSMO comes with the Zenmuse X3 camera, and provides 4K video at 24, 25, or or 30 frames per second. CES attendees had an opportunity to borrow the OSMO for an hour to document their CES experience. It was also featured with the new Zenmuse X5 camera.

DJI offered attendees the chance to take a DJI New Pilot Experience class, which took place in a remote location, about 30 minutes away from the convention center. Attendees could sign up for a specific class time slot, and were taken by bus to the location. Also featured was the newest addition to the Phantom Series, the Phantom 3 4K which is the only one in the series to offer 4K video and Wi-Fi connectivity for live video feed.

Also on hand was the Inspire 1 Pro Raw with the Zenmuse X5 in black (try saying that three times fast). Which is perfect for pilots that want to fly on the dark side.

My next big stop was at Yuneec which unveiled the new Typhoon H at CES. 

One of the most exciting things about the Typhoon H, would be its autonomous features. The sense and avoid technology, which allows the Typhoon H to detect when large objects are in its way was highlighted, and well as its Journey, Orbit, Curved Cable, and Point of Interest Modes. It also features retractable landing gear, and a 4K Camera. The Typhoon H is not yet available for purchase, but is believed to retail for around $1,799, which is less than other leading drones with similar features. Yuneec has become a leader in the drone industry, through advanced technology and competitive pricing. I'm looking forward to seeing the Typhoon H at work, and what's in the future for Yuneec. 

Another notable drone was the Hexo+. It seems to fit somewhere between a standard drone, and the Lily, which sees itself more in the GoPro market than drones. The Hexo+ is controlled by an App on your smartphone, although it is also RC compatible. The Hexo+ tracking feature, and 45 MPH maximum speed make it more idea for people that would want a drone for extreme sports, and other action based activities. 

Ehang unveiled a single passenger drone, Ehang184 which is an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) that can fly for about 20 minutes, and carry a person up to 260 pounds. Of course their are many considerations, (and laws), to be considered before something like Ehang184 could come to market, but it was very impressive to see in person, and something that we may have to look forward to in the future. 

Another amazing booth, and one of my favorites at CES came from Parrot. Although drones are just part of the Parrot family, which includes headphones, Bluetooth devices, robots, and even something that helps you water your plants, Drones were a focal point. 

Taking center stage was the the Parrot Disco, the first "Ready To Fly" Fixed-Wing drone. It has a 45 minute flight time due to a 2700mAh battery. It also has embedded ground sensors, detachable wings for transport, and automatic takeoff, landing and return home modes.  

Parrot also offered attendees an amazing show, with choreographed autonomous drones within their flight cage. It was colorful, fun, and full of life. Also on hand was the Bebop 2, and an FPV compatible Skycontroller. 

Going to CES truly felt like stepping into another world. There was so much to see, and participate in. It was incredible to see all of the new technology, and not just in drones, but in various tech fields. Information is already up for CES 2017. There is an email sign up that will let you know when registration is open. I will be posting tips and things to know when planning your trip to CES for next year. If you'd like to see more pictures, they are available on my Adventures Page! Thank you CES for a wonderful time. I'll see you next year...

Happy Flying

Me with my badge. I put it on as soon as I got it. Maybe not the cool expo move, but I was too excited to not have it on. Although I still wonder about what Services I'm Providing...

Me with my badge. I put it on as soon as I got it. Maybe not the cool expo move, but I was too excited to not have it on. Although I still wonder about what Services I'm Providing...

DJI OSMO with the Zenmuse X5 camera and additional accessories. Available through the  DJI Website . 

DJI OSMO with the Zenmuse X5 camera and additional accessories. Available through the DJI Website

The new Phantom 3 4K

The new Phantom 3 4K

Inspire 1 Pro Raw with the Zenmuse X5 in black

Inspire 1 Pro Raw with the Zenmuse X5 in black

Yuneec Typhoon H

Yuneec Typhoon H

Part of the Yuneec booth at CES

Part of the Yuneec booth at CES



Ehang184 AAV

Ehang184 AAV

Parrot Booth

Parrot Booth

Parrot Disco: CES Innovation Award Honoree - Unmanned Systems and Accessories.

Parrot Disco: CES Innovation Award Honoree - Unmanned Systems and Accessories.

Parrot flight cage with the Disco

Parrot flight cage with the Disco

Dear Holiday Drone Shoppers...

