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Press Release – FAA to Consider Exemptions for Commercial UAS Movie and TV Production

For Immediate Release

June 2, 2014
Contact: Les Dorr, Jr. or Alison Duquette 
Phone: (202) 267-3883

Seven Companies Petition to Fly Unmanned Aircraft before Rulemaking is Complete

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today announced that seven aerial photo and video production companies have asked for regulatory exemptions that would allow the film and television industry to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with FAA approval for the first time.  

If the exemption requests are granted, there could be tangible economic benefits as the agency begins to address the demand for commercial UAS operations. However, all the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated. The petitioner must still obtain operational approval from the FAA.

The Motion Picture Association of America facilitated the exemption requests on behalf of their membership. The firms that filed the petitions are all independent aerial cinematography professionals who collectively developed the exemption requests as a requirement to satisfy the safety and public interest concerns of the FAA, MPAA and the public at large.

The FAA has been working for several months to implement the provisions of Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and move forward with UAS integration before proposing a small UAS rule. Companies from three industries besides film production have approached the FAA and are also considering filing exemption requests.  These industries include precision agriculture, power line and pipeline inspection, and oil and gas flare stack inspection.

The firms are asking the agency to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates.  They are also asking for relief from airworthiness certification requirements as allowed under Section 333. Under that section of the law, certain airworthiness requirements can be waived to let specific UAS fly safely in narrowly-defined, controlled, low-risk situations.

To receive the exemptions, the firms must show that their UAS operations will not adversely affect safety, or provide at least an equal level of safety to the rules from which they seek the exemption.  They would also need to show why granting the exemption would be in the public interest. 

Currently, Certificates of Waiver or Authorization are available to public entities that want to fly a UAS in civil airspace. Common uses today include law enforcement, firefighting, border patrol, disaster relief, search and rescue, military training, and other government operational missions. Commercial operations are authorized on a case-by-case basis. A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval. The exemption process under Section 333 provides an additional avenue for commercial UAS operations.

You can view the film & TV production company petitions at

For more information on the FAA and UAS, go to

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Post-typhoon aerial video on CNN

They didn't specify what type of copter is being used, but from the shadow it looks like a TBS Discovery style. It won't be long before the novelty of getting video from a UAV is not the headline of the story, and the story itself can be the focus.

These guys need to clean the condensation out of the lens, BTW!

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Iris Details: #4 Android Apps Overview

This is a video showing an overview of operating Iris via an Android tablet. Although we always have an RC transmitter in the mix, as a backup, the Android apps provide a very convenient way to maintain a telemetry and control link with the vehicle.

In the weeks ahead, we will be making some in-depth video tutorials on using all these different functions.




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Iris Details: #2 Injection molded arms and Legs



Here are some close-ups of the arms and legs. They are made from DuPont Zytel®, very strong and resilient in a wide range of temperatures.

Guillermo had some break force testing done, the results were impressive:

In the center it takes 204 lb (92.5 kg),  and at the tip  772 lb  (350 kg).




Sliding dovetail and set-screw retains the legs, allowing for easy replacement if needed. Picatinny rail mounting system integrated into the bottom of the arms provides endless mounting options for accessories. 

3689544219?profile=originalMotor wires are protected, but not buried. Quick release clips keep things tidy.

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3DR is Hiring: Editorial Director


Reporting to the Vice President (VP) of Sales and Marketing, the Editorial Director will set and guide the strategy and creation of all internal and external communications, website content, and public relations messages to consistently articulate the mission of 3D Robotics. 

The Editorial Director will also work closely with a senior peer group within the organization as the communications partner on a variety of strategic initiatives. This job is in the Berkeley, CA offices of 3D Robotics. You must be a US citizen or have a US work visa to qualify.  


  • Develop, implement, and evaluate the annual communications plan across the 3D Robotics landscape
  • Lead the generation of online content that engages audience segments and leads to measurable action. Decide who, where, and when to disseminate
  • Put communications vehicles in place to create momentum and awareness as well as to test the effectiveness of communications activities
  • Coordinate webpage maintenance—ensure that new and consistent information (article links, stories, and events) is posted regularly
  • Track and measure the level of engagement within the network over time
  • Manage development, distribution, and maintenance of all print and electronic collateral including, but not limited to, newsletters, brochures, annual report, e-newsletters, and 3D Robotics website
  • Manage all media contacts


3D Robotics is seeking an accomplished Editorial Director who has at least 7 years of communications experience, ideally in an “in-house” leadership role within a complex, fast-paced environment.  Familiarity and passion for 3D Robotics products is of paramount importance.  The ability to take knowledge and transform it into exciting and useful messages, and disseminate it to the right audiences through the best distribution channels is critical as well.

