Dreams of the World: Riley Morgan, Drones for Good Enthusiast

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

Morgan Riley by KIKE CALVO
Morgan Riley with his quadcopter at the Drone and Robotic Conference held at New York University last year. Photo © KIKE CALVO

¨There is a big difference between my quadcopter and a Predator or an actual drone with hellfire missiles on it,¨ said Riley Morgan, a 14 year-old New Yorker.   ¨My quadcopter is used for fun, as a nice way to pass time. The Predator is designed to harm people. No matter how I use it, my quad is not designed to be dangerous or deadly as a full-scale military drone.¨

¨When people come up to me arguing that drone usage should be banned, I explain to them what I am doing and why it is different from what a predator drone can do,¨ said Morgan.  I tell them the difference between my quadcopter and an actual drone, and I try to explain to them that it is a hobby that shouldn’t be banned.¨

¨I’m not really sure what my dream is. I really want to do something in the Radio Control industry, but I’m not sure what exactly,¨ said Morgan. ¨As long as it is fun and it gets other people into the hobby, I will be happy doing it. I’ll probably start a company that sells RC and multi-rotor equipment.¨

Morgan claims to have always been obsessed with building things and hardly ever reading the instructions. ¨When I was ten or eleven, I started working with the first “lego mindstorms“, a platform that allowed me to build motorized lego structures or vehicles, and then program them with my computer.¨

Talking about current projects, Riley is going to attempt to build a waterproof hexacopter. ¨It will have a 3-axis gimbal equipped with a night vision camera, a thermal imaging camera, and normal camera that can be used for search and rescue and doing things humans can’t do¨, he explained.

In an effort to educate himself in the topic, Riley attended in October the Drone and Robotic Conference (DARC) in New York City. ¨I learned a lot of things at DARC, but mostly I met other people who were also hobbyists,¨ he said. ¨It was a really great experience, and the best day ever to skip school.¨

Morgan finds inspiration in the RC World. ¨ I admire Trappy, from Team Blacksheep who is always doing new things and pushing boundaries, he said. ¨I also like other aspects of the RC world and I would also like to get into planes. I’m thinking of starting with a Bixler style plane and then moving on to a flying wing like the Zephyr, a large air foiled wing.¨

Morgan considers the FAA to be in a really tough spot. ¨I think that they should put some laws in place, but not too many,¨ he said.  ¨These laws should be reasonable, unlike one of their more recent regulations. ¨ According to that regulation, selling a video taken from a predator drone is treated the same way in court as taping a camera to a $20 toy helicopter and selling the video taken from that. ¨I think they need to open up a new branch of the FAA dedicated to RC models.¨

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Morgan´s Favorite Gear


Ready to fly for beginners:

DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone Quadcopter

DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter with Built in FPV Camera

Walkera QR Ladybird Mini Quadcopter


For people looking to build:


Futaba 8JA 2.4GHZ S/FHSS with R2008SB M2 Transmitter

Futaba 8FGHS SUPER 2.4G R6208SB MD 2 Transmitter

Flight controllers:

DJI Naza-M Multi-rotor Auto Pilot Version 2 with GPS

Jmt DJI Naza-m Lite Multi-rotor Flight Control System with GPS Compass BEC LED Module


Frame / Motor ESC combos:

DJI F550 Naza and GPS Included ARF Multicopter Quadcopter Kit with ESC Motor Propeller

Learn More:

Cool stuff for Drone and Unmanned Vehicle enthusiasts

Drone Entrepreneurship: 30 Businesses You Can Start

Small Unmanned Aircraft: Theory and Practice

Introduction to Unmanned Systems: Air, Ground, Sea & Space

UAV Fundamentals Executive Course

How to Start an Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV) Business Course on DVD

Small UAV Construction

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

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

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

Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Drone Pilot (Cool Careers)

Fly by Wire Aircraft: Fighters, Drones, and Airliners

Introduction to Remote Sensing, Fifth Edition




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 now buy Kike´s products: http://bit.ly/RJXlqr You can travel to Colombia with Kike: www.colombiaphotoexpeditions.com

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