As photographers we’re always looking for a different perspective. A different way to see something that’s been seen the ‘usual’ way many times. I’ve actually put my camera down on the street already just to get a completely different angle. I couldn’t even see the viewfinder to frame the shot, so I just took several until I got what I wanted.
At one time, I actually considered trying to purchase a used lift truck, like those employed by electrical companies to fix power lines. The purpose of getting the truck was to be able to get my camera up above things to get that different perspective. A truck would be a very expensive way to get those shots, but that’s how badly I wanted to see, and capture, the world from a different angle.
Fortunately, I never purchased the truck, instead I discovered UAVs (Drones).
In the early days of drones, you had to attach a camera, usually a GoPro or some other type of ‘action’ camera to the drone. At that time, you had to purchase the drone, the camera and the gimbal separately. When I finally purchased my first drone, the platform had been refined to the point that the drone, camera and the gimbal were all sold together and manufactured by the same company, or at least all sold together as a complete package.
The camera that came built onto the newer drones had no microphone on them as the GoPro had, which was a good thing because all you could hear from those cameras with mics were the sound of the props.
That first drone was a Phantom 3 (4k). The 4k was the resolution of the video camera attached to the drone. The still camera was able to capture images at a resolution of 12 megapixels.
Now, currently, the Phantom 4 Pro still shoots 4k video, but at a frame rate of 60 frames per second and the still images are from a camera with a 1 inch 20 megapixel sensor. Needless to say, the quality is much improved.
Along with the upgraded image quality, the newer drones have a much better distance or range. The early drones operated via Wifi and had a range of about 1300 feet (in the best of circumstances). The newer drones have a working range of 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles).
There are MANY rules to drone operation and one of them is that the drone should always be ‘within line of sight’. That doesn’t mean that the operator has to be able to see it, but someone working with the operator as a spotter be able to see it. The improved range isn’t really meant to allow the drones to fly further away from the remote pilot, the improved range is allow a stronger connection when the drone is being flown (within line of sight of course).
The purpose of getting the drone, for me, was to be able to get that different perspective, above ground level. That’s what every photographer is searching for. The camera on the current ‘consumer’ drones aren’t the same quality as a DSLR, but there are drones that can carry full sized DSLR cameras or even professional full sized film cameras. Of course, those are extremely expensive. The used lift truck might be cheaper!
When I first got the drone, I used it mostly to shoot video. The video quality is great, but after a few minutes, the footage of anything gets pretty boring. Recently, I’ve been using the ability of the drone to get to places that a ‘ground locked’ camera couldn’t and shoot images, rather than video. I still shoot video while flying into position, but that footage will only serve as ‘B roll’ for some future project (maybe).