By Kathleen Hickey

In a snap and a flash, it's over. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and takes with it - Black Friday. Many shops and websites had some amazing deals on drones. Did you take advantage of it? Do you wish you had? Do you think you bought that special someone the drone of their dreams? Did you buy yourself a drone of your dreams? Are you waiting for Cyber Monday? Here are a few things you should know before you give give the gift of a drone, to yourself, or someone you love.  

And I know that it's a lot to go through, and there's not a good amount of falala in rules, but if you or someone you know would like to take on the responsibility of owning a drone, it's important stuff to read through. 

Nothing Says Happy Holidays Like Regulations

It is estimated that a million drones will be sold this holiday season. Regulation can be a scary word. So can National Airspace, and Federal. And you know what, it should make a person stop and think a little. As much as some people would like to consider drones a toy, most of them are not. Drones are tools. They are very fun, addictive, useful, and can create beautiful images, and let the pilot explore a new perspective, but they can also be dangerous if not used correctly, or under the right circumstances. 

On November 21st, the FAA released the findings of a special UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) Registration Task Force. The Task Force was comprised of various members from 27 companies and organizations that ranged from DJI, to the Consumer Technology Association, and the American Association of Airport Executives. The group was given three days to come up with suggested registration requirements for drones. Here's a breakdown of some of their suggestions:

  • UAS that weigh under 55 pounds (55 lbs and over already require registration), and above 250 grams (8.82 oz) will require registration.
  • Registration is not required at point of sale, because the operator of the UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) is the responsible party to register.
  • Citizenship is not required for registration, and the minimum age to register is 13, (although many drones have a suggested age for use, so always check before purchasing a drone for a minor).  
  • They suggest registration should be free, but in the case a fee is required, they suggest that it's a penny. 
  • Registration can be done online, and DOES NOT require an outside company to process. There are companies already trying to take money from people to "help" with registration of drones. That is not needed. 
  • Operator will have to show proof of registration when asked (I imagine like a fishing licence). 

These are recommendations, and while it's fairly certain that the FAA will put a system of registration in place, The firm details have not yet been provided. If you'd like to read the full summary, you can do so here. There is a summary at the end, so if the drone talk has you scratching your head, you can check the last two pages. The FAA has also come out with a Safety Checklist so if you're giving a drone as a gift, it would be a great idea to print it out, and include it in your card. 

Safety First

Once you put your drone in the air, you are part of the U.S. aviation system. You are considered a pilot, and your drone is an aircraft. There are very strict and harsh penalties for not following flight laws. Not sure what those rules are? Take a look at Know Before You Fly, for safety guidelines. 

Now, have you may have seen some really cool things done with drones. Like maybe...

  • Flying at night.
  • Flying over animals (especially endangered ones).
  • Flying over groups of people.
  • Flying around power lines, airports, stadiums, freeways, and other heavily populated areas.
  • Pools, and beaches, and backyards with people getting some sun.


What you may see from other drone operators, and what you can actually do are two separate things. Some drone operators have exemptions, and have asked special permission to take various shots. Some have contacted local authorities, as well as airports, so they can fly in what normally is a no fly zone. At times, a special group may ask a drone operator to assist in researching groups of animals. Different countries also have different flight laws. And some people are just breaking the rules. If you see something on Instagram or Twitter, it's not a green light to do the same. 

There are various tools to help pilots determine if they are in a no fly zone. Some drones have indicators that will let you know if you are not in an area that you can fly in. There are also Apps that indicate no fly zones. 

There are also temporary no fly zones, for special events, and times you should not fly due to bad weather conditions. It's also important to read the owners manual for your particular drone, and follow the manufactures pre flight instructions, and checklists. 

You Can't Always Take It Back

Drones are expensive. There's not just the initial cost, but everything else you have to buy to go with it. Make sure you fully understand the return policy, and warranty from the retailer you are buying your drone from. It's also important to note that it's possible to have an accident or crash, which is usually not covered by retailers. 

It's also important to note that there have been many thefts of drones from retailers, and not just one drone, but thousands of dollars worth. If you see a drone on Craigslist or Amazon, and the price just seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always purchase your drone from an authorized retailer. It will also guarantee that you will receive the help you need if any issues come up. 

Last But Not Least

Have fun! Have some good - responsible - safe - regulation compliant - non alcoholic - Know Before You Fly Fun. 

If anyone is a "good-time" person, I am. But I want to make sure anyone buying a drone is aware of the responsibility, and neighborly etiquette, before flying. The drone community is always happy to help anyone that wants to learn how to do it right.  Please join all of the responsible pilots, and be a good example. And as always...

