Well, drones have been around a little while now and most people have heard about them, whether it be for good reason or bad. For those that don’t know a drone or UAV (unmanned air vehicle) is a device that is flown or piloted from a remote location. But unlike regular radio controlled models these are normally hi tec pieces of equipment that use a variety of sensors, GPS ,compass, barometer and the like to hover on the spot or navigate their way around with great precision.
There are many types of drone available but the most popular type at the moment are quadcopters. These are named as such because of their four rotors or propellers that give lift and manoeuvre the aircraft around. Many of these today have cameras fitted that can record video up to 4k and also capture still images. This is where my interest arose from!
After a lot of research it I made my choice and purchased the Dji Phantom 3 4k. The Phantom 3 4k comes with a fully stabilized 3 axis gimbal and 4k camera. It is relatively easy to setup and it only takes a short while to calibrate the compass on the aircraft and allow the time for the aircraft to get its gps fixes . The camera on the device is controlled through the Dji Go app that is available for download on the app store or on google play store. The controller has a smartphone / tablet holder built into it , which securely holds your device while using the controller. It has a power button on the front of the controller and a dedicated “Go home” button too incase of any panic moments!
It is a very easy to fly quadcopter and it wont take anyone more than a few flights to get used to the controls. The batteries are VERY expensive, extremely over priced if you ask me and you will need spares as they don’t last long. Dji say the battery will last twenty five minutes, what they fail to tell you is that this twenty five minutes is in controlled conditions with zero wind and no camera rolling! , just something to bear in mind. I manage between fifteen and twenty minutes tops. The battery will recharge in about one and a quarter hours which is pretty good, but if you are filming or using the drone for photography, like I said you will definitely need more than one battery.
There are some cool safety features built into the Phantom 3 , if at anytime it loses contact or signal it will automatically return to its home location which is always updated each time it takes off, it will do the same should the battery reach a critical level that is set within the app. If the drone is allowed to get so low that it cannot make it home it will descend slowly wherever it is so be careful not to allow this to happen especially if near water. It will display its last location on google maps in the app though so finding and retrieving should not be too tricky.
The camera has so many settings to play with and you can shoot in DNG raw file format to get greater control over the images captured, that’s a big thumbs up! The controller on the Phantom 3 4k has dedicated camera shutter, exposure dial, gimble pan up and down and video record buttons which really do help.
Now as for the video………It is simply stunning! I haven’t recorded in 4k as I do not possess the means to view 4k content as yet but the 1080p 60fps footage is simply amazing. The Phantom 3’s have many features that will be well received by photographers and aspiring videographers. One paticular favourite of mine is the Point of interest feature, where you target an area from above then set the circling distance , height and speed then just push a button on the screen and away the drone goes , trust me you will love it.
I haven’t ventured far afield with my drone yet as I have been building my confidence at home first but watch this space!
Now onto safety
DRONES should always be kept in sight of the operator!
DRONES of any kind should never be flown above 400ft EVER!
DRONES should never be flown anywhere near airports , helipads or landing strips EVER!
There are varying rules depending on whether a camera is fitted to your drone or not.
A full list of Do’s and Dont’s are available on the Civil Aviation Authority website .
Please fly safely and DO NOT abuse the laws on drone operation! as this will only lead to tighter legislation and make it harder for us to use this new tool available to us photographers / videographers.
Please be aware that for any kind of commercial work a licence and permit must be obtained from the CAA
Below is a short film I created at Rame head in Cornwall on a beautiful clear september morning.
The Phantom 3 4k can be had for between £500 / £600 in the Uk and is a fantastic choice of drone if photography and videography is your passion, simple to fly and a joy to use this drone WILL put a huge smile on your face when you see the world around you from above.