Photography over the years have seen many changes, mirrorless cameras, mobile phones with not one but two lenses, and maybe more recently drones.
The drone has come along way from being just a thing that you can fly around that has propellers and does short flights of 6 minutes or so. They have come to be so sophisticated, there used by industries to survey, fire brigade for detection, police for surveillance, television and film production companies to give new angles to shots, but know the photographer can take their images to whole new level.
The top end drones allow for real cameras to be added, but then your looking at a lot of weight and other problems I will mention later. But there is one company thats made drones with small yet quality cameras, which are fitted with a 3-axis gimbal for real stabilisation, and all at a price that makes it affordable for all who are a novice or photographers, videographers.
DJI have been at the forefront of this type of drone, with the DJI Phantom, Pro and Mavic Air, and recently just brought out the all new Pro 2 with two types to choose from, one with Hasselblad and a zoom version.
I’ve recently just got myself the DJI Mavic Air that came as a combo, with three batteries, six sets of blades. This small drone packs a load, that makes
RAW/JPEG images at 12MP
4K video and up to 125FPS
Sony 1/2.3” sensor
auto bracketing 3/5
burst shooting 3/5/7 frames
auto or manual mode.
That to me is a lot for such a small camera, which is all controlled from an app thats can be on a phone, tablet or DJI CrystalSky monitor that connects to the controller.
The drone itself can fly on one charge for nearly 30 minutes, so having three batteries, you’ve got an hour and half flying time on one shoot. It’s also packed with GPS and Wifi with a clear signal thats never lost.
But like all good things, there are downsides, and this isn’t down to the drone, but regulations. Over the last couple of years, more and more people have taken to getting a drone, but don’t realise that there are rules that come under the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). Certain people go out by a drone and start flying it anywhere and everywhere, there have been cases reported of drones being flown near airports and putting planes and people in danger. They also been used for getting dugs into prisons and flying with danger to people. This has lead to strict legislation and no fly zones that are getting tighter and tighter by the year.
The thing is with a drone, a person is in control of it, just like a car, and if you don’t take time to learn how to fly in a safe place, your a danger to others. To regulations at the moment stand as follows.
Fly no higher than 400ft
Stay away from people and property at least 150ft
Maximum distance 500m
Some restrictions can be overcome if you decide to become a commercial drone pilot, but this cost for training from £500-£1,000, a license from the CAA first year is around £270 and then every year onwards £170. This is ok if you are flying as for a business doing surveys or paid to film or photograph places or buildings. And currently the authorities are looking at other regulations for hobby pilots and this might be taking an online test to show that your competent drone pilot, and to have public liability insurance.
These’s restrictions are hurting people from having fun, but people that take drone flying seriously, already have insurance and are responsible people, and it would be good to see some restrictions lifted if they meet a certain criteria. If there is blanket ban and all have to have a CAA license, its going to hurt manufacturers of these drones design in mind for the hobby person.
Since the drones have GPS built-in, DJI and NATS (National Air Traffic Control Services) who control the airspace have come up with apps that allows drone pilots to view restricted areas and register their flights. This is important part to the future of drones, which show drone pilots are staying in the safe zones and registering their flight plans, but this platform only allows to the basics, where the DJI app actually records your flight and gives detail of realtime footage. What needs to happen is both parts need to come together with DJI and other manufacturers with NATS to come up with an app the covers all, then there can be no breaking of rules or if they are they can be seen and used to deal with the incident.
All this might seem off putting, but for me and my situation of being in a wheelchair, gives me an extension of my landscape photography. When I do research for shoots, its all about access, can I get to the area and the precise point in my wheelchair. There are so many times that I get frustrated because I can’t there. Having a drone is an extension for me to reach places, and come up with images that have a different angle of view.
My view on the drone law is this. I believe that the UK trading standards should crack down on the type of drones sold, if they are for speed flying, have a license that’s affordable for them, for drones flying high and longer distance should have gps and the safety features like DJI have, have an age restriction, should use flight plan apps, do an online test with NATS or CAA to get a license at a smaller fee if any and have an age restriction.
Why I feel theses things should happen.
It means that people that look to purchase a drone, know what is expected of them, understand beforehand why they want to get a drone and what they can do with it. If they criteria was reached then some of the restrictions should be lifted by the CAA. It’s a small percentage of people that mess it up, and they do it with cheap drones bought off places like eBay from sellers abroad.
As it stands, it there is a place I’m interested in, and its own by some authority, then I contact them to see if they will allow me to photograph with a drone, its places run by English or Welsh Heritage make it more problematic to use a drone, but if you go by the CAA guidelines then if you are taking off from outside the property and over 150ft above property, then you are within the right to fly, but I would advise to ask permission first as it can always help.
I’m still very new to flying a drone and have some practice flights, but soon I will be starting out on my list of places to go to, and really excited on what I might be able to achieve. There are some great groups of Facebook like Drone Flyers UK and forums like DronePilots thats full of information for those that are thinking of getting a drone or just bought one.