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Micro Drone 3.0 / 3D Mapping / Drones for gooD April 2016 · No 05
Micro Drone 3.0 / 3D Mapping / Drones for gooD
April 2016 · No 05 · Price £5.99
999
ArresteD!
Fire Drill
Your Best shot
A commercial pilot’s
tale of caution
We send a drone
up in smoke
Simple rules for taking the
perfect aerial photo
Join the
Professionals
How you can put your
piloting skills to work
Image by Freefly / Shutterstock

con tribu tors

AdAm GemmA mArk will Juniper Cox BAker Glover Hooked from the moment he saw the
AdAm GemmA mArk will Juniper Cox BAker Glover Hooked from the moment he saw the
AdAm GemmA mArk will Juniper Cox BAker Glover Hooked from the moment he saw the
AdAm GemmA mArk will Juniper Cox BAker Glover Hooked from the moment he saw the

AdAm

GemmA

mArk

will

Juniper

Cox

BAker

Glover

Hooked from the moment he saw the AR.Drone at CES, Adam Juniper has spent the years since building, crashing, sinking, losing and occasionally flying drones. With a background in photography publishing and over a decade writing about video and still photography in his rear-view mirror, he was the only choice for Ilex’s new book The Complete Guide to Drones.

Our launch editor for DRONE, Gemma has worked at the helm of NEO magazine for over ten years. Spending over a decade immersed in Asian pop culture, she recently branched out into the world of technology to take on UAVs. She’s most excited about the future of FPV racing and the prospect of drone deliveries! Can drone racing go prime time? She certainly hopes so! Follow NEO at @NEO_Magazine.

Mark Baker is a commercial drone pilot based in the New Forest. In 2014, he founded Naughty Cat Media and specialises in providing low level aerial video and photography using drones. Most of his work is carried out with lightweight and affordable systems like the DJI Phantom series. Check out some of his shots and get in touch at his website, located at www.naughtycatmedia.co.uk.

Will Glover is an award winning aerial cinematographer and founder of Fleye Aerial, a leading UK helicam film company working on projects nationally and internationally for TV, viral, online content and stock footage. Fleye mainly use large helicams carrying DSLR and film cameras. He recently invested in a Freefly Alta and you can read more on his experiences with it on page 66!

and you can read more on his experiences with it on page 66! Andrew dAvid owen
and you can read more on his experiences with it on page 66! Andrew dAvid owen
and you can read more on his experiences with it on page 66! Andrew dAvid owen
and you can read more on his experiences with it on page 66! Andrew dAvid owen

Andrew

dAvid

owen

pAtriCk

wAtton-dAvies

stoCk

JAmes

shermAn

Andrew spends his time reading up on drones, watching bad sci-fi, and giving lots of fuss to his cats in the hopes they won’t moult on his quadcoptors. A graduate of the Rufus T Firefly Freedonian Flying Academy, he has never failed to walk away from a UAV landing. As well as keeping his finger on our news pulse, he also found time to review the Micro Drone 3.0.

David is a professional photographer and picture editor based in London. His interest in the unusual and quirky led him to an FPV event one day and he hasn’t looked back since. He’d like to see how drones could be incorporated into his work and would love to get more into flying, but one expensive hobby is enough, for now… David’s photos can be seen at www.davestockphoto.co.uk.

A former software engineer, Owen

James is the founder of the London Drone Film Festival. The festival combines his experience of flying RC aircraft for over 35 years with

a passion for filmmaking to help

promote aerial filming to a wider audience. As a licensed drone pilot his emphasis is on safety, enjoyment of the sport and the responsible use of technology.

A private pilot and master scuba diving instructor, Patrick is better known as “Lucidity” to fans of the Roswell Flight Test Crew. A technological evangelist for the

safe, beneficial and non-intrusive use of drones, he has flown alongside public safety officials, research scientists and industrial inspectors, as well as speaking and teaching classes across the USA.

W ELCOM E To Issue 05 of Drone MagazIne! I f you’re reading this then
W ELCOM E To Issue 05 of Drone MagazIne! I f you’re reading this then

W ELCOM E

To Issue 05 of Drone MagazIne!

