Amazon Prime Air

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Jan 062017

Amazon Prime Air is the name of Amazon’s new drone delivery service. That’s right, it’s officially underway. I never though they would pull it off, but Amazon made their first delivery of a package by air drone delivery. It was delivered in December 2016 to a customer in Cambridge, England, which Wikipedia says is a “university city”, about 50 miles north of London.

It is reported that the delivery took 13 minutes. Amazon says it has Prime Air facilities in the U.S., Israel, U.K., and Austria – that’s where Arnold Schwarzenegger is from.

amazon prime air

As can be seen by the photo above, Amazon’s drone is obviously much more expensive, and larger, than even the most expensive drones you might find on this site.

Amazon is trying out their air delivery service with just 2 customers, but says it plans to expand that number in the coming months. The Prime Air service is only for packages that weigh less than 5 pounds, but it appears there are thousands of items that meet that criteria.

A Giant Mothership in the Sky

amazon flying warehouse

Amazon received a patent in April of 2016 for a giant flying warehouse in the sky. You read that right. This will be an “airborne fulfillment center” stocked full of products. It will be an airship or a blimp that floats in the sky at an altitude of about 45,000 feet. I wonder how many employees will be up there?

The idea is to have drones launch from these warehouse blimps and deliver packages. One use Amazon suggests is to use them at football games. A blimp could have an advertising board on the side so spectators could see what’s available to order. People would place orders of merchandise or food, and a drone descends down within minutes to deliver the goods.

Amazon does have the patent, but aviation authorities would have to approve the whole idea. amazon patent graphic

Amazon also received an anti-hacking patent. The patent covers “countermeasures of threats to an uncrewed autonomous vehicle.”

They think that a malicious person could jam drone signals which could cause the drone to crash. The patent describes the technology of a “mesh network”. Different drones communicate with one another, and the patent filing says “disagreement between data generated by the first UAV with external data from the second UAV may result in the determination that the first UAV is compromised.” (UAV stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

The patent also talks about things like “spread spectrum” and frequency hoping”. The graphic image on the right, from Amazon’s patent, shows the mesh network and how it can be used to prevent hacking.

There is a strange irony to all this. The U.S. government, as well as some foreign government aviation authorities, are looking at technology to take down drones by jamming their signal. The governments want to be able to stop drones in restricted airspace, or drones that pose a threat to civilians or the military. A company called Battelle makes a device that looks like a rifle with an antenna on it, that jams drone signals.

At the same time, the FCC prohibits any operation, sale, or marketing of jamming equipment, and there are fines and imprisonment for violators.

amazon drone package delivery

As of the date of this blog post, the latest information I’ve found is that the FAA has not approved drone use in the U.S. for package delivery. The rules also say that drones must weigh less than 55 pounds. Amazon’s drone pictured at the top of this post appears to weigh a lot more than that. Drones must also be in visual line of site of the pilot. I don’t see how this is possible, if they are used for package delivery. How can a pilot be in line of site from the entire time every drone leaves a warehouse, to the time it reaches a customers’s location? Also, drones have to be flown below 400 feet, only during the day, and at least five miles from airports.

It’s been reported than Amazon got most of the online holiday sales, by a long shot. They had 36.9 % of sales. The closest competitor, Best Buy, had a measly 3.9%. However Amazon is spending a lot of it’s profits on technology like these drones, which I know must be super expensive.

There are a lot more companies and industries that want to use drones, not only for package delivery, but many other uses. It’s been reported that Walmart and Google are testing drones for deliveries. Here are some other industries that have used and/or want to make more use of them:

  • Real Estate companies want to use them to take aerial photos, especially of large estates.
  • The news media. I can see big invasion of privacy issues here. Whereas they now use helicopters, I can see multiple media sources trying to take low altitude footage using drones.
  • Sports photography
  • Wildlife photography and research
  • Drones have already been used for search and rescue, missing persons, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters.
  • Utility companies looking for downed power lines
  • Land surveyors and map makers
  • Crop inspections by farmers
  • Filmmaking
  • Firefighting, police, and emergency response

Some sources, and even the FAA, are saying that hundreds of thousands of drones could be in the air. I think things could get out of control long before that. There could be so many people flying drones for “commercial” uses, that hobbyists would no longer be able to get much enjoyment from RC helicopters, for fear of crashing into another aircraft. I also see a lot of other problems and catastrophies occuring with even a few thousand “unmanned aerial vehicles” in the air. Especially when considering that many of the “pilots” won’t have very good flying skills or much experience. The poor birds won’t know what to think about all the strange flying objects. It will be interesting to see how the FAA and society continues to deal with this issue in the future.