Happy Flying

IDE A Guide To The International Drone Expo

By Kathleen Hickey

IDE: The Basics

International Drone Expo (IDE) will take place on December 11th, and 12th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. In its second year, IDE has expanded to a two day event. With over 100,000 sq. ft. of floor space, and over 80 exhibitors, it's sure to be an amazing experience. Exhibitors include DJI, Dronefly, Pix4D, AirVuz, and Yuneec, just to name a few. 

Registration for IDE is still open. There are four types of registration options.

  • Expo Only Access: For $30 you have admission for both days. There is also access to exhibit hall demonstrations, as well as select seminar presentations.
  • Conference Registration: For $325, have access to all conference sessions, luncheons, coffee breaks, exhibits, Keynote presentations, networking events, and demonstrations in the exhibit halls.
  • Student Conference Registration: For $150 get all of the benefits of the Conference Registration. 
  • Media Pass: If you are a member of the media, there is special contact information provided.

So, why should you attend a drone expo? There are many benefits, and IDE has made it very affordable for the general public to attend the event. Many drone expos and shows are trade only. To attend, you would have to show proof that you are in the UAV industry. If you have the Expo Only Access, you can walk the floor and speak face to face with manufacturers, educators, and other members of the drone industry. It's also a way to see demonstrations and see various drones side by side. Being able to see, feel, and try on products is very helpful in finding what works best for your needs, before you actually make a purchase, can save time, and hassle. Attending an expo can also be a fun social activity. Having people join you is a great way to get friends and family involved in your hobby. 


Attending conferences at any expo is a way to hear about what's going on in the world of drones from industry leaders. Some are Keynotes, which are usually on a specific topic, from one key speaker. Panels consist of multiple experts that will take questions on topics lead by a moderator, or Panel Chair. To get the most out of your experience at IDE, take a look at the topics that are most beneficial, or of the most interest for you. Some talks will take place on both days, so you may decide to pick one over the other on a specific day if one is offered on another. Here is my planned schedule, of speakers I'm excited to see: 

Day 1 Friday December 11th:

  • 8:40am - Keynote - Brendan Schulman - VP Of Policy & Legal Affairs, DJI

  • 10:15am

    The Future Of Education And Jobs In SUAS

    The mantra of the modern world is education for the future and advanced manufacturing along with all the technology that fuels it. What jobs are there for our young, and what training with they need? As we transition from a machine assisted labor force to an autonomously assisted one, who will take care of the software and hardware? These and many other questions are more than most algorithms can predict.

  • 11:40am

    Media Coverage And Drones

    News coverage and the creation of information Media are being disrupted by commercial drones. Disasters, Protests, Marches, Riots, you name it. If it's newsworthy, the reporters of the news want to be able to report it to you immediately. Aerial Robotics is changing the way we see the world and how it is being brought to us, get the whole story at 5. 

  • 1:00pm

    Aerial Sensors And Big Data

    By now we have all heard the term “Flying Smartphone”. This is not only true of commercial drones, but with the “Internet of Things” that fly creating an endless future of possibilities for Aerial sensors, application development, and adoption. Software and hardware creators alike have what is the hottest and arguably the fastest paced technology movement man has ever seen.

  • 2:00pm

    Keynote: Parimal Kopardekar

    Drones And The Future Of Aerospace - NASA UAS Airspace Integration & Operations/Logistics Unmanned Air Traffic Management (UTM) & NextGen NASA: Ames Research Center

    One might ponder the fact that we literally have two drones that have left our Solar System and are happily reporting data back to Earth. We have one on Mars, and we are designing one to study the corona of the Sun. With the explosion of technology in the past 150 years mankind has advanced but at a cost to our planet. As we turn our attention back to how we can create sustainability here on Earth we see that Drones and Aerospace are one of the keys to creating and aiding this agenda.

  • 4:30pm

    Room B - FAA And Commercial Drones

    Everyone know the issues that have faced the integration of sUAS in the NAS and the FAA is the main legislating body set with the task of creating the first layer of legislation that will set the groundwork for the future of commercial drone operations in the United States for generations to come. Just as we face at the advent of manned aircraft, the challenges that face us are many and the voices that must be heard are just as great. Hear firsthand from the FAA's author if the NPRM for sUAS in a healthy debate with the community and its creators where we are headed and when.

