Drone News Roundup: DJI’s 2020 Showreel, Epic Whale Video, and More!

BY Zacc Dukowitz
22 January 2021

This week we’re covering DJI’s 2020 showreel, featuring drone footage shot by over 30 creators throughout the world last year.

We’re also covering an epic drone video of a whale feeding by letting fish swim into its mouth, $5.8 million in grants that the FAA recently awarded to 33 universities for UAS research and training, NOAA’s contract with Black Swift Technologies to develop GPS-denied drone technology, and the first ever drone pilot to be convicted for crashing into a helicopter.

Now let’s get to the links!

DJI Shares Showreel Video Featuring Drone Footage from 2020

DJI - Stronger Together - Best of 2020

We’ve seen some epic showreels before, but this video featuring footage shot by DJI drones in 2020 stands out for the sheer range of locales and activities it contains. Featuring the work of over 30 videographers and photographers, DJI has created an inspiring mashup that showcases many of the different ways we’re using drones to create and inspire these days—and it’s an inspiring sight to behold.


Epic Drone Video Shows Whale Holding Mouth Open as Fish Swim into It


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A post shared by Kids Saving Oceans (@kids_saving_oceans)

This is one of the coolest nature videos (drone or otherwise) we’ve ever seen. The whale in the video is called a Sittang or an Eden’s whale, which is thought to live only in the Indo-Pacific region (the video was shot in the Gulf of Thailand). The Eden’s whale is a smaller, less common form of the Bryde’s whale, which can be found all over the world, in both temperate and tropical waters.

In the video, the whale is pulling fish into its mouth by keeping the corners of its mouth below the surface, which creates a flow that the fish follow. Scientists think whales have adopted this feeding behavior because their prey can only live near the surface due to pollution and sewage removing too much oxygen from the water.


FAA Awards $5.8M in Grants to 33 universities for UAS Research


The FAA recently announced that it has awarded $5.8 million to 33 universities for UAS-related research, education, and training. The recipients are part of the FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) (also called ASSURE, or the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence). According to  Acting U.S. Secretary of Transportation Steven G. Bradbury, “These universities are making great strides in advancing the Department’s efforts to integrate UAS safely and efficiently into our Nation’s airspace system.”

This new round of funding is the second time the FAA has granted a large amount of money for ASSURE partners focusing on UAS—in August of 2020, the FAA awarded $7.5 million to fund UAS research. That same month the FAA launched its UAS Collegiate Training Initiative (UAS-CTI), which recognizes universities that prepare students for careers in UAS. See the full list of UAS-CTI universities here.


NOAA Invests in GPS-Denied Drone Tech for Coastal Surveys

Image source: NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has signed a contract with Black Swift Technologies to develop GPS-denied navigation to enable long-distance BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) missions. NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey oversees almost 95,000 miles of domestic coastline, a vast area of land for any kind of survey effort. Drones help, but current BVLOS restrictions make it so that NOAA surveyors can only conduct missions in small areas. By developing GPS-denied capabilities to support BVLOS operations, NOAA and Black Swift hope to demonstrate to the FAA that drones can be safely flown farther for survey missions—and for other types of commercial applications as well.


Drone Pilot Faces One year in Prison for Crash with LA Police Helicopter


In a first-of-its-kind conviction, a 22-year-old drone pilot in Los Angeles faces up to a year in prison for crashing his drone into a police helicopter (no one was hurt, and the helicopter landed safely following the collision). The drone pilot was flying his drone just after midnight because he was curious after hearing a police siren and helicopter. The helicopter had two police officers inside who were investigating a reported burglary at a pharmacy. The officers saw the drone but were not able to change course before it struck the bottom of the helicopter.

The drone pilot recently pled guilty to the single misdemeanor count of “unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft” following a plea agreement he’d made.  Thanks to the plea deal, he will most likely not face the full year that he could be given under the law. The pilot will be sentenced on April 12.


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