There's been an awful lot of fuss over drones (or quadcopters, or multirotors, or UAVs) lately, and after dipping a toe into flying them, its easy to see why. In full disclosure, I've been flying remote controlled multirotors since the beginning of the year, with small, lightweight, hobbyist aircraft around the Maker Media Lab. While that has been great practice, it's easy to disregard in the larger scheme of things - they're too lightweight to fly outdoors on anything other than a completely still day, and moreover, they're really unlikely to hurt anyone.
But lately I've been practicing with a the 3D Robotics IRIS platform. It's my first "big boy" multirotor, and it's been both a wonderful and terrifying journey. It's also much more capable as an aerial cinematography platform - which is, after all, my interest in all of this.
Aerial Cinematography is a Massive Thrill
I've lived in this neighborhood for over three years, and since I learned of it's existence a few months in, I've held a deep fascination for the University Mound Nursery. Flying a multirotor over it was my first experience to explore it visually - to get eyes into the property without needing to set foot on it. It was also my first experience flying a UAV over terrain where I'd have a very difficult - likely impossible - time recovering the aircraft if I had to make an unplanned landing.
Aerial Cinematograpy Is Really Scary.
There's no getting around it, this is the massive elephant in the room that everyone's looking at, and hopefully the more people get their hands on aircraft like the Phantom or the Iris, the more they'll realize that they're tools, not toys. When you're flying anything over a few pounds in the air, and positioning it over city streets, homes and cars, you're taking on a huge responsibility over other people's safety. You need to know the longevity of your battery. You have to have a flight plan. You need to be aware of your aircraft's surroundings, but you also need to be aware of your own. Make a flight plan. Set a mission timer. Give yourself plenty of margin for error. Make sure you don't fly around dogs, or kids. I'm grateful that the recent FAA proposals for UAV use is so lenient towards cinematographers, but I feel like any operator should be required to carry liability insurance.
I look forward to exploring further with aerial cinematography. I would eagerly welcome a mentor. If you know of any, please let me know.