There are many more to choose from, and a full list of conferences and speakers is available on the IDE website. 

After the Show is the After Party

One of the best things about Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), are the food and drink options. If you're coming for IDE, and want to try a new restaurant, here are my picks!

  • Bottega Louie: Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Bottega Louie has pasta, salads, pizza, steaks, and a great wine list. They also have an amazing shop full of sweet treats and gifts to take home.
  • Eggslut: Breakfast, brunch, and of course....eggs. 
  • Kendall's Brasserie: Delicious French food. Part of the Patina group, Kendall's offers an Oyster Bar, extensive wine list, and a warm atmosphere. I recommend the salmon, and braised beef short rib. 

LA Live is right next to the convention center. If you don't want to drive at all, there are some great food and drink options there as well. 

  • The Farm of Beverly Hills: A Los Angeles twist on comfort food. The Farm has great drinks, a wine and beer menu, as well as cheese plates and burgers. I mainly visit for the cocktails, but the food is delicious as well. 
  • Rock'N Fish: Surf and turf at its best. Lots of great drink options as well. 
  • Yard House: 160 Beers on tap. That should be enough to get you there.....


I hope you are able to find this guide to IDE helpful. I'm so excited to attend. If you are not able to make it, I'll be tweeting throughout. Look for pictures on my Adventures Page. I'm always available to help, so please reach out to me with any questions! 

Happy Flying!


Drones: Responsibility vs. Regulation

By Kathleen Hickey

When discussing drones, one of the most common topics that comes up is regulation. I've found that a parallel conversation to regulation, is that of responsibility. If you're new to drones, or a pro, responsibility and regulation are both important and highly discussed. 

For someone thinking about buying a drone, or perhaps for someone that has just purchased one, the idea of various local, state, and federal flight regulations can be very overwhelming, and confusing. So what exactly is a regulation, and how does that differ from an actual law? Regulations are administrative codes and rules issued by various government agencies, like the FAA. Regulations are not laws, but they have the same force as laws. There are enforceable penalties for not following set regulations at any government level. Federal regulations are adopted through the Administrative Procedure Act (A.P.A.), with states having similar guidelines. Now that regulations have been defined, it's important to look at responsibility.

How much responsibility for safe flying and education falls on the government and regulatory agencies? Are flight rules and regulations easily accessible to the average consumer? Is there enough communication to the average public that these laws and regulations even exist? Is it easy for people to understand exactly what the rules are in their county, state, and on the federal level? 

On Monday October 19th, the Department of Transportation announced the creation of a task force that will make recommendations for a UAS, (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) registration process. The hope from the DOT is that registration will create more accountability, and responsibility for people that fly drones. The task force, which is comprised of representatives from the UAS industry, government, and other interested parties is expected to have their report completed by November 20th. Although many welcome and support safety and education for people that fly drones, it seems clear that the DOT is racing against the clock to prepare for the upcoming holidays, when it is estimated that over one million drones will be sold. At this point, it is not know if the registration process will provide resources, education, and tools for people to be safe flyers, or if it will be more heavy in regulation. 

As the government works to create a system to enforce safe flying, how much of the responsibility of education falls under the care of the manufactures? Drones have become increasingly accessible,  more affordable, and easier to use. Manufactures are marketing their drones to the masses. Should increased revenue come with increased responsibility? Some manufactures have links on their websites to Know Before You Fly or reference safe flying. DJI offers the New Pilot Experience, a free class though various authorized partners, which in part covers safe and responsible flying. What amount of obligation, if any, should private companies have in educating their buyers on safety, and regulations? Do consumers understand what they are buying, and what responsibilities come with their purchase if they are able to walk into a mall, or local big box store to but it?

Of course manufacturers can only do so much. As nice as it would be to have a personal one on one drone liaison with every purchase, it's not practical. When you purchase a car, the dealer does not go into length on local driving laws and proper safety. Links to websites, information about safety, classes, and manuals, only work if customers actually use them.  There is also something to be said for common sense, and courtesy for those around us. 

Over time, government, manufactures, and consumers will all take their place in safe and responsible drone ownership, and regulation. More information will be available after the task force has made their recommendations. Until then, for someone wanting to better understand flight regulations, the best resources are Know Before You Fly, as well as information from local and state government agencies. Before traveling, be sure to check local ordinances, and for possible no fly zones in the area you will be visiting to ensure a safe and worry-free adventure.   

Happy Flying!