New iOS Birvie app lets drone pilots stream video to multiple platforms globally

We had the opportunity to download a new app called Birvie. What it does is pretty basic – and also pretty cool.

We confess we might have some bias when it comes to the concept of this: One of us (me) spent a considerable career chunk in radio and television news. We gathered content, sometimes from very far-flung places, for the purpose of sharing it with the world. The technology was then relatively primitive. I once had to assemble a video transmission system (including calibrating the dish by compass and star position) on the rooftop of a school in Dagestan in order to transmit stories from the war in Chechnya back to North America. The microwave dish had a warning on a huge yellow sign that walking in the path of its beam could fry your brain.

All that, for some context. Because hopefully, it will give you a greater appreciation for the power of the tool.

Birvie

We found out about this new app after its author/developer reached out. It piqued our interest, and so we hopped on a Zoom call. We got a chance to talk about what the app does, why he made it, and what he hopes it might achieve. His name is Steve Gallo and he lives near Philadelphia. He’s a product manager by day, and a coder and app developer by night. Here he is, with Scott:

He’s also pretty enthusiastic about Birvie – which is a play on the words “bird’s-eye-view.”

The big picture

Drones, as we already know, are in the hands of hobbyists and commercial pilots around the globe. And news or interesting events, as we know, also happen around the world. What if there was a platform that enabled pilots to live-stream what they’re covering and you to easily discover and watch it? What if it also allowed the creator to connect with multiple streaming platforms simultaneously?

That’s the vision. And it started out, simply enough, when Steve was having a conversation with friends. A major storm was approaching the US seaboard, and Steve had an idea:

I kind of thought it would be interesting to see: ‘What does the coastline look like right now?’ There are a lot of webcams out there, but frame rates are slow. I thought it would be interesting if there was a way to explore with a map and explore a live drone feed – similar to Twitch for video games.

And that is how Birvie was born.

DJI SDK

Steve, who has a background in computer science and kept up his coding skills, starting looking into DJI’s Software Developer Kit (SDK), figuring how he could bring this vision to life. And while DJI products are capable of streaming directly to social media platforms, Steve really liked (as do we) the concept of a global map. You could quickly navigate to an area of interest and look for either a live feed, or find and play a video from a previous stream.

Here’s a test flight that was done in Denmark

Simple interface

The app is a breeze to use. Simply tell it when you want to go live, and which platform(s) you’d like to distribute to. Boom, your stream is up both on your platforms of choice and on Birvie itself.

Real-time streams are displayed as “LIVE”

So imagine if a major news event were going on and you could locate a live stream this quickly. That’s a big part of Steve’s concept.

If I knew of something going on in the world, how interesting would it be to be able to jump into a feed whether recent or live. Drones have this angle, these aerial shots, that let you see things in a way that other devices can’t.

The app currently works with the Mavic Air 2, the Mavic Mini 1, the DJI Spark and more. According to the blurb on the App Store: “Simulcasting allows you to stream from Birvie and up to 4 RTMP destinations such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, or a custom streaming destination that supports RTMP. Streams are low-latency and concurrent so you can reach a wide audience from your DJI drone.”

It’s new

If you download Birvie now (and we encourage you to do so), there’s not a ton of action yet. Steve has had a few testers involved with the project, so there aren’t that many pins on the map.

At least not yet. Steve envisions not only citizen journalists using this platform, but news agencies as well. Most are now using drones, and the simple interface combined with the map and streaming to multiple platforms could really be utilized by media organizations:

What I’m angling for is this world where news companies are increasingly broadcasting to the internet, it’s not about linear television of old – but streaming TV and connected television.

With 5G already here in some locations – plus whatever comes after that – Steve believes the quality will be there… as well as the demand.

DroneDJ’s Take

As we stated earlier, we like this concept. We also like the simplicity of the app; it’s a really easy user experience, whether you’re streaming content or simply part of the audience. We hope news of this spreads around on some forums, including news forums (I’ll be sharing this with a group of Part 107-holding journalists). Good luck with this, Steve – it’s a cool idea.

You can download Birvie here.

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