On the heels of Rosalie Bartlett’s excellent run down of the top 20 commercial UAV profiles to follow on Twitter, I thought it might be useful to showcase a few places where you can find more than 140 characters about what’s happening in the commercial drone space. You’ll find no shortage of drone sites and resources out there, but finding ones that are both relevant and worthwhile can be a project in and of itself.
The arbitrary rules I set for inclusion in this list are as follows:
- only independent sites or blogs are eligible (which means details on Greg McNeal’s Forbes’ channel aren’t here, but his insights are obviously a great resource)
- the blog must be completely or at least partially focused on commercial UAV/UAS topics
- content on these sites is centered on original analysis and insights
- the author must be identified
Most of the sites listed don’t post enough to merit daily visits, but when they do have new content you’ll want to make sure you check it out. If you’re just looking for updates from across the industry, UAS Vision and sUAS News are a couple of the best places to find daily news that are focused on the latest happenings and developments.
Who’s Writing: Colin Snow is a 25-year technology industry veteran whose interest and expertise in commercial drones stems from his experience making, programming, and piloting these devices. As the CEO & Founder of Drone Analyst Research and Advisors, his focus is around providing research-based insights to his clients, and he’ll often share some of those insights via his writings. Steve Maller and Jonathan Rupperecht have also contributed some great articles to the site.
What sort of content: While Colin’s understanding of drone technology and regulation issues is unmatched, he writes in a way that allows the reader to understand exactly what he’s getting at regardless of their experience level. Industry veterans will appreciate his concise style while anyone who doesn’t have quite as much awareness will be able to grasp exactly what he’s saying. Many of his articles provide high-level insights around recent developments in the industry, as Colin’s goal is often to cut through the hype and chatter to explain and explore core issues that impact multiple industry segments.
A Few Highlights: Colin’s Diversity and Hype article is the exact kind of piece that showcases his ability to cut though all the chatter that often consumes the industry. There are a number of sites that put together year-in-review pieces, but his look back at 2015 was a piece that was investigating the past to explain how it impacts the present and the future, which is essential when that future is still being defined. Lastly, his exploration of the sort of skills one needs to have in order to succeed is both a great look at all the different markets for commercial drones as well as a hint around some uses for drones that various professionals can and should be exploring.
Who’s Writing: As the CEO and founder of the independent drone-consulting firm Aerotas, Logan Campbell has gained a true understanding around commercial UAV operation which he frequently explores in his writings. The company is dedicated to helping organizations with technological, logistical, financial, and legal challenges when it comes to how they can use drones, and exploring these topics in a real-world manner has made for some timely and pertinent articles.
What sort of content: Many of the articles on the Aerotas blog are focused on how FAA regulation impacts flying drones for commercial purposes, which no doubt reflects the conversations Logan is having with his clients. His writing style is honest and straightforward, and often times it feels like he’s simply responding to a question that someone just asked him. That kind of voice is a welcome one in an industry where it can be easy to get caught up in possibility and hype.
A Few Highlights: While the recently passed drone regulation process for recreation users might not directly impact commercial operators, it is nonetheless relevant to them, and Logan explained why that was the case when he told us what drone registrations means for business. He asked and answered a question that’s been on a lot of people’s mind regarding the best drone for business and explained why all of the safety requirements we put on manned aircraft pilots are not necessary for UAS, thereby justifying the assumed move away from that requirement.
Who’s Writing: Jeffrey Antonelli is a member of the federal trial bar of the Northern District of Illinois. He’s also a member of AUVSI and is an unmanned aircraft pilot with more than a decade of litigation, general counsel, insurance defense and technology experience. He’s got the knowledge and experience in the courtroom and in the air, and that’s why his law firm specializes in helping out individuals and organizations secure 333 exceptions to fly legally.
What sort of content: As you might expect from a lawyer, Jeffrey’s articles are all focused on what sort of info commercial flyers need to know in terms of how they can and should approach legally flying a drone for commercial purposes. That includes advice around securing a 333 exemption as well as insights around how rules about flying near airports can and are changing. His articles read exactly like you’d expect an attorney to present info, as he lays out facts and explains why certain things are both relevant and important without adding any unnecessary information.
A Few Highlights: The FAA Fact Sheet on State and Local UAS Regulations article does a great job of cutting through government jargon to layout exactly what readers need to know and be concerned about when flying. His UAS Insurance Applications piece explains in clear detail the differences between misrepresentation and representation along with regulations versus representations, which might seem like a minor point but those distinctions can help avoid legal nightmares. Finally, his letter to the editor regarding Chicago’s drone ordinance is a level-headed and reasonable response that is designed to bring attention to an issue that’s only going to become more prominent as local, state and federal agents argue over jurisdiction.
Who’s Writing: Sally French was one of the first journalists who took an interest in reporting on the technology that’s gotten everyone from farmers to civil engineers to take notice. She founded Dronegirl.com in 2013 and will often use a drone to aid her reporting, all of which helped earn her the title of one of Fortune Magazine’s “Most Influential Women in Drones”. Guest authors like Thomas Foster and Andrew Armstrong will sometimes publish a piece on the site, but she writes the vast majority of the content while also contributing to various other digital publications.
What sort of content: While Sally’s content is more focused on recreational drones than other sites in this list, she’s able to examine updates and features in a way that keeps the reader engaged with drone capabilities rather than fixated on specific uses. Her experience as an accomplish tech journalist is evident in everything she publishes, and she’s able to explain and explore what new developments and features mean in a practical manner.
A Few Highlights: The Drone Girl Profiles series is an amazing set of interviews with various professionals that explore how people are using drones to make a living and create new professional opportunities. They range from a chat with a CEO of an aerial data for mapping company to a person explaining the process behind using precision UAVs to help preserve data about the historic town. Sally also broke down why appearances don’t really matter for commercial drones while a guest post from Andrew Armstrong talked through how construction teams are going to build the future with drones.
Who’s Writing: Jonathan Downey’s name is all over the Airware blog, which is a company that helps organizations utilize aerial data for their business applications. In other words, Airware helps companies figure out how drones can positively impact their bottom line, and Jonathan is writing or producing videos which demonstrate those insights in clear detail.
What sort of content: Countless companies across every industry have “blog” sections listed on their site, but the content they feature is often discouraging. These blogs are sometimes only updated every year or so, feature marketing material disguised as content or even posts that are so small that they’re really not much more than glorified tweets. None of those things are true for the Airware blog though. Jonathan takes the time to talk through a topic from his perspective as an experienced business professional and avid UAV enthusiast who has hundreds of hours of flight experience over a broad set of different UAV types. One of the biggest concerns that professionals have is how drones can impact their bottom line, and that’s something Jonathan explores directly and indirectly in many of his pieces.
A Few Highlights: Aerial Insights is a YouTube series designed to showcase the ecosystem of companies and leaders at the forefront of commercial drones. His interview with James Harrison explains how organizations in the oil & gas industry are using commercial drones, and lays out some key details that are relevant for commercial operators in various markets. Safety has been such a huge concern and priority for operators of all shapes and sizes, but Jonathan discusses how and why an intelligent approach to air traffic management for drones could simplify and ensure our skies are that much safer for everyone. It’s incredibly easy to make a mistake when choosing a drone, which is why Jonathan lays out some of the common mistakes when choosing a drone solution and how professionals should approach their decision making process.