One Flew Across The Blue Sky

Drones, a mini history of crowded skies and my experience using a drone.

Eons ago, Hindu mythology describes a flying object (self-driving for the most part)called ‘Vimana’. One do the greatest epics of Hinduism, the Ramayana contains references to the Pushpak Vimana — a flying chariot used by the demon king Ravana. There is no conclusive evidence as to the exact time in history to which the Ramayana belongs. Various estimates put it around 6th or 7th century BCE.

Around 1806, the British used unmanned aircraft for spreading propaganda pamphlets.

In 1934, Reginald Denny produced a 9 foot R/C drone that was targeted for use by the army as a moving target.

The 1970's and 80's saw the advent of the Global Positioning System(GPS), lightweight aircraft that were the precursors of the predator and the reaper used by the US over Afghanistan after September 11 attacks. The predator and reaper were killing machines.

Until recently, in 2009, political scientist P.W. Singer gave a TED talk where he mentioned a drone named predator to be the model T of drones. Now, the technology used by that drone is outdated.

This Thanksgiving, I decided to act on my desire to learn more about and own an actual drone.

If I take a small detour down memory lane, I have been quite fascinated by a French company called Parrot SpA. Started by Henri Seydoux, Jean-Pierre Talvard and Christine/M De Tourvel in 1994, Parrot is now a member of the CAC Small 90. It specialized in radio controlled devices, Bluetooth software stack, echo cancelling algorithms. One of the first product designed by French designer Phillipe Starck and manufactured by Parrot that I owned was the Parrot Zik 3.0 — a pair of blue tooth headphones with touch sensitive controls and active noise canceling.

Da-Jiang Innovations, China famously known by its short form DJI is almost the industry standard as far as drones and aerial photography is concerned. It’s Phantom and Mavic drones are amongst my favorite. Initially, you had to mount your own GoPro on the Phantom’s gimbal. Today, the Phantom 4 sports a 4K camera and shoots brilliant video.

For a beginner, therefore, there a lot of choices. There is the Yuneec line of drones, the DJI of course and my choice — the Parrot Bebop.

I choose the Parrot Bebop for the following reasons:

  1. At $199, it stood doubt as an excellent choice for novices to enter the otherwise expensive world of aerial photography.
  2. It doesn’t shoot 4K videos unlike the Bebop 2 but it shoots great 1080p videos.
  3. It is lightweight and it’s foam guards protect the propellors and the drone from damage.
  4. It is very sturdy and with two batteries can give you approximately 22 mins of flying time.
  5. Overall, if you are likely to crash your first drone, go for a relatively inexpensive option.

The other interesting part about drones is the legal ramifications of owning and flying an Unmanned Aerial System. Every flyer who has a drone weighing 50 gms or more needs to register the drone with the FAA.

The FAA, for a nominal fee of $5, will provide a license number for the drone that needs to be affixed to the drone.

There are also a lot of things to consider before actually flying a drone which include the use of an appropriate radio frequency. The drone connects with its controller usually over wi-fi.

The above , provides a mini guide to choosing and setting up a drone with an onboard camera.

However, my experience with the drone and the explosion of aerial photography, have convinced me that drones are here to stay.

From Amazon’s maiden drone delivery to Uber’s concept of utilizing drones as human transport, I can see crowded skies ahead.

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Writer @ The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR. Twitter@akothari_mba

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