SkySupplies: What a Beautiful Day to Drone!

 

We know Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (or UAVs/drones) are a lot more than toys. Still, they sure are a lot of fun. We’ve already done a series of posts about the common myths about drones, but there’s something we’d really like to drive home: successfully completing a drone shoot is not easy. This past weekend we were shooting a series of medical buildings with our DJI Inspire 2 Drone with Zenmuse X5s 20.8 mg camera.

On this particular shoot Paul was the Pilot (operating the “master” controller to the drone) and Ron was the cinematographer (operating the “slave” controller to the camera).

  It is important to avoid any interference from the outside world to ensure maximum communication and focus between the controllers. It is possible to do a one person set-up but the two person rig is safer, enables more eyes on the sky to make sure there is no interference and gives us more camera motions–definitely our preference!

During flight, Paul keeps his eyes on the sky while Ron is focused on the screen watching the video capture. Fortunately, the drone camera is crazy steady, so no matter the wind level or drone speed we are able to take high quality stabilized video. Included in our gear is also the Crystal Sky display 

which reduces glare on the screen. That is probably our most frustrating situation…not being able to see the iPad screen in bright sunlight. We also use an app called DJI Go which is our iPad operating system to calibrate, control and monitor the drone. It’s incredibly powerful and the possibilities are nearly endless.

There are a number of drone rules to keep in mind when shooting, and here are two key takeaways from this recent healthcare building drone shoot :

  1. You can’t fly a drone over high traffic thoroughfares — this is to prevent the possibility of drones falling from the sky and causing interstate havoc. Legally, we are only allowed to fly to 400’ and that is only if we are away from airports. The drone even has a “geo-fence” on it that alerts us when we are close to 400 ft as an extra failsafe.
  2. Keep an eye on battery life. Seriously. This will ruin your shoot if you don’t have an eye on it. It can depend on winds and how we are flying, but typically one battery will last around 10-12 minutes, with the Inspire 2, there are 2 batteries so we can get closer to 20 minutes of flight time.

Between regulations and technical specifications, drone photography and videography are not simplest tasks, but with advanced tools, talent and expertise it can be a blast. Plus, we get to deliver our clients exactly what they want.

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Our SkySupplies… Grounded

Our name, Aerial Innovations, can be deceiving. While we do specialize in aerial photography, whether from a plane, helicopter or drone, we also take a TON of shots at the ground level. Primarily these shoots are for in-progress buildings and construction sites. We frequently are hired to track the progress of construction projects from the foundation on up.

We have a great deal of experience telling the stories of our client’s projects (and staying safe on construction sites!). Most of the time we just try to stay out of the way and let the buildings speak for themselves. When taking the final ground photos (the photos of the finished building) we are flies on the walls, using natural lighting, clean angles, and spacial awareness to get the best shots. We continue our minimal meddling in post-production, where we add very few effects/edits to ensure that we most accurately represent the space.

When we shoot, we have a couple of favorite cameras that we like to keep at the ready, but on our most recent shoot we only used the Canon 5D Mark II – EP 24-105mm and the FujiFilm XT10. The Canon 5D is awesome because of the auto ISO function (which allows us to easily switch between indoors, outdoors, and shadows) and the attention to detail. The FujiFilm is a great camera because it is super light and sturdy. There are no mirrors used in this camera, and it has a vintage feel … but with wi-fi. Both of these cameras enable us to take a journalistic approach to our photography.

Recently we took a trip to the site of the new Tennessee State Museum to shoot the laying of the first stone. We are so excited about this museum! There’s something about following a project all the way to the end with a camera in hand that makes us feel like a real member of the team (and in this case, the community).

Telling the story of a building is a unique privilege… obviously we can (and do!) handle some of the broader strokes from the air, but we are able to really exercise our narrative skills on the ground level. This makes us feel like a photography infantry and enables us to get down and dirty with interior shots, shots of the workers and unique angles that show the buildings in all their architectural glory. It’s where we really flex our photojournalistic muscles–telling the behind the scenes stories of iconic buildings from start to finish.

At Aerial Innovations, we’re proud members of the Tennessee community and look forward to having it well-represented by a state museum, heck, we’re even learning things in the process.

 

*Big thanks for Turner Construction for having us out to photograph your progress!

Staying Safe In the Air from the Ground – Part 4 of 6

We’ve all seen the viral videos and epic shots made with ready to go out-of-the-box flying machines, aka drones or UASs. It looks and IS so easy to click BUY on Amazon, unpack and learn how to fly and shoot with a drone…. the 7yr old in me is already out the window and down the street…wheeeeeeee!

But WAIT!

There are guidelines out there. Hobbyists have been following them for years. And I’ll  guess they are mostly for not running into things like people, buildings and other aircraft. As of this writing, in order to fly for commercial purposes (and that is anything incidental to business, not just for pay) then you need to obtain a 333 waiver from the FAA and have a licensed pilot at the helm. Later this year, we are expecting Part 107 to come out with updated regulations that may loosen some of these requirements.

