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

Do You Like to F....... Part 2

By Kathleen Hickey

The Recap

I hope those of you that read "Do You Like to F.......Part 1" enjoyed learning a little about the history of FPV racing, watching the You Tube videos that helped create the fan base, and basic flying information. If you didn't read Part 1... (tisk tisk)...but don't fear. Part 1 is available below. 

I again have to give a big thank you to Joe Scully Race Director of FPV Racing Events for giving me a full history and breakdown of FPV racing. FPV Racing Events hosts premier racing events in Canada, and the United States. Information on their upcoming events can be found by following the link to their website. 

I also need to thank AJ Goin, aka Awkbots, team pilot for Ready Made RC (RMRC), for sharing a pilot's perspective with me. 

To help with some of the terms, products, and lingo, I have also included a glossary, which is available at the end of the blog. I will add additional words per blog as they apply.

The Anatomy Of A Quad 

Now that you've seen a bit of what racing quads can do, here's a look at some of the main parts, and equipment you'll need to start flying.

  1. Frame: Quad frames are primarily made from carbon fiber. Frames are available in different millimeter sizes. Frames can be purchased already made, or if you're more advanced at racing, you can go with a custom built frame. 
  2. Motors: You'll need four, one for each propeller. 
  3. ESC: Electronic Speed Controller - Also four of these. 
  4. Props: You can't have enough...
  5. LiPo Batteries: Each battery varies in flight time. If you have added components attached to your battery, that can shorten how much air time you have. Which LiPo you decide to go with will depend on how much power you need, but you will probably want to purchase a good amount of batteries. Also, LiPo batteries can potentially be dangerous. You should never fly with a damaged battery. Any battery that has a damaged cell must be properly disposed of, even if the other cells are functioning. There are various ways to properly store batteries, but they need to be stored in a safe container of some kind. You should also never leave your batteries charging unattended. (Safety First!)
  6. Antenna
  7. Flight Controller: The most important part!
  8. Transmitter
  9. Receiver: This may come with the transmitter when you purchase one, but they can also be purchased separately and switched out. 
  10. Goggles: Fat Shark makes a variety of goggles. There are also Fat Shark kits you can purchase that come with the FPV camera, receiver, and transmitter. 
  11. Battery Charger

While looking for information on how to build a quad, I found this video on You Tube from Tested, which has a great step by step tutorial on the parts, and the building process. 

There are several other tools that you will need for the actual build. 

  • Soldering iron
  • 2mm hex driver
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Exacto knife 
  • Wire Strippers
  • Small Screwdrivers
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Double Sided Tape
  • Zip Ties (can never have too many of those...)

Additional tools and parts will be needed depending on the build. There are also various added components that were mentioned in the video, such as battery straps, locator, antenna tubes, spacer, etc. Some of these items you can purchase in sets. AJ recommends a tool set sold by RMRC, which you can take a look at here.

There are also ARF or RTF models available if you'd rather not build your own. It's also good to keep in mind that you'll have to replace parts due to crashing, so make sure to look into something that has components that can be replaced easily. 

As mentioned in the video,  it's important to understand what you would like to fly as a unit, and not purchase parts that are not compatible with the size and power needs of the quad you are building. There are various calculations for frame size, motors, ESCs, and batteries, to be sure you are purchasing parts that are the right size, and will give you the right amount of power to actually fly. There are also various race categories and/or requirements depending on the size of various parts, like your frame, or prop size, which is something to consider if you'd like to race. 

I asked AJ Goin (Awkbots), what advice he would give to someone wanting to get into FPV Racing, and here's what he had to say about building your own quad. "One thing I would say is, when getting into a hobby, don't buy the cheapest everything in fear of not enjoying it. I always buys the best the first time, because it makes the experience more enjoyable, and if you don't end up liking it, it's much easier to sell. Obviously not everyone can afford to get the best gear immediately, but do your research and get the best bang for the buck gear."

When just starting out, AJ believes the key thing keep in mind, is to keep it simple. "Get something in the air, line of sight first, and really try to get the hang of that, then graduate to FPV. Don't worry about trying to fly miles away or have GPS position hold...if it's something you want to do, watch as many You Tube videos on it as possible. If you're still interested after that then maybe try it. For me personally, I don't use a single bell or whistle, and never get more than 100-200 yards away. I don't feel like walking that far after I crash (and you will crash). No matter how many videos you watch and see amazing pilots do what seem like perfect runs, just know WE ALL CRASH!"  

Part three of the blog is all about the actual race. From the different types of races, requirements, pilots, and how to get started in an actual race yourself, I'll go over the race from top to bottom. I'll also be sharing a list of events in 2016, and the races I'm most looking forward to. Until then, take a look at what you need to make your quad dreams a reality...and as always...

