The latest from Site Scan

3DR Site Scan, my precious baby that I have had the pleasure of watching grow up, has been dancing in and out of the news since launch. I picked out some of my favorite pieces to share below.

On June 15th, Autodesk announced an investment in 3DR to support the continued development of Site Scan. The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, TheStreet, and many others picked up the story, pointing to the excitement behind the 3DR/Autodesk partnership. The WSJ article is pasted below for those who don’t have access.

Autodesk Backs 3D Robotics, MakeTime, Seebo out of Forge Fund

The Wall Street Journal, Patience Haggin, June 15, 2016

Autodesk Inc. has backed drone maker 3D Robotics, manufacturing platform MakeTime and internet of things software platform Seebo out of its Forge Fund.

Autodesk’s $100 million Forge Fund, announced in December, backs startups developing products on Autodesk’s Forge software platform, a set of cloud services for design and engineering. These three investments are the only three deals the fund has completed so far, said Amar Hanspal, Autodesk’s senior vice president for products.

Autodesk contributed to a $26 million round of convertible debt that drone maker 3D Robotics announced last week. The Berkeley-based company plans to raise a $45 million bridge financing in debt that will convert when the company raises its next round, 3D Robotics Chief Executive Chris Anderson said.

3D Robotics, backed by Foundry Group and Qualcomm Ventures, is in the midst of a pivot from consumer drones to enterprise, Chief Executive Chris Anderson said.

“It was always the plan to move to enterprise. We just thought we’d have two years to do it, instead of six months,” Mr. Anderson said. He said the company accelerated its move into enterprise drones as it has seen prices in the consumer drone sector plummet 70 % in the course of nine months.

Through the Forge Fund, Autodesk has invested in MakeTime, an online manufacturing service that Mr. Hanspal described as the “the Airbnb for manufacturing.” The Lexington, Ky.-based company last raised funding in April, with an $8.25 million round led by Foundry Group.

Autodesk has also invested in Seebo, a software-as-a-service platform for developing connected products. The Tel Aviv, Israel-based company last raised funding in January, with an $8.5 million Series A led by Carmel Ventures.

Mr. Hanspal described Autodesk’s Forge Initiative as “both software and fund,” likening it to Amazon’s voice-controlled personal assistant Alexa and its counterpart $100 million Alexa Fund for startups working on voice technology. He declined to disclose the fund’s average check size or the amounts contributed to MakeTime, Seebo and 3D Robotics.

Forge investments aren’t conditional on the portfolio companies continuing to use the Forge platform, Mr. Hanspal said. No representatives of Autodesk have joined the boards of MakeTime, Seebo or 3D Robotics.

Autodesk also announced a number of updates to the Forge platform Wednesday, including a new viewer, a new authentication system and several new applied programming interfaces.

On July 6th, ESRI announced its own partnership with 3DR to coincide with the launch of Drone2Map, a Pix4D-based photogrammetry package that pushes processed orthomosaics to ArcGIS Online. GPS World Magazine wrote a nice piece on our integration.

Several weeks later I had the opportunity to chat with UAS Magazine Managing Editor Luke Geiver, who turned our interview into a nice profile of 3DR’s enterprise and Site Scan strategy. In an lovely twist of fate, Luke’s article was also picked up by Yahoo! Tech and Digital Trends.

These external pieces were nicely complemented by our first customer success story, highlighting the one and only Quentin Wheeler, and our first webinar with the Autodesk ReCap team. If you want to hear me drone on (ha!) about some nice reality capture workflows using ReCap and ReMake, you can watch the webinar in its entirety below. Cut me some slack in the first ten minutes, however. We forgot to start recording and I had to repeat the first few slides. It is so much more difficult to deliver a smooth webinar when you know nobody is listening.

A poet’s guide to submitting a pull request on GitHub

Last week I wanted to make a small change to the Site Scan ReCap client to improve the way Autodesk was processing our jobs. Rather than burden the cloud team with experimenting with settings and verifying results, distracting them from building delightful new features, I took it upon myself to do the monkeying. While modifying and testing the code was fairly straightforward thanks to some foolproof instructions from my amazing tech lead, I didn’t see anywhere on the web that clearly explained how to make a pull request from start to finish. What follows is that guide.

Step one: Create a branch locally

The basic idea of distributed development relies on multiple branches of the project being working on at the same time. In my case, my simple changes to the ReCap API client were being worked on at the same time as numerous other projects. To manage this distribution of labor, I need to create a branch of the project on which I, and I alone, will work.

To do this, run

git checkout -b “branch_name”

from the terminal. -b specifies that you want to create a new branch, which you do here. You can do this before or after you have made your changes. This is just creating a branch on your local machine, which includes all of the changes you have made to the code.

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Step two: verify branch locally

I can see that I was successful in creating this branch by running

git branch

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You’ll notice that I see both my master and my new branch, with an asterisk next to my current branch.

Step 3: make edits

Edit your code! In my case, I wrote a very simple request client that returns Princess Leia’s attributes.

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Step 4: Add locally

Next, you add the changes you just made to your local repository using

git add “file_name”

This terminal command does not return a response. If you’ve made changes to more than one file, you must add each file. You can check to see if your git add was successful, but typing

git status

which will return a list of the changed files.

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Step 5: Commit locally

After you’ve add all of the files you’ve changed, the next step is committing them all to your local repository. Type

git commit -m “some message explaining the commit”

to do this. The -m bit is to very briefly explain to other contributors exactly what your changes will do.