In brief, there are a few basics that apply to ALL operators.

  • Don’t fly over people, crowds, etc.
  • Don’t fly over highways or busy intersections
  • Don’t fly within 5 miles of an active airport without authorization
  • Always keep the drone in line of site
  • Always have a spotter on hand

Every project is different. Builders know that. And as photographers we look at each and every project like it’s new and different. Our first priority is to safely get you the imagery. Period. And if it means we can’t operate the drone, we have several other platforms to choose from. (and they also satisfy the 7yr old in me!) We’ll have more about safety in our next blog post…..stay tuned!

Wendy Whittemore

Flight Commander – Aerial Innovations of TN, Inc.

*Commercial purposes as defined by the FAA is not necessarily for the all mighty dollar but might also be for internal use in a business. How to stay compliant? For now, apply for a 333 exemption or hire a 333 exempt company. In time, the FAA will publish Part 107 rules for commercial UAV operation. 

View our previous posts about drones:

Introduction to Drones – Part 1 of 6

Selecting the Best Platform – Part 2 of 6

Best Bets on Pricing Options – Part 3 of 6

To Drone or Not To Drone… Part 2 of 6

We hear it everywhere, the din of drones. It’s an exciting new time to be in aerial photography with new ways to see the world. It has opened up a new layer of airspace to us (see graphic below). Depending upon the type of angles, views and use of the imagery, you now have several choices. So when do you go drone?

For us, we determine the platform through a discussion with our clients on every project. Sometimes, the best thing in the end is not always a drone. Here are a few key questions to ask when deciding which aerial platform to use:

What altitude is best for the shot? Many times, the goal is to see for miles and miles. That is best done from much higher than the maximum altitude of drones (400′ per FAA guidelines). There are many platforms to do this; helicopters are great around congested areas, airports and between 800′ – 3000′. For really wide expanses of land, the fixed wing gives us maximum altitudes and can be very economical.

What is the image format needed? Still photographs, video, both? The drones are fantastic at capturing video. It’s smooth, gorgeous and the dual controllers get the best camera angles. If high resolution stills are needed for large format printing, there is no beating a full sensor DSLR (Nikon or Canon, whichever you prefer). The cameras on the drones are great for most uses but remember their resolution is still about 10-12MP.

Is there anything getting in the way of using a drone? If your site is close to an airport, highway, over a crowd or in any other restricted space, it may not be possible to use a drone. A lot of the time, the helicopter can get into more spaces safely and may be the best choice. Or even alternative aerial platforms like lifts and masts can be used.

Using a drone just to use a drone may not be the best reasoning before you take to the skies. Think about all of the factors and then decide what platform is safest, best and going to get you the best imagery. We would be happy to answer any of your aerial photography questions. Safe flying and always wear your seat belt!

Wendy Whittemore – Flight Commander

Aerial Innovations of TN, Inc.

View Part One of this 6 blog series

SideViewOfAirspace_LowRes

 

 

The Rise of the Drone

This weekend the FAA made progress on its deadline of regulating drones or UAS (Unmanned Air Systems) for commercial use. They have certified 2 fixed wing drone systems, Insitu’s Scan Eagle X200 and Aero Vironment’s PUMA. With a long way to go until the 2015 deadline of “opening the skies to drones” there are still a lot of questions to answer in regards to safety, airspace, operator licensing, insurance and use. And although 2015 seems close, the US is still far behind most of the world including Canada and the UK with allowing this technology to take off. 

There is a lot of misinformation and speculation surrounding the rise of the drone. As the owner of an aerial photography company, I am often asked about drones. Questions focus mainly on how it will affect the professional aerial photography business. Most assume we see them as a threat, that everyone will own a drone and there will be no use for a company to provide this service.

Our industry was once thought to be dying when everyone became a photographer with accessible digital photography tools and google earth which provided aerial images for free! In both cases, the technology increased our efficiency, gave us more control and created more of a demand for our services. Upon its invention in the late 1800s photography itself was seen as a threat to fine art and professional photographers cried foul when Kodak released easy to use cameras to the mass public early in the 1900s. And yet, photography has only become more amazing with each advance.

Will the professional aerial photography business survive this new technology? It will all depend on a company’s professionalism, adaptability and the quality of photography they are able to provide. The keyword is “business” and if there is a strong foundation of relationships, systems and quality, survival is guaranteed.

Wendy Whittemore

Owner – Aerial Innovations of TN, Inc.

 Here are some links to interesting articles

Canadian Regulations for UAV Systems

http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/standards/general-recavi-brochures-uav-2270.htm

Newsday Article on FAA Certification

http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/faa-certifies-first-2-drones-for-domestic-flight-1.5778033

Get your Drone Pilot’s License!
http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/29/16726198-anticipating-domestic-boom-colleges-rev-up-drone-piloting-programs?lite