I f you’re reading this then the chances are you’re already something of a drone fan. Whether you’re a seasoned pilot or curious newcomer, you’ll have some idea as to the enjoyment and practical applications that can come from piloting an airborne craft. However, the mainstream media still weighs heavily on the negative aspects of drone misuse and this feeds into the public paranoia that drones are some kind of physical threat or an invasion into their privacy; at best drones are little more than a toy or a geeky gadget that will soon go away. Now, I’m certainly not oblivious to the potential for a minority to abuse drones, be that by dropping contraband into prisons or finding ways to weaponise them, but drones can do so many great things beyond simply being good fun to fly – so we’ve decided to address that balance this issue. Over the following pages we’ve got a collection articles showing you how various industries are using drones to streamline their working practices, saving time, money and even, potentially, lives. Who know? Maybe this will give some of you a few ideas of your own about taking your passion and turning it into a career – though not dismissing the fact that you’ll need to be qualified (as reported in Issue 03) and fully prepared to meet the varying requirements to fly commercially (more on page 48). If nothing else I hope that this issue will simply serve as a reminder to all that drones are a good thing and they’re here to stay. So the next time someone asks you “what good has ever come from using a drone?” you can give them a very long answer.

Enjoy the issue!

IaN COllEN, EDITOR

them a very long answer. Enjoy the issue! IaN COllEN, EDITOR facebook.com/DRONEMagUK twitter.com/DRONEMagUK

facebook.com/DRONEMagUK

Enjoy the issue! IaN COllEN, EDITOR facebook.com/DRONEMagUK twitter.com/DRONEMagUK instagram.com/DRONEMagUK APR 16 •

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EDITOR facebook.com/DRONEMagUK twitter.com/DRONEMagUK instagram.com/DRONEMagUK APR 16 • Issue 5

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DRONE is published every four weeks by Uncooked Media ltd. all text and layout remains the copyright of Uncooked Media ltd. DRONE is a fully independent publication and its views are not those of any company mentioned herein. all characters and artwork shown in this magazine remain the © and trademark or their respective owners. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the express written permission of the publisher. DRONE can accept no responsibility for inaccuracies or complaints arising from editorial or advertising within this magazine. all letters and emails received will be considered for publication, but we cannot provide personal replies. The publishers cannot be held responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, transparencies or artwork. Please do not call, email or write to enquire whether your unsolicited submission has been received, as our priority is the production of the magazine.

another quality cold cut from

is the production of the magazine. another quality cold cut from EST. 2003 DRONE © 2016

EST. 2003

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is the production of the magazine. another quality cold cut from EST. 2003 DRONE © 2016
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44

Getting an overview of history

58
58

contents

10 // NEWS

Round up and reaction to the latest developments in the drone world, including a report on the $1million Drones for Good awards.

18 // EDDIE MITCHELL

An aerial photographer who was wrongly arrested for trying to fly a drone – we’ve more on that and the rest of Eddie’s career.

26 // THE FLYING SQUAD

We chat with West Mercia & Warwickshire Police Force as they embark on a trial to test drones for operational policing.

31 // COMPETITION

This issue we’ve got not one but THREE prizes to give away, courtesy of TRNDlabs’ super-cute Skeye Nano with Camera.

34 // UP IN SMOKE

Patrick Sherman from the Roswell Flight Test Crew puts his drone in harm’s way to capture a dramatic fire drill in action!

40 // CROSSRAIL

The biggest infrastructure project in Europe is finding drones to be a great tool for keeping everything ‘on track’.

44 // HISTORIC ENGLAND

You might think that drones are great for taking aerial snaps of castles – and you’d be right. But they can do so much more.

48 // PERMISSION TO FLY

If you’re interested in flying commercially, you’ll need to know a few things. This is where you get started.

58 // MICRO DRONE 3.0

One of the biggest crowdfunding success stories to date, we take Extreme Fliers latest bird to the skies for a test flight.

62

Reviewed:

Skeye Nano

with Camera

68
68
66
66
72
72
76
76

62 // SKEYE NANO & CAMERA

Seeing as we’re giving some away, we might as well tell you why we like it – so find out more in our review.

66 // FREEFLY ALTA

As he gets to grips with his Alta, in his third report professional cinematographer Will Glover begins turning on the style.

68 // 3D MAPPING

A complicated technology but it’s easier than you might think to create your own 3D images. We cover the basics to get you started.

SUBSCRIBE TODAY FOR ONLY £14.99! TURN TO PAGE 90

72 // AUTO-PILOT

There are so many automated controls, so do you really need to be able to pilot a drone? Obviously, the answer is an emphatic yes.

74 // PIXRACER

It’s the latest addition to the PixHawk flight control family. Lee Schofield chats to its co- founder to find out more.

76 // PHOTO COMPOSITION

The latest in our bumper tutorials on making the most of your aerial photos, this time we delve into framing the perfect shots.

90 // SUBSCRIPTIONS

Previous issues have been selling like hot cakes so subscribe now to avoid disappointment – or at least a long walk to the shops.