  • Highly collaborative style; experience developing and implementing communications strategies
  • Excellent English writing/editing and verbal communication skills
  • A strong track record as an implementer who thrives on managing a variety of key initiatives concurrently
  • Relationship builder with the flexibility and finesse to “manage by influence”
  • High energy, maturity, and leadership with the ability to serve as a unifying force and to position communications discussions at both the strategic and tactical levels
  • Sincere commitment to work collaboratively with all constituent groups, including staff, board members, volunteers and other supporters
  • Self-starter, able to work independently, and entrepreneurial; enjoys creating and implementing new initiatives

Please send applications, with CV, to

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Iris details: #1 The 4-1 ESC/Power Module

3689543760?profile=originalWe begin the tour of Iris' guts by looking at the new 4-in-1 ESC/Power Module. Each ESC is rated at 20amps capacity and is running the SImonK firmware for enhanced response and stability. The onboard Power Module provides regulated power to the flight control board, in addition to voltage and current monitoring.

3689543688?profile=originalAn aluminum heatsink is attached to the power handling transistors


This 4-in-1 represents an elimination of 110 grams when compared to four individual ESCs, Power Module, and Power Distribution Board.

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As some of you may have noticed at the recent SUSB Expo in San Francisco, we’ve been busy working on a brand-new, consumer-friendly quadcopter.  The day has finally come to officially take off the wraps and show it to you all.  Here it is: Iris.


3DR Iris provides the autonomous functionality you’ve come to know and love in APM:Copter with a next generation PX4-based 32-bit autopilot (UPDATE: this has now been announced, and is called Pixhawk) and an all-in-one housing.

Building on the existing 3DR family of multi-rotor vehicles, Iris is compact, ready-to-fly, and fully autonomous. Navigate from takeoff to landing with point-and-click mission planning and configurable GPS waypoints, all from your mobile device or computer. Iris supports the full set of features offered by APM:Copter, including loiter, altitude hold, return to launch, circle, follow me, acrobatic flying mode, and more. With a stylish, durable, and sleek body, Iris is designed with a wide angle between the front arms to provide a clear view for an on-board camera--add a GoPro Hero 3(R) to capture your favorite moments from a unique perspective.


  • Multiple control options provide redundancy and flexibility: RC, computer, phone, tablet

  • Built-in data radio for real-time mission monitoring, data-logging, and control

  • Powerful cross-platform ground station/mission planning and analysis software that runs on Windows, OS X and Linux, providing simple point-and-click programming and configuration

  • Mobile apps allow intuitive “draw a path” mission planning

  • Picatinny rail mounting system integrated in the arms provides painless mounting for future accessories (stay tuned!)

  • Camera options include a live video link with programmable on-screen-display, and will soon support a fully integrated stabilized camera gimbal with autopilot control

  • GoPro(R) compatible camera mount

  • Available with a 9-channel RC transmitter pre-programmed for the most popular flight modes.

  • GPS waypoints allow for professional-grade mission capabilities, such as: mapping, scripted cinematography, scientific research, and other applications where repeatable flight plans are required

  • Robust arms and feet produced from Zytel Nylon(R) for the ultimate in wear, abrasion and impact resistance over a wide temperature range. They are easily and inexpensively replaced if required.

  • Auto takeoff and landing along with Return-To-Launchpoint command at the press of a button or under programmable failsafe conditions

  • Follow Me function for the ultimate "selfies". In this mode, Iris will follow (at an adjustable distance) any ground station device equipped with a GPS antenna and one of our 3DR telemetry/control radios

  • Geo Fencing provides a virtual box to keep your drone within a user-selectable space

  • Failsafe programming options bring peace of mind in the event of lost control signal/GPS or low battery conditions

  • External micro-USB port

  • RGB LED for status and orientation
  • Buzzer for audible status and warning messages

  • Safety switch adds a second level of protection against inadvertent start-ups

  • Open source flight code, ground station software and electronics are all freely distributed under standard open source licenses. This means that Iris' capabilities are always improving and expanding with a simple firmware update!


  • Motor to motor dimension: 550 mm

  • Height: 100 mm

  • Weight (with battery): 1282 grams

  • Average flight time: 9-14 minutes

  • Standard battery: 11.1v 3.5Ah lithium polymer with XT-60 type connector, weight 262 grams

  • Propellers: (2) 10 x 4.7 normal-rotation, (2) 10 x 4.7 reverse-rotation

  • Motors: AC 2830, 850kv

  • Telemetry/Control radios available in 915mHz or 433mHz

  • PX4-based 32-bit autopilot with Cortex M4 processor

  • 3DR uBlox GPS with integrated magnetometer

Iris is currently available in a developer release for experienced operators to participate in the ongoing development of this exciting new product. Iris developer pre-orders are available now from and will ship September 16th. Operators not interested in development are encouraged to wait for the consumer release of Iris coming soon!