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 Posted by at 7:52 pm

Drone Laws

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Dec 092016

quadcopter in sky

RC helicopters and drones make great Christmas presents, but be aware of drone laws.

You may or may not have heard that the FAA is now regulating quadcopter and drone flight in the United States. Actually, all RC helicopters are being regulated.

This probably came about as a result of people flying quadcopters especially, in very high places, and also in crowded city areas, and restricted areas like around or near the White House.

One man tried to photograph the Empire State Building with his drone and it crashed into the building.

Many drones are able to fly hundreds of feet into the air, and great distances across land, but the people at the controls haven’t perfected their flying skills.

quadcopter aerial view

Regulations when into effect early in 2015 for commercial drone use. On December 21, 2015 the FAA made requirements for “recreational drone use”. This means hobbyists. They implemented “Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft.”

As of February 19, 2016 all drones have to be registered if they weigh more than 0.55 pounds. This probably includes almost all RC helicopters, except very small models that you would fly inside your house or apartment.

There is a $5.00 fee and you can register either online or by mail. You can get an FAA identification card or provide your drone’s serial number. The FAA certificate you receive will be good for 3 years.

Many people have raised concerns about these FAA regulations, and wonder how they can be enforced. People are especially concerned that this registration requirement will put a lot of names and home addresses of hobbyists in a public database.

On December 24, 2015 the FAA was sued in federal court over these rules. The man who filed the lawsuit is an attorney, who says the FAA’s new rule is prohibited by Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

This act prohibits the FAA from making new regulations regarding aircraft used for hobby and recreational uses.

As per the new law, you have to agree to follow drone regulations. The FAA has a smartphone app called B4UFLY, which helps helps you stay out of restricted airspace.

If you get caught flying your drone and it isn’t registered, you could face civil fines up to $27,500 and criminal fines up to $250,000 and three years in prison.

Complete Compliance Package available for drone registration

We have a complete package available which will take care of all the drone registration requirements for you.

You’ll be registered with the FAA

You’ll receive an outdoor rated, industrial grade label which has your FAA registration number, to put on your drone (labeling your drone is another FAA requirement).

You will receive a durable, high quality plastic wallet card that has your FAA Registration Certificate printed on it.

Your $5.00 registration fee is included in the price. To get this compliance package click here.

Here are some general FAA rules for flying drones, which apply to commercial use, as well as hobbyists:

  • You must be 16 years old to fly
  • Your RC helicopter, quadcopter, or drone has to weigh less than 55 lbs.
  • You should do a pre-flight check to make sure your aircraft is safe to fly
  • You can’t fly within 5 miles of airports without notifying the airport and air traffic control tower
  • You must always yield to manned aircraft
  • You have to be able to see your drone – have a visual line of site
  • You have to follow any laws related to your city or state
  • You can only fly during daytime hours
  • You have to fly under 400 feet
  • Don’t fly over people or vehicles, and stay away from buildings

Remember, if you fly an RC helicopter or drone over 0.55 lbs., you have to meet all the FAA requirements. To get a complete compliance package which will take care of everything, including your registration fee, click here.

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 Posted by at 7:19 pm

Search and Rescue Drones

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Jan 042016

Drone Used for Flood Monitoring in Tennessee

Two days before Christmas, storms were brewing that affected Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Reports vary, but most claim there were around 14 tornadoes and 14 deaths.

There was also a lot of flooding, and the Hardin County Fire Department (HCFD) in west Tennessee used a recently purchased unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to monitor flooding of the Tennessee river. These UAV’s are frequently called “drones”, but are actually high quality quadcopters.

The quadcopter model used by the HCFD was a DJI Phantom III Professional. They are used by some police and phantom 3 professional fire departments for search and rescue missions. Obviously they are much cheaper to buy and use than an actual manned helicopter. They will only operate about 23 minutes on one battery charge, but by keeping spare batteries on hand that are already charged, the copter can always be ready.

The Phantom III showed aerial footage of the flooding in Hardin county that was seen on the Good Morning America TV show. The fire chief also used the quadcopter to do a search and rescue mission for two dogs, possibly in the path of flood waters. The copter found them in a short time and they were fine.

Advanced quadcopters like the Phantom III have a lot of capabilities that can aid police and fire departments, such as GPS assisted flight, a vision positioning system, a 12 megapixel camera, and a return to home function.

The quadcopters can also be used to get an overhead view of building fires and forest fires – to see how the shifting winds are spreading the fire. Some cities may also use them for city mapping.

This same Phantom model can be purchased by the general public. If you get one, make sure you learn how to fly it properly before you start venturing off into the sky. Also follow all laws in your area regarding unmanned aerial vehicles.

