It’s safe to say that drones have had a hectic 2016. This is the year that they have really begun to capture the public’s imagination and with a range of readily available, high-quality products and they even managed to get a mention from Her Majesty The Queen. With all this in mind, there’s little wonder that predictions from a range of media outlets state that this Christmas will be dominated by drone purchases. As we draw close to the start of another full year of drone news, Heliguy has compiled a brief roundup of the biggest stories covered by Insider this year – giving you the chance to look back at the highs (and sometimes lows) that characterised 2016.
Drones in the Media: The Good, The Bad and Everything In BetweenWhile the vast majority of drone pilots are responsible operators looking to fly either recreationally or as part of their business plan there are a few outliers whose dangerous behaviour attracts negative media coverage. For this reason, there have been a two main stories which have preoccupied journalists throughout 2016; near misses with commercial aircraft and prison contraband smuggling. You can read how Heliguy helped police solve the first recorded case of drone smuggling in a UK prison HERE. This isn’t to say that there haven’t been positive stories doing the rounds. The use of drones in a range of commercial ventures such as delivery, infrastructure and emergency service operations has become a mainstream topic this year. The possibilities for unmanned aircraft in these sectors and many others has captured the public’s imagination and proved that drones can be a real force for good when used for the right reasons. Then, of course, there’s the novelty angle. Disney and Intel have collaborated to create drone-based light shows, mischievous pilots have made Halloween and Christmas themed drone decorations and then there are the obligatory animal videos. It’s not really surprising that drones are a polarising subject but, as greater understanding (and less sensationalist coverage) proliferates, it will be interesting to see what next year will bring for UAVs in the media.
DJI’s Product Filled YearThere can’t be a drone news summary without a mention of Shenzhen-based market leaders, DJI. This year has been anything but boring, news ranging from partnerships with Drone Deploy and Hasselblad, patent disputes with Yuneec and release controversies have dominated the drone world in 2016. All in all, it’s been a huge year for the Chinese drone manufacturer and that's not even mentioning the vast catalogue of releases they piled into 12 months. Just in case you blinked and missed any of them, here’s a list of the main product releases from DJI in 2016:
- Inspire 1 Pro Black Edition & Inspire 2
- Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Professional & Phantom 4 Pro+
- Mavic Pro
- Matrice 600, M600 Pro & Ronin-MX
- OSMO Plus, Mobile, Pro & RAW
- Zenmuse XT, Z3, Z30, X4S, X5S
GoPro Karma RecallIt’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for GoPro, it hasn’t been the best of years for the action camera company. Their initial foray into the drone market didn’t go exactly to plan with delays and hype building towards an ill-fated release. Rumours started to circle as early as 2015 that GoPro would be releasing a drone alongside their new range of Hero cameras but speculation was left to swirl until mid-2016 when promotion began ahead of a September release. After a reveal event that has now retrospectively found itself on the receiving ends of many jokes, parodies and mashups – the Karma (introduced as ‘More Than a Drone’) was only on sale for two weeks before every single one of the 2,500 units shipped had to be recalled. The error was related to the power supply of the foldable quadcopter which meant that there were many reports of them simply falling out of the sky which has the double distinction of being both impractical for pilots and dangerous to the public. The other unfortunate symptom of the Karma's launch was DJI's decision to move up the launch of their Mavic Pro quadcopter which has led to worldwide delays in shipping which are still affecting both customers and dealers. Despite their dubious first attempt, GoPro remains adamant that drones are part of their business plans moving forward but recent layoffs and poor quarterly returns have cast doubt on their ability to deliver. Will they be able to claw back from ‘Karmagate’? We’ll have to wait until 2017 to find out.
Drone Regulation UpdatesWith drone usage increasing in popularity in both commercial ventures and a growing hobbyist community, it’s inevitable that regulatory frameworks will become more defined and far-reaching as aviation authorities and governments attempt to keep up. While regulations can be a good thing (CHECK OUT OUR 2016 SURVEY RESULTS), there’s always the risk that these authorities overreach and alienate the responsible users these guidelines apply to. 2016 saw the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bring about stricter rules for drone pilots in the USA. These laws are mostly common sense such as the standard height/distance restrictions we’re already used to in the UK but also some additional measures like their mandatory drone registration which will undoubtedly become a feature of global drone regulation moving forward. While the above regulations were received (mostly) favourably due to the opportunity for advanced commercial permissions, the proposed rules from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) didn’t have the same success. After being torn to shreds by various organised groups of drone users (most prominently the British Model Flying Association) the guidelines have been furiously backpedalled and seem unlikely to see the light of day in their original form.
UPDATED 21/12/2016 - UK Government Considering Stricter Controls on DronesIt seems that 2016 isn't done with drone regulation news just yet - the UK government has announced proposals which could reshape the future of recreational usage. The proposed measures include a mandatory registration of all drones and safety training to be a legal requirement everyone looking to pilot an SUA. The UK Aviation Minister, Lord Ahmad, has been quoted by the BBC as saying: "[While most drone users are law-abiding] some are not aware of the rules or choose to break them putting public safety, privacy and security at risk." While there has already been a mild backlash from a number of UAV clubs regarding both the proposals and the wording of existing CAA rules, we would advise our readers to please bear in mind that these changes aren't set in stone. Take some time to read through the government's proposals below and see what you think about the plans. You can find more information about these proposals HERE.
Heliguy's 2016A busy year for the drone industry means a busy year for Heliguy and what a year 2016 has been. We’ve made great steps forward with our NQE PfCO training courses, settling on three optimal locations spanning the UK and even adding more focused offerings such as our Drone Video Editing sessions. Our training schedule has also undergone an overhaul as we move into 2017 with the Heliguy Ground School course now taking place over three days. We have also developed longstanding commercial partnerships with companies ranging from professional filmmakers operating out of Pinewood Studios to a selection of UK universities and emergency service departments among others. These collaborations and support-based relationships have been aided greatly by our increased focus on enterprise solutions such as Thermography, with our license to sell DJI’s Zenmuse XT and the ability to construct and provide custom rigs such as the Matrice 600 with a Micro-Epsilon thermal imager. There have also been a range of events this year which allowed us to travel the country and meet up with customers and industry insiders; including the Farnborough Airshow, Manufacturing & Engineering North East and, most recently, DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro/Inspire 2 London launch event. We’d like to thank all of our loyal customers for choosing us as your one stop drone shop. From everyone here at Heliguy HQ, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a great start to 2017.
Keep checking back to Heliguy's Insider blog for all of the up to date drone news you'll need in 2017.