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Dreams of the World: Eirik Solheim, and The Ever Advancing Technology of the Drone

Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time. This post is the latest in the series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels. Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series.  ¨Technology gives people around the world more knowledge, regardless of borders, culture and religion. I hope we can keep it that way. And that...

Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time. This post is the latest in the series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels. Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series

Eirik Solheim about to fly a toy quadcopter using First-person view (FPV)
Eirik Solheim about to fly a toy quadcopter using First-person view (FPV), also known as remote-person view (RPV) at the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC), held at New York University. Photo © KIKE CALVO

¨Technology gives people around the world more knowledge, regardless of borders, culture and religion. I hope we can keep it that way. And that all people at some point, get connected and take part in this, ¨said Eirik Solheim, a senior strategic advisor in the new media department of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. ¨But we need to find the sweet spot between spending our lives staring at our cell phones and not talking to anyone around us, and denying that science and technology, can help us expand our social life on so many levels.¨

Solheim states how,¨ Like most people I have lots of dreams. Big dreams for the world, smaller ones for my family, my friends and myself. Dreams tend to be biased by personal interests, and I guess I’m no exception. I hope that we can catch up and learn more about how this planet works so that we can help with fixing it. Safe and clean fusion energy would have the potential of fixing a lot of problems. And all the advanced surveillance systems we’ve developed could play an even more important role monitoring nature to help us understand how it works, instead of monitoring people and what they do.”

¨Drones can be really, really dangerous, explained Solheim. ¨It is important that we have some rules and guidelines. And some of the aviation authorities in the different countries around the world have done a good job trying to figure out how to regulate this without limiting innovation and business opportunities. But simply taking the same rules that apply for commercial manned aircraft’s and applying that to unmanned systems is not a good idea. And it is important that we should have different rules for different systems. A sub 100 grams drone is not dangerous. A 10 kilogram drone is deadly. Currently they are treated equally in many countries.¨

¨Fortunately I have avoided accidents and have learned to take precautions,¨ said Solheim. ¨But when I look back at my first experiments I would have done them with even more caution. I don’t think people understand how dangerous these systems can be before they read about, see, or even worse: experience an accident.¨

¨I will never forget the first time I managed to fly a proper First Person View,¨ said Solheim. ¨You fly your remote controlled system through immersive video goggles and a live video feed like you are sitting inside the plane or helicopter. It was an amazing experience. The best video game ever.¨

Solheim, now 43, was born in England. He gets inspired by people that combine creativity, art and engineering. ¨Within the drone community, there are extremely clever people,¨ he said. ¨They share knowledge, design, code and good ideas on the web. All the sharing and the fact that people help each other, accelerates innovation.¨

¨At the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) held recently in New York University and convened by the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy, I learned about the possibilities and challenges we have regarding drones around the world. And I could see with my own eyes how controversial this topic is. The Granny Peace Brigade met us outside with a model of a military drone, while inside, we were talking about civilian use of drones. ¨

Solheim finished explaining a childhood memory. ¨I was in the hospital for a week when I was seven years old,¨ described Solheim. ¨I shared a nice and large room with six or seven other kids. It was on the third floor of an old beautiful building. My father came visiting me. He made a paper plane, so I could fly it around the big room. Of course, he couldn’t say no when the other kids asked for their planes. So after a while, we had several planes dancing around in the air. At some point, someone opened a window. I will never forget the wonderful image of the planes flying nicely out into the garden below.¨


Six good things people should know about drones according to Solheim:


  • They can be used in search and rescue to save lives.
  • They can be used as a journalistic tool to get images that would be impossible or dangerous to get without a drone.
  • The can help tremendously in environmental research and help us understand nature to better protect our surroundings.
  • It is a fun challenge to build one yourself.
  • Flying a low tech drone is a wonderful hobby that gets you out in fresh air concentrating and focusing like a kind of meditation.

Five things people probably are not aware of when it comes to drones according to Solheim:

  • In some countries you need a special license if you want to put a camera on anything that flies. Even flying toys.
  • Small drones with no weapons can also be dangerous due to the weight and the sharp propellers.
  • A lot of what media and even the vendors call drones are really not very different from traditional remote controlled planes and helicopters.
  • Even small and cheap multi-rotor toy drones have advanced sensors and technology to stabilize and adjust the speed of the motors several hundred times each second.
  • The moose living in the outskirts of Oslo (Norway) are not afraid of drones.



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Learn More:

Popular drones include:

ARDrone from Parrot

Phantom by DJI Innovations


WLtoys V929 Beetle 4-Axis Quadcopter Dexterous Mini UFO RTF

Walkera QR LadyBird V2 Mini Quadcopter W/ Devo 4 Radio, RTF

Additional Readings: 

Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones: Learn about, buy and fly these amazing aerial vehicles

Drone Entrepreneurship: 30 Businesses You Can Start

Drone Art: Baltimore

Military Robots and Drones: A Reference Handbook (Contemporary World Issues)

Kill Decision

The Media Source Presents Drones: Are They Watching You? Magazine

Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Rise of the Drones II: Examining the Legality of Unmanned Targeting: One Hundred Eleventh Congress, Second Session, April 28, 2010

Drone Pilot (Cool Careers)

2011 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Encyclopedia: UAVs, Drones, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Weapons and Surveillance – Roadmap, Flight Plan, Reliability Study, Systems News and Notes

Futaba 9C: The User’s Guide (Modeller’s World)

Fly by Wire Aircraft: Fighters, Drones, and Airliners

Introduction to Remote Sensing, Fifth Edition

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Meet the Author

Author Photo Kike Calvo
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: