I am made uncomfortable by much of the current noise around new drone technologies. Deep down inside I’m a Southern California motor head with strong ties to the small community of aviation writers and enthusiasts. Put mildly: drone coverage on the web sucks. Last year at Demo I listened to a PowerPoint pitch made by a drone company founder. In my long history with Demo few pitches made me want to scream out for more information than this company’s. I loved it that this company had figured out a way to adapt hybrid four stroke engine technology to drone power packages, but disliked that the entrepreneur didn't include key data points like service ceilings, time to climb to altitude, mission duration (with payload), payload capacity or options that support aerial photography and photogrammetry,
On many mornings I can look out over multi thousand acre avocado orchards with my field glasses here in north San Diego County and spot two to four drones collecting data and presumably taking pictures of root stock (which can be used by farmers to determine the health and volume of their crop). Down here, agricultural drone operators are keenly aware of the importance of payload capacities, mission duration. and other attributes.
Something else that’s critically important to drone use is battery (mission) life and how easy it is to swap a depleted battery with a hot power source. Optional gimbal camera mounts are assumed on virtually all drones, but one of the high end options-- gyro-stabilization which adds value to HD still and video imaging -- hasn’t been mentioned by authors of recent web-based drone stories. All of these things are basics in promoting and differentiating drone platforms, and the facts are missing in most of the posted stories I’ve read and presentations I’ve sat through. For the love of the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss, I wish anyone who wants to cover drones would learn to dig deep and get way beyond the second page of marketing handouts. Without specificity all that’s left are online personalities chasing the latest ball o’ glitter. --Jim Forbes on April 15, 2015.