It was one of the humankind’s biggest desire to fly. We were always in envy seeing birds flying above and wanted to see our world from their view. Until a few years ago only a few people had the chance to take photos from the skies and taking those photos meant buying expensive equipment. Nowadays buying an unmanned aerial system or “drone” using the proper aerial terminology and taking aerial stills and videos is just as easy as ordering a new iPad. Really is it that easy? Well it depends what result you need.
First you will need a drone and a reliable 4-engine quadcopter which would cost less than $1,000. A basic lightweight action camera can be bought for another $300, but the top quality GoPro Hero4 Black edition (highly recommended!) has a $500 price tag.
It’s recommended at the beginning to fly several times without the camera, get familiar with the controls and don’t fly too far, because you can loose control easily. Once you feel comfortable controlling the drone take your first shots!
You will need to mount your camera to the drone, which is not that complicated, but extreme caution is needed, as even the smallest mistakes could cost you a lot. Follow the instructions of the manufacturer and you should be ok.
You will be very excited downloading your first aerial photos/videos to your computer. Hopefully you have an amazing view to your target, but you will learn from each flight to find a better angle. 1 or 2 extra battery is necessary, because a basic drone system can fly for only 5-10 minutes.
Then you will realize that the video is trembling, it’s not as smooth as you saw other videos on YouTube. If you want to step up to another level, your next investment will be a gimbal. Gimbals are used to mount cameras to allow them a balanced movement vibration-free video. The bad news is that even a basic 2-axis gimbal costs as much as the most expensive action cameras. But you can not avoid to buy one if you want a quality. Also you will need a first person view (FPV) system with it you can see what your camera records and you won’t have to guess which way the drone and the camera are facing. With this system you won’t fly blind anymore and can correct the height and angle anytime. The result will be stunning, you will see the difference. The next step comes with height, you want to fly higher and further, in this case it is worth to invest a high-quality drone, as those are equipped with GPS system, so if the battery in your remote control runs out, or the drone’s battery drops under a certain level or loses the remote’s signal, the drone returns to the take off location automatically. To extend the flying range you will need to buy a high range transmitter, with that you will be able to send your drone not just to 300 meters, but as far as several kilometers.
Now you spent a lot of money, but you have a beautiful result. The bad news is, sooner or later everybody crash his drone, you will learn to repair or bury your drone. There are always new drones with fantastic features or more engines coming out, this hobby could cost a lot of money, a reliable set of spare parts will cost at least $5,000, but year by year it’s getting cheaper, maybe one day a flying drone won’t surprise anyone.
For photos use the highest available resolution! For videos, use at least 1080p resolution and if you can edit the video the higher resolution and frame rate is the better, probably the size of your memory card will limit it, as you increase the resolution a video could write even 1 Gigabyte per minute onto your card!
For the best result you will need to edit the video, there are few useful free applications (GoPro Studio, iMovie), but their functions are very limited. With an advanced application (Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, Pinnacle Studio…), you can turn your raw footage to a professional film.
We were flying around Krabi’s beautiful islands and villas and we enjoyed every moment (except the crashes). Always be very careful, never fly too close to people or any object and keep the batteries charged and your wallet loaded, because this hobby requires some money regularly!
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