SkySupplies: “Get to the Chopper!”

We wish there was a zipline over Nashville so we could get super clean shots, but since that’s not an option — we use a helicopter. We love when we get to fly around with no doors. It’s such a thrill, and enables us to get shots in very dense areas like Nashville much easier than in a fixed wing plane.

Just the other day we flew around Nashville in an R44 Helicopter, snapping shots of some in-progress construction sites, the cityscape and a few creative pics. In the helicopter, we fly with the door off and shoot out the side. We do not “hang out” as many people think, but have a very secure safety harness.

We use helicopters mostly in dense urban areas and/or around airports as they are much easier to maneuver in busy airspaces. We like them because they can get low and we get our turns done much quicker so the entire flight is done very efficiently. Flying low is a “must” for us in order to get detailed shots of the construction process. If you read the blog post from last week then you know how passionate we are about accurately telling the story of our clients’ progress — that passion extends to the in-air shoots as well.

For the most part, we exclusively fly in Robinson helicopters because of their comparatively simple maintenance and reliability. We normally take the R22 which is a two seater and always fly with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI); however, yesterday, we had company — so we took the R44 (a four seater.) For anyone who is interested, the R-44 has a two blade rotor system and a T-bar cyclic and can cruise (at maximum gross weight) up to 109 kts (202 km/h).

Typically, we just go up to shoot for some of our clients; however, on a clear day, we are able to get some amazing pictures of the Nashville skyline. If you’re a local, you’ll totally understand the need for consistent photos of Nashville … the place is growing like a weed!

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

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