Official press release can be found here.

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Announcing our new product listings for mid-summer 2013!


3D Robotics Y6 and X8 Multicopters - RTF and Kit

We released the Hexa-to-Y6 conversion kit a few weeks back, and now the complete Y6 DIY package and Ready-To-Fly  are available. A Y6 design is able to withstand a single motor out scenario, provides a more open and stable view for cameras, and doesn't weigh as much as a traditional Hex (because it uses less parts). It features folding arms to make ground transport a painless affair. This is our new go-to multicopter at 3DR: better performance than a quad at about the same size!


If six motors aren't enough for you, there is now the X8. With the same coaxial motor design as the Y6, but with four arms. This brute is amazingly compact, it's actually smaller than our quads in the front to back dimension, due to the wide angle of the arms. This is the platform to choose for flying your heavy camera and gimbal setups. The redundant nature of this vehicle is a valuable trait when carrying expensive gear or flying over difficult terrain. This vehicle can lose a motor and remain in a stable loiter with almost no disruption .  The 3DR X8 is available ready-to-fly only at this time.


APM 2.6 and 3DR uBlox GPS with Compass


APM 2.6 is the same APM 2.5 you know and love, but with one valuable change: this revision of the board has no onboard compass, which is designed for vehicles (especially multicopters and rovers) where the compass should be placed as far from power and motor sources as possible to avoid magnetic interference. (On fixed wing aircraft it's often easier to mount APM far enough away from the motors and ESCs to avoid magnetic interference, so this is not as critical, but APM 2.6 gives more flexibility in that positioning and is a good choice for them, too). This is designed to be used with the new 3DR uBlox GPS with Compass, so that the GPS/Compass unit can be mounted further from noise sources than APM itself.

Note: APM 2.6 requires an external compass for full autonomy. If you are using APM 2.6 with a GPS module that does not have a compass sensor, you must use a stand-alone external compass. We recommend this one with this cable.


New GPS shown as it comes, in a nice enclosure

The board, inside the enclosure

You can also use the new uBlox GPS with on board magnetometer (compass) with your existing APM 2.5, To modify your board, follow the directions here.


FPV Package

If you have been wanting to add first-person-view (FPV) capability to your vehicle, our new FPV package gives you everything you need in one kit (including batteries). All connectors have been built in the factory and designed to give you an easy plug-and-play experience -- no soldering required! On-screen-display is provided by our MinimOSD board for real time data telemetry. This is an important safety and convenience feature for anyone flying FPV.



All of these items are available for order immediately.

The FPV kit is ready for shipping today.

The Y6 DIY package and APM 2.6 will ship on July 15th.

Note: RTF Y6 and X8 units will follow the normal 1-2 week turnaround. You'll find those and more on our new RTF store here:



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Engadget covers AVC 2013

From Engadget. This last paragraph really sums it up nicely:

And really, for all the prize money and ominous warning signs at the entrance, the AVC is ultimately a meeting space for hobbyists in what may some day become a much larger movement. It's a place to experiment, talk shop and occasionally crash along the way.

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AVC media


Alan and Sam, from 3DR, cool and confident in the Colorado sun.


Dave C. this years aerial challenge winner, cracking good times and smoking hot motors.


Justin and Joe, of 3DR, doing work.

APM swept the top five spots in aerial, and took first place in two of the rover categories: Tom Coyle in the middle-weight category and Jason Short in the exotic category with his APM Segway two-wheeler.

There is a ton of pictures and video to go through and edit, but I'll start posting things here as soon as they are ready. 

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Drone Con today

3689528933?profile=originalBroadcast starts at 10am mountain.

9:30 - 10am - Registration / Coffee
10:00 - 10:45 - Pat Hickey - SMACCMPilot - 45 min
10:45 - 11:30 - Doug Weibel - Advanced UAV control system design - 45 min
11:30 - 12:15 - Brandon Jones - L1 Control Algoritm in Arduplane - 45 min
1:15 - 2:00 - Chris Miser - Falcon UAV / Mapping - 45 min
2:00 - 2:30 - Ryan Beall - Embedded GPS INS - 30 min
2:30 - 3:00 - Robert Lefebvre - Arducopter for TradHeli - 30 min
3:00 - 3:45 - Leonard Hall - Control system design of Arducopter V3 - 45 min
3:45 - 4:30 - Jason Short - How we got here...hacking for non-engineers - 45 min
4:30 - 5:00 - Wrap-up / flex time

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