Learning to fly

I’ve been watching the whole aerial photography industry expanding over the last couple of years with great interest. The technology has moved forward so quickly and a lot of the imagery being produced is simply stunning.

Much like the rise of DSLR video, these devices have brought yet another area that was once reserved for high budget productions within reach of the everyday filmmaker. I haven’t been as excited about a camera technology since ordering my Brevis 35mm adapter in 2008!

I’ve been very tempted to grab one of DJI’s Phantom 2’s for nearly a year now but every time I got close to placing an order I was scared off by talk of changing regulations and unclear requirements involved in being able to use these tools commercially.

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DJI Phantom 3 - “Fire & Ice”
DJI Phantom 3 - “Fire & Ice”

With each country around the globe struggling to find ways to regulate UAV’s there are a lot of grey areas for somebody stepping in to this field so I plan to try and demystify the process here in the UK. I’ll document my journey and share my discoveries as I go about both learning to fly, and from a regulatory point of view.

So today marks the first step on this journey. I’ve been trying to decide which UAV to invest in for a few weeks now and then with the release of the DJI Phantom 3 professional it seemed the perfect choice. These amazing little devices include a 4K camera coupled with DJI’s Light bridge technology providing the ability to monitor in real time at 720p. Check out some of the videos shot with the Phantom 3, they look stunning!

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After more deliberation though I changed my mind and have decided to invest in a DJI Inspire 1. I know I’m probably running before walking here but I feel the feature set this device offers is going to better suit my needs moving forward and I would prefer to go through the learning process using the same platform that I will eventually be tested on.

So why the Inspire over the Phantom 3? First and foremost I’m all about the the imagery and the way the landing gear gets out of the way of the camera on this device just seems like something that I will appreciate down the road. The ability to hover the Inspire and then track an object just using the camera seems appealing to me, that might be something that turns out to be a non issue but for now that appeals.

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Also, having the ability to get a second person involved seems very practical to me, I understand that it’s possible to fly something like the Phantom 3 in a way that tracks an object moving in on direction whilst flying in another direction but I have a feeling that concentrating on flying the Inspire whilst somebody else operates the camera will be less daunting and more controlled.

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DJI Inspire 1 – “Soar”
DJI Inspire 1 – “Soar”

Another thing that swayed me was the pure mechanics of the Inspire 1. It comes in around £1000 more than the Phantom 3 but it just looks to be a much better engineered device. Yes the Phantom 3 offers many of the same features, and it seems to offer an amazing package for it’s price but from a pure standing holding them point of view the Inspire just feels more like a professional tool and I’m always a sucker for that!

Lastly, one of the biggest draws for me is the removable camera and gimbal. DJI have recently announced a handle designed to accommodate the Inspire 1’s camera so that an operator can achieve balanced shots handheld, almost like a mini Movi!

There’s also the option of adding better cameras as DJI release them. I know it’s only a small thing but Just having the ability to screw on an ND filter to the Inspires camera is big advantage for me, I’ll definitely looking for a stronger filter set for it.

Inspire Handle
Photo courtesy of engadget.com

I’m going to be spending the next few weeks getting to grips with the Inspire 1 both from an operational perspective as well as learning how to get the best images from the camera system.   I’m also going to be finding and attending a course in the hope of getting additional guidance about the legal and safety aspects of using the device commercially and hopefully heading in the direction of being able to fly my Inspire commercially with approval from the CAA.

Watch this space, I’ll make sure to share everything as it happens.

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