92 // BUYER’S GUIDE

We still argue about whether it should be Buyer’s or Buyers’ Guide, but the end result is always lots of great drones, all in one place.

96 // REGULATIONS

Whether you want to fly commercially or just for fun, these are the core rules and regulations that all UK pilots must abide by.

34

fighting fire with a flyer! we take a drone out for a real-life fire drill

Photograph: Roswell Flight Test Crew

Words by: AnDrew wAtton-DAvies

Words by: AnDrew wAtton-DAvies 3DR in the UK 3 DR, the largest drone maker in the

3DR in the UK

3 DR, the largest drone maker in the USA, has announced the expansion

of its 3DU Academic Program to the UK and Ireland. The program, launched in America in September 2015, is available at primary, secondary, university, graduate and postgraduate levels and offers discounts on 3DR hardware, along with support to those interested in using UAVs as teaching and learning tools. The program is being run in partnership with TNS Distribution, a global distribution service, and features discounts on the Solo drone and its accessories to eligible teachers and instructors. “In the past, drone research and teaching tended to be restricted to aerospace or engineering departments,” says Chris Anderson, CEO of 3DR. “This is quickly changing. These schools realise that UAVs will become a multi-billion dollar commercial industry; consequently we’re seeing massive adoption of our drone platforms in education. The diversity and creativity of these programs is astonishing, from archaeology to cinematography to precision farming. We’re seeing the shape of next-generation industry taking form in the schools and we want to empower them.” 3DR consider the Solo to be an ideal drone for use as a teaching and educational platform, due to its built-in safety features and its easy- to-learn flying experience. It’s also

able to carry a variety of cameras and sensors. Additionally software like Pixhawk and the DroneKit app platform enable students to gain experience with application development as well. “We want Solo to be the number one developer platform for academia,” says Brandon Basso, 3DR’s vice president of software engineering. “We enable development on Solo, for Solo and for the Cloud.” Beyond the drones themselves 3DU also offers support with curriculum development, webinars on drone-related topics and virtual tours of the 3DR Offices. For teachers there is assistance with connecting to other teams using drones as educational tools, and for students setting up drone clubs, they will supply stickers, posters and even autopilot sponsorships for those engaged in team competitions. There is also a blog that highlights the use of drones in education, enabling those involved in the program to further spread interest in their projects and awareness of new potentials being discovered. “Every day we’re discovering new uses for drones, popping up across many new fields,” says Dr. Greg Crutsinger, Academic Program Director for 3DR. “We want to make sure the world knows education is being transformed from the sky down.” The project has been endorsed by Professor Serge Wich from

3DU AcADemic ProgrAm exPAnDs Across the AtlAntic

Wich from 3DU AcADemic ProgrAm exPAnDs Across the AtlAntic Liverpool’s John Moore University, and he’s also
Wich from 3DU AcADemic ProgrAm exPAnDs Across the AtlAntic Liverpool’s John Moore University, and he’s also

Liverpool’s John Moore University, and he’s also at the forefront of the use of drones for scientific applications. “Academics in the United Kingdom are rapidly adopting drone technology for a whole range of applications. Academic pricing on open source drones, such as the Solo, is therefore very welcome so that the technology can more quickly enable teaching and research.”

With the continued growth in the interest in drones, and the potential for student activities to boost both sales to young hobbyists and the talent pool involved in the industry, time will show if other companies will follow the path being set by 3DR. Full details on the 3DU Academic Program, including how to apply, can be found at:

www.3dr.com/3DU.

Words by: andrew wat ton-davies Claw and Order police considerinG eaGles as drone catchers T
Words by: andrew wat ton-davies Claw and Order police considerinG eaGles as drone catchers T

Words by: andrew wat ton-davies

Claw and Order

police considerinG eaGles as drone catchers

Claw and Order police considerinG eaGles as drone catchers T he Dutch National Police has released

T he Dutch National Police has released a video featuring a demonstration of a quadcopter drone being captured mid-flight by a bald eagle trained

by the company Guard From Above. The demonstration, part of a longer testing of the eagles’ abilities, dramatically showed off the potential of birds as an anti-drone system, as not only was the target successfully interdicted but it was also safely landed by the eagle (and then pecked quite savagely). Described as “a low-tech solution for a high-tech problem”, the method is the result of COO Ben De Jeijzer’s 25 years of experience training birds of prey – the eagles’ instinct is to attack the craft as it would consider them competing predators invading their territory. The video was impressive enough for the Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe to instruct senior officers to investigate whether the approach could be used in London. In addition, in Scotland, Douglas Chapman, MP for Dunfermline and West, commented that: “Training eagles to bring drones down safely is something Police Scotland could look at… I think it is something the force should consider.” Unsurprisingly, not all reactions to the scheme have been positive. Nicholas Lund of the National Geographic raised concerns that drone blades “can cause serious damage to an animal”, especially “if the drone operator were to take evasive or defence manoeuvres”. A petition against the use of the eagles by the Met has been started by Jemima Parry-Jones, Director of the International Centre for Birds of Prey, and states that “no birds of prey should be used and it would lead inevitably to injury to the birds. I have since spoken to people who work with drones and they also said it was a very bad idea.”

