About the Author

Sean Captain

Sean Captain is a Bay Area technology, science, and policy journalist. Follow him on Twitter @SeanCaptain.

Sean Captain's Favorite Gear

June 1

DJI is by far the leading drone brand in the world. As such, its annual DJI AirWorks conference draws a large crowd from the professional drone industry — from construction inspection firms to law enforcement who use drones in first responder work. expand full story

None of DJI’s consumer drones are designed to carry anything other than the cameras that they come with. But with social distancing, and general boredom, a lot of people have experimented with tying cargo like donuts or beer bottles to the bottom of their drone and making deliveries. Which begs the question: How much weight can a drone like the Mavic Air 2 lift? expand full story

Unlike 7-Eleven or Domino’s, the food chain formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts has not formally joined any drone delivery trial projects. But Dunkin’, as it’s now called, has been happy to promote a donut delivery mission by a Boston-area man. expand full story

A blaze is raging over a region called Darwen Moor near Manchester in the UK. But something else is also raging: a battle between emergency helicopters and gawker drones. expand full story

On Friday, alarms went off in the media after an investigative journalist spotted a US Predator drone flying a loop over riot-ravaged Minneapolis. Predators are associated with deadly combat missions in places like Afghanistan, not in the airspace above American cities. expand full story

May 29

California-based Skydio makes one of the most talked-about but least seen drones on the market today. The Skydio 2 stands out for its impressive subject tracking, which basically allows it to fly autonomously while filming the subject of a video.

But the drone has been elusive. For one, the company has been overwhelmed with orders. It was already contending with a production backlog before the coronavirus hit. With the lockdowns that took effect in California in March, Skydio’s domestic production has been shuttered.

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Here’s another story of police doing something they probably couldn’t have done without a drone. In Irvine, California, police used a drone to quickly spot an arson suspect they were looking for. expand full story

An unarmed Predator drone owned by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was spotted flying a loop around Minneapolis on Friday morning, in the aftermath of violent protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. It was presumably surveying for further unrest. expand full story

Today we have a lot of deliveries by vans in the US and a small but growing smattering of deliveries by drones, such as new trials by Wing, Zipline, and Flirty. Researchers at MIT have proposed marrying the two technologies: deploying vans to neighborhoods that would launch drones to make the last part of the delivery.

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In all the exciting drone news of the past month, an important milestone slipped under the radar. On May 16, Minnesota’s governor signed into law a sweeping set of regulations and restrictions on police use of drones. The law takes effect on August 1. expand full story

May 28

Minneapolis went up in flames on Wednesday when protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent. Drones captured the aftermath of the Minneapolis riot on Thursday morning, in which at least 16 structures went up in flames. expand full story

Coronavirus lockdown videos have become a genre unto themselves. By now we’ve seen so many hauntingly empty vistas of great cities like Paris, London, New York, and Rome. Yet a fresh New York lockdown drone video by YouTuber DroneFanatic shows more of the city than you would expect, and from fantastic heights and angles. expand full story

May 27

DJI has an amazing assortment of drones and other photo gear that makes it onto many people’s wish lists. If you have such a list, see if you can hold onto it a little longer. Because the DJI Father’s Day sale, from June 12 to 21, is going to be a doozy. expand full story

China’s rural population is diminishing and aging as young people move to the cities for better opportunities. That leaves a potential labor shortage for traditional agriculture such as rice planting. Now drone maker XAG claims it has a solution. expand full story

Drones have made multiple close flybys of the LA home of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in recent weeks. The couple and their young son Archie are the subjects of intense press attention that has the family on edge. They also fear more nefarious intentions of the drone operators.

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May 26

There are perhaps 100 million unexploded munitions such as landmines strewn about the countryside in conflict regions such as Afghanistan. Now a marriage of drones and AI offers new prospects to detect landmines and save lives. expand full story

Drones, like other high-tech products, change often. With every new model, there’s some incentive to upgrade. And selling your current drone is a good way to gather up some scratch to buy that new model. expand full story

There’s been a lot of animosity towards police use of drones during the coronavirus pandemic. Citizens and civil rights groups fear that authorities have gone too far by observing people throughout public spaces to see if they are following social distancing rules. expand full story

It can take six hours to get from a hospital in Oban, Scotland, to one on the nearby Isle of Mull, just 10 miles away. But a drone delivery can cover the distance in only 15 minutes, allowing it to bring urgently needed medical supplies on demand. expand full story

May 25

Wing, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, is doing a brisk drone delivery business around the world. The company operates in Australia, Finland, and Virginia in the US, and has seen its deliveries double month after month globally. expand full story

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