A new worldwide app to help drone pilots find the best flying sites has been launched. It's thanks to a collaboration between YouTube video blogger and DJI Phantom
pilot Simon Newton of On The Kitchen Table" fame and Open Lab
at Newcastle University.
"Drone Zones" is free to download from the iTunes and Google Play but it relies on you the pilot to supply the information. So if you have a favourite location and you don't mind sharing it with the rest of the world, you can use the interactive map to target it then drop a pin. Once you've done that you're invited to rate the site out of 5 stars for scenic value, suitability for training/practice, ease of access and how quiet or uncrowded it is. The app will then calculate an overall star rating. If you've followed someone's recommendation, you can add your own review. "If someone's put down this fantastic site where you can fly that happens to be the Houses of Parliament ... No! That's not fantastic at all," says Simon Newton. And that is one of the weaknesses of this admirable attempt to share useful flying info. In the few days we've been trying out Drone Zones a new location has been published on Tyneside - it's Newcastle Central train station! How stupid is that? We're sure it was planned as a joke - it scored half a star for suitability for training and the same for how quiet it is. If the original author has described the site in a text entry there is an option to "Report Review". If not you could always flag up your concerns in a review of your own.
Five sites in the North East of England including Newcastle Central Station. Open Lab at Newcastle University uses App Movement, an online creation system, which uses templates of apps. For Drone Zones they used a "location based review" template powered by Foursquare, the city guides app . They contacted Simon about the idea, he posted it on his website and YouTube and promoted the idea to his worldwide list of subscribers. Once it went live the Drone Zones app idea was supported by 185 people through the App Movement platform. These users then went on to vote on a series of options developed by the community (name, rating options, colour scheme, marker pins). Once all the votes were counted the system automatically generated both the Android and iOS apps. "I'm not a software developer and haven't had any input The development of this app was something new to me - it wasn't crowd sourced with money it was crowd sourced by supporters," says Simon. "We wanted to put together an app that would help people find good places to fly drones," he says. "By good I don't mean 'You'll get some really epic shots of scared, terrified people as you buzz by their head or over motorway bridges or anything stupid.' I mean good as safe, legal, beautiful, sensible and quiet. "We need to help people and educate them to the fact that you can't just pick one of these up and throw it around your City Centre."
Simon says he wanted to promote safe and responsible flying as an antidote to some of the idiocy that drone flyers publish on YouTube. On the other hand he didn't want people to think that they only had to fly or over boring, flat fields. It's hoped that the app will point flyers in the direction of interesting locations where they can test their skills and get good video or stills into the bargain. At the moment it takes a while to find sites. You need to zoom in on an area you fancy and then tap the refresh button before orange pins appear. You can also try typing a location into the search box. Eventually it's hoped that, even when you zoom out to see the whole world there will be thousands of orange blobs dotted across the globe. So far, after a relatively short exploration, we've discovered locations in Germany, the Netherlands, Greece and California as well as the UK. Overall it's a great, simple app which helps drone pilots enjoy their hobby in a safe and legal way. It can only get better as more and more people add their own favourite sites and it's free, which can't be bad.
"On The Kitchen Table" - Simon Newton's YouTube Channel.