with drones and they also said it was a very bad idea.” Words by: andrew wat

Words by: andrew wat ton-davies

A Force For Good

Further uK police trials For drone use planned

A s you can see from our article on page 26, the police

do also see the positive side of drones and the

Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire

police forces are the latest to adopt them as a support tool, with the early stages of a combined project underway to test the usefulness of drone technology within their day-to-day operational practice. The trial, believed to involve the use of the 3DR Solo as the drone of choice, will involve the training of 10-12 operators and up to 10 drones, deployed across the tri-force area. Operators will be working in pairs to ensure compliance with the police force’s Civil Aviation Authority licences and safety guidelines. A spokeswoman from the Cambridgeshire Police Force has confirmed that the drone “would be used to assist with all types of policing operations. For example, open country searches of missing persons, exterior building searches, to assist with road crash investigations, airport security site assessments, armed patrols, sieges. The ‘proof of concept’ trials will involve deployments at any of the above incidents. Each deployment will be risk assessed for safety purposes.” This is one of several similar trials across the country, although concerns about the use of drones have been raised by privacy advocates, including Big Brother Watch’s Daniel Nesbitt who has commented that: “Police forces across the country have recognised that drones have the potential to be useful… it’s important that the police communicate the results of this trial very clearly, so they can provide reassurance about how this technology will be used to protect citizens and maintain their privacy.” The results of this trail will be available in the summer.

Regulation

Round up

ANDREw wAttON-DAvIEs wItH MORE GlObAl DEvElOpMENts ON DRONE lEGIslAtION

Raising Drone Awareness in the UAE

A two-week long campaign has been enacted

in the United Arab Emirates aimed at raising

awareness of safety issues amongst new drone users. The focus of the campaign has seen the distribution of brochures as well as signs to draw attention to legally restricted airspace. Saif Mohammad Al Suwaidi, director- general of the GCAA, stated at the launch that:

“Given the varying range of sectors in society,

that: “Given the varying range of sectors in society, and those who have no experience or
that: “Given the varying range of sectors in society, and those who have no experience or

and those who have no experience or adequate information about aviation and drones, the GCAA has made raising awareness on the best practices when using drones a priority.” Laws governing the use of drones in the UAE, including a flight ceiling of 500 feet, drone registration and the requirement for a licence for commercial usage, were introduced in April 2015 following incidents at Dubai airport. Full regulations for flying in the UAE can be found at: www.gcaa.gov.ae/en/Pages/ UASRegistration.aspx.

Drones in

Paradise

From 01 February, anyone wishing to bring UAVs into the Bahamas will need to get a Certificate of Registration from the Civil Aviation Department (CAD). The new Special Regulation applies to all classes of drones. The Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Transport and Aviation, has confirmed that the Regulation has been issued due to the increase of drones in the Bahamas, and will remain in place

increase of drones in the Bahamas, and will remain in place until incorporated fully into the

until incorporated fully into the law. As of 29 February UAS’ will also need to be registered with the CAD or face possible detention. Guidelines on the safe usage of drones in Bahamian airspace, including accountability of the operator for any accidents, can be found at www.bcaa.gov.bs.

Fresh Regulations Coming to Guyana

The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed that, following complaints from the Guyana Defence Force of their helicopters being encroached upon by civilian drones, a set of operational regulations is being worked on. The Minister of Public Infrastructure announced: “We have a draft circular which we are working on.” The head of the agency, Chaitrani Heeralall, has said that: “Users of these drones need to realise that they can impact on the use of the airspace and they need to be cautious, and that at the moment, like many other countries, we don’t have regulations for governing the uses of drones because these things are new. Even the International Civil Aviation Organisation doesn’t have regulations, per se.” The Guyana Defence Force has issued a press release reminding the public of the potentially fatal consequences of using UAVs in airspace allocated to low flying aircraft and asking the public not to fly them around Base Camp Ayanganna and all other military bases.

Words by: ANDREW WAT TON-DAVIEs

Words by: ANDREW WAT TON-DAVIEs And the winner is… MILLION DOLLAR INNOVATION PRIZE AWARDED