Happy Flying!

Please keep in mind that all drone flying requires pilots to follow safety guidlines and standards. If you are in the US, please visit the FAA website, or Know Before You Fly to ensure a safe flying experience. 


  • ARF: Almost Ready to Fly - a drone that requires some assembly before flight. 
  • Fixed Wing: Usually referring to hobby planes, which have wings, and not removable propellers, or props. 
  • FPV: First Person View - a method used to control a UAV from the viewpoint of the pilot. The UAV is piloted from a first person perspective by an on-board camera, which is fed with wireless technology to a video monitor, or FPV goggles. 
  • Multi-Rotor: Another name for multicopters, or quadcopters. 
  • Quad: Another name for a drone. 
  • RC: Remote-Control
  • RPV: Remote Person View - another term for FPV
  • RTF: Ready To Fly - No assembly required before flight.
  • Video Piloting: An alternate term for FPV and/or RPV
  • VTX: Video Transmitter System

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!


Want to Fly a Drone? There's an App for That

By Kathleen Hickey

So, you've found the perfect drone and you're ready to go out and fly. You've taken a look at Know Before You Fly, and perhaps you've taken the quiz to find out how safe a pilot you are. Flying a drone can be a really exciting, and fun experience. 

If you're new to flying, or a seasoned pro, drone Apps are a great resource. From flight logs, to weather information, safety, and airspace maps, downloading the right App can help you get the most out of flying. Some also have an aspect of community, through forums, and information sharing. Connecting with other pilots is a great way to become an engaged member of the drone community by sharing tips, flight information, and of course beautiful aerial photography. Here are a few great Apps, with some highlighted features. 


Hover is one of the most popular Apps for commercial, and recreational pilots. It is very easy to use, and covers a wide range of helpful tools and information. Here are a few features:

  • Weather Data: Information includes wind speed (to avoid a Mary Poppins moment with your drone), local weather, KP-Index, current temperature, and more.
  • Flight Readiness Indicator: To let you know if its safe to fly in certain areas, or under certain weather conditions. 
  • Airspace Map: Allows you to see if you are in a no-fly area.
  • News Feed: Keep up to date on drone news, (when you can't look at my blog of course).Hover


Kittyhawk is a beautifully designed App. It allows users to track individual flight information, with an option to join or create teams. Sharing information with friends, and other pilots is a great way to learn, and feel like part of a community when you fly. Here are a few features:

  • Flight Information: Record flights on Kittyhawk's cloud database. Keep track of flight time, battery cycles, and location information. 
  • Socially Friendly: Share information such as flight notes with your team. Support and learn from others by seeing their flight information. Make it fun by competing against your friends on various parts of your flights, like amount of air time. 
  • Fleet: Have more than one drone, or drones from different companies? Add your entire fleet to the App. 

UAV Zones:

UAV Zones is a basic location map. It allows the user to see no-fly zones in the immediate area. Although there are no additional features, it's a simple way to see if the flight area is restricted. UAV Zones had a recent update to fix a bug for startup crashes, which occurred on 11/6/15.

  • Location Indicator: Color indication of no-fly zones.


DJI GO is specific to DJI Inspire 1, Phantom 3, Matrice 100, and a new feature for the OSMO. The DJI remote controller allows the user to attach a mobile device to view what the camera is capturing in real-time. DJI has additional available Apps for their own devices to optimize each flying experience.  Here are a few features:

  • Real-time flight record.
  • Remote video and photo capture with gimbal control. 
  • Instant video and photo sharing. 
  • Video tutorials.

3DR Solo:

3DR Solo is specific to the 3DR Solo Drone. The App allows the user to have live HD feed as well as access to flight features with a simple touch. There are available support options, and the App is very easy to use. Here are a few features:

  • Access to flight settings and a satellite map view.
  • Live wireless HD view from the Solo GoPro.
  • Smart Shots: Single touch ability to use 3DR Solo orbit, follow, selfie, and cable cam features.
  • Flight school video tutorials. 
  • Wireless updates.

Apps are a great tool, and can be helpful for a fun flying experience. Although Apps have no-fly zone maps, it's important to always use sound judgement when flying. There may also be temporary no-fly zones, which may not show up on an App. Although they can also be useful to track equipment, it's always important to go through flight checks before flying, to ensure the drone, batteries, and any other components are not damaged, and in full working order. 

Each App has various features, and benefits. Just as it was important to recognize specific needs when purchasing a drone, it's important to consider what information and options are the best for individual flying needs when picking an APP. The good news is that all of these are free! There is no harm in checking them out, and picking the one, or more than one that works best to create the best possible experience. 

Happy Flying!