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Notice that if you run

git status

again, your changes disappear because they have already been committed.

Step 6: Push to repo

You’ve now added you changes to a local repository, but need to push them to your central store. Type

git push origin branch_name

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Your branch is now up in the cloud and ready to be pulled into the main codebase.

Step 7: Make PR on

Next, fire up your internet browser and navigate on over to

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Inside my account, I see my hackathon project and I see that my test_branch is awaiting a pull request. Click compare and pull request and github will give the opportunity to write a more detailed description of the changes and see exact differences.

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If everything is as expected, click pull request.

Step 8: Merge PR

Now your pull request is waiting for review. Generally, another member of your team will review the pull request and merge the code into master. Since I am the only one working here, I will employ the incredibly tacky tactic of merging my own PR.

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Click merge pull request and your changes will be pushed into master. You will now have a little green square in your GitHub profile indicating you have contributed to this repo. Congratulations!

Step 9: Delete branch

The last step is just a little bit of housekeeping. It is typical to delete a branch after the PR is merged. To do this, navigate to the branches menu and click the icon next to your branch.

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I hope this was helpful. If you are interested in developing on drones, be sure to check out my guide for using DroneKit Python and DroneKit Android as well.

A photo essay describing the perfect Northern California three-day bike tour

Several months ago, our fearless leader at 3DR recommended I find a beautiful girl and take her down to Nepenthe near Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur. It is a legendary restaurant that overlooks a picturesque, rocky Central Coast bay that sits a couple hundred miles south of San Francisco. Naturally, it became the destination of a 200 mile or so, three day bicycle tour.

While I didn’t know any beautiful girls that were willing to endure three days of my company and ride bicycles down to Big Sur, my adventure partner Benoit Landry was up for the challenge. That said, neither one of us had ever toured by bicycle.

Fortunately, the stars aligned and, despite having to buy panniers at the last minute, not realizing that Amtrak trains do not typically carry bicycles, having no campsite reservations for Memorial Day weekend, we had a grand old time. I would highly recommend this quick, three-day itinerary to any moderately fit cyclist in SF interested in exploring the California coastline.

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The route is approximately as represented above. We took the train from San Francisco to Palo Alto. Rode from Palo Alto to Highway 1 over Old La Honda Road, which is one of the most classic South Bay climbs, and took almost exclusively the 1 all the way to Nepenthe.

On the trainWe both had no idea what we were doing, but here we are setting off for Palo Alto on Caltrain.

Bikes in Palo Alto

The bikes are all loaded up in Palo Alto. Riding a road bike designed for racing with 40 pounds of gear on a seatpost rack is not for the faint of heart.

Old La Honda Road

Old La Honda Road west of Palo Alto is one of the most incredible I have ridden. It is right up there with the La Sal Mountain Loop in Moab, my previous favorite.

On Highway 1

After a nice ride over the hills west of Palo Alto, we made it to Highway 1. Thanks to prevailing winds, we cruised this section at over 20 mph without breaking a sweat.

Santa Cruz campsite

Some say that finding a campsite in Santa Cruz over Memorial Day weekend is hard. Those some are correct. Luckily, Bob’s Pine Campground saved the day and for a cool $25 or so, we staked out this nice patch of earth.

Near Monterey Dues

While the ride from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz is euphoric, Santa Cruz to Big Sur is slightly less pleasant. The path around Monterey Bay is a flat, windy, and fairly featureless zig-zag through artichoke fields.

Riding to Big Sur

The breathtaking Big Sur scenery starts to emerge south of Monterey.

Big Sur campsite

You might also think that it is challenging to get a campsite in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park over Memorial Day weekend when reservations typically get scooped up in February. You would be right if it weren’t through the Park Service’s brilliant idea to reserve an area for hikers and bikers. If you walk or ride in, you get a spot in the most primo area in the park for $5/night. Sweet! For some reason, this is not widely advertised, but is prevalent in a number of Cal State Parks.

Crossing the bridge

The hike/bike campground is accessed by a beautiful arched bridge. This picture doesn’t do it justice.

Riding in the State Park

Nice and sunny leaving Big Sur in the morning. Nepenthe is only a few miles south!

Made it to Nepenthe

After a hard climb out of the park, we made it to Nepenthe. Having ridden 70 miles the first day, 80 hard, windy, hilly miles the second, and just conquered a substantial climb, we were ready for some breakfast.

View from Nepenthe

The view from the Nepethe deck is legendary. Unfortunately, the kind sun that graced our departure from Big Sur did not continue to smile upon us. Remarkably, on the last foggy day, we only experienced the sun within a few miles of Big Sur.

Flowers and fog

Flowers and fog overlooking the Big Sur cliffs.

Big Sur coastline 1

The Big Sur coastline isn’t half bad.

Benoit and bridge

I insisted Benoit take this little detour off of the Highway to get this shot of him climbing with the Bixby Creek Bridge in the background, made famous by Death Cab For Cutie.

Changing at the airport

It’s not every day one rides bicycles to an airport. We intended to continue south from Nepenthe and take the train back from Paso Robles, but learned at the last minute that that particular Amtrak does not carry bicycles. The quick substitute was to turn around, ride back to the Monterey airport, rent a car, and drive back to SFO.

After dropping the car off at SFO, I still had to transport by tired body back to the Marina. I rode the BART from SFO to Embarcadero and encountered a ferocious, biting headwind from there to my humble abode. That may well have been the toughest leg of the trip, but it was all worth it in the end. If you get a quick three days off and want to experiment with bike touring, this is a great itinerary to follow.