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 Posted by at 8:24 am

$2 Million Fine For Flying a Quadcopter Drone?

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Oct 072015

On Tuesday October 6 the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) proposed an almost $2 million dollar ($1.9 million) fine against a company that does aerial photography using a quadcopter (drone).

new york skyline

They said the company, SkyPan International, made 65 unauthorized flights over New York City and Chicago, and that 43 of the flights were in highly restricted airspace.

This highly restricted airspace is called Class B airspace and is basically within a 5 mile radius of a major airport, and up to 10,000 feet up.

The 65 flights were said to be in heavily populated areas and were done without clearance by an air traffic control tower.

The FAA also requires these commercial operations to have a two way radio, a transponder, and altitude reporting equipment, which SkyPan did not have.

Skypan also didn’t have the proper registration, an airworthiness certificate, and “did not have a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for the operations”, according to the FAA Press Release.

They have 30 days to respond to the FAA.

Non commercial RC helicopter hobbyists don’t need the airworthiness certificate, but are required to fly below 400 feet and stay 5 miles away from airports.

The FAA says they receive many daily reports of quadcopters and drones flying too close to airports. The US Forest Service has also reported about 18 unauthorized flights of quadcopters near wildfires, sometimes obstructing the fire-fighting.

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 Posted by at 7:38 am
Aug 292015

Owning a remote control (RC) helicopter allows you to do more than just solo flights. From camera mounting to racing, inverted flights and more, the possibilities are endless. That’s why today we’re going to reveal 5 fun things to do with an RC helicopter.

rc helicopter fun

Mount a Camera

Of course, you can also mount a camera onto your RC helicopter. There are special miniature-sized cameras that are designed specifically for mounting on RC helicopters, planes, cars, trucks and other vehicles. Once attached, they will generally store the footage on a local drive (usually an SD or MicroSD Card), at which point you can retrieve the footage to view on your smartphone or computer. Camera-mounted RC helicopters have become increasingly popular over the past few years, opening the doors to a whole new world of possibilities for hobbyists.

Race With Other RC Helicopter Hobbyists

Tired of flying your RC alone? Assuming you live in a populated area with other RC hobbyists, you can always set up races. Contrary to what some people may believe, cars and trucks aren’t the only RC vehicles that can be raced. If you have an RC helicopter, find another like-minded hobbyist with whom to orchestrate a race. You can set a starting point and a finish line at a large, open field. Whoever crosses the line first with his or her RC helicopter wins the race.

Upgrade the Parts

If you’re a “hands-on” hobbyist, perhaps you’ll enjoy upgrading the components of your RC helicopter. Most RC helicopters, especially the hobby-grade models (not toy-grade) feature removable/replaceable components. This means you can take off the stock parts (e.g. tail, rotor, blades, etc.), replacing them with performance-grade parts. DIY upgrades such as this will go a long ways in boosting your helicopter’s speed and performance, which is something every hobbyist should strive for.

Fly Through an Obstacle Course

The next time you’re sitting around the house bored one day, create an obstacle course for your RC helicopter. If you have an indoor RC helicopter, you may want to rearrange the furniture to create “loops” and towers. Next, try to fly through the course, from start to finish, without bumping into anything.

Join a Local RC Helicopter Club

There are hundreds if not thousands of RC helicopter clubs throughout the US, covering all of the major cities. Joining one will allow you to network with other hobbyists, many of whom are eager to share their expertise and experience. Many RC helicopter clubs even hold their own races and competitions, adding a fun new dynamic to this already thrilling hobby.

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 Posted by at 7:50 am

Beginner’s Guide to Owning a Nitro-Powered RC Helicopter

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Aug 152015

One of the many decisions you’ll have to make when purchasing your first remote control helicopter is whether to choose an electric, gas or nitro-powered model. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each, but seasoned hobbyists often prefer nitro RC helicopters for their superior speed and performance.

nitro rc helicopter

What is Nitro Fuel?

It’s a common assumption that nitro fuel is nothing more than standard unleaded gasoline, but this isn’t entirely true. Nitro, or Nitromethane, is an organic polar liquid that’s used in a wide variety of applications. It can be found in cleaning products, solvents, fibers, pesticides, medicine, and of course, remote controlled vehicles. When used in RC vehicles, it’s able to burn using much less oxygen than standard gasoline, resulting in greater combustion and subsequently more power.

In order for a standard gas-powered RC helicopter to burn 1kg of gasoline, the engine must receive 14.7kg of oxygen. With a nitro-powered model, however, it only needs 1.7kg of oxygen to burn 1kg of nitro fuel. Keep in mind that gasoline delivers a higher specific energy, yet the gross power produced by nitro tends to be higher.

Purchasing Nitro Fuel

If you’re going to invest in a nitro-powered RC helicopter, you’ll need to find a supplier who is willing to sell you hobby-grade nitro fuel. You won’t be able to buy nitro fuel from your local gas station, meaning you’ll have to find other ways to acquire the fuel. The good news is that most RC hobby stores sell nitro fuel, so this is usually a good place to start. If you are unable to find any, ask some other RC hobbyists in your area. Word of mouth can be an effective tool in sourcing nitro fuel, as well as other parts and components for your RC helicopter.

Maintaining and Caring for a Nitro RC Helicopter

Like all RC vehicles, nitro-powered helicopters must be cleaned on a regular basis. If left unchecked, a think gunk-like substance will form in the engine, inhibiting its ability to generate combustion. The components of a nitro RC helicopter should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent this from happening. You can clean it using one of the many products sold at RC hobby stores, or you can clean your helicopter using some left over nitro fuel. The nitro fuel should eat away at stubborn gunk, leaving your engine nice and clean afterwards.

Is a Nitro RC Helicopter Right for Me?

Everyone has their own opinions regarding which type of RC helicopter is the best. However, there’s really no way to tell whether or not a nitro model is the right choice without trying it for yourself. We recommend performing a test flight using a nitro, gas, and electric model, to see which one is best suited for your preference.

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 Posted by at 6:50 am

Top Tips to Make Your RC Helicopter Faster

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Aug 072015

When it comes to remote control (RC) helicopters, speed is everything – well, for most hobbyists at least. The faster a RC helicopter flies, the more stunts and maneuvers you can pull off. Besides, it’s just more enjoyable to fly a fast RC helicopter as opposed to a slow one. So, how can you improve the speed of your RC helicopter?

fast rc helicopter

Upgrade the Blades and Rotor

One of the easiest ways to make your RC helicopter go faster is to upgrade the blades and rotors. Most mid-to-high-end models feature interchangeable parts, meaning you can remove and replace components like the blades and rotors with new ones. Read the owner’s manual to determine whether or not this is an option. If it is, upgrade your RC helicopter by installing hobby-grade (not toy-grade) blades and rotors.

Choose Your Flight Destination Wisely

This doesn’t technically count as an upgrade, but it’s still worth mentioning that the area in which you fly your RC helicopter will affect its speed. If you fly in a large open field, you may notice stronger winds, which subsequently inhibit your RC helicopter’s speed. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should fly in a wooded forest, but having large rocks, hills or other obstructions to block the wind will certainly help, so keep this in mind when choosing a location to fly.

Upgrade to a Gas or Nitro RC Helicopter

There are pros and cons associated with both battery-powered and gas or nitro RC helicopters. Battery-powered models are quieter, require less maintenance, and you can often fly them indoors. But if you are looking for speed, you’ll want to stick with either a gas or intro-powered model.

Adjust the Center of Gravity

If possible, try tweaking your RC helicopter’s center of gravity. Numerous forum postings and message boards have cited this as being an effective way to speed up an RC helicopter. Of course, this could come as little-to-no surprise to seasoned hobbyists. Basic physics should tell you that objects – when in flight – will boast faster speeds if they are properly balanced.

Remove Some Parts

This is not really our favorite method, but if you are technically minded and like to tinker with things, you could remove parts from your copter to make it run faster. There might be bars and plastic parts you could remove, especially near the back end. Just make sure you keep all the parts and the screws. You could even remove the LED lights, but this may requires you to cut wires. Keep in mind that if you remove parts from your copter, you may upset and change the center of gravity, so your RC helicopter might end up being unstable and not fly as well. as350 rc helicopter

Buy a “Higher End” RC Helicopter

If you are willing to spend more than $100, a great RC heli model is the AS350 RC Electric Helicopter. It has a 3 blade main rotor and is actually a meticulously crafted scale model of a real AS350 helicopter that is used by law enforcement agencies, hospitals, air medical services, and governments around the world.

You can switch between 2 flight modes. The 6G Mode is for beginner or inexperienced pilots. In this mode the flight is very stable and you can still fly really fast. It uses a brushless motor that provides constant high power.

The 3D mode is for experienced pilots and uses a 3-axis gyro for complicated acrobatic stunts, such as rolling, flying upside down, etc. as350 rc helicopter upside down

These are just a few of the many different ways to speed up a RC helicopter. Above all else, though, familiarize yourself with its respective gears and components. Learning about the mechanics behind your particular model will give you a better idea of how to optimize it for increased performance.

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 Posted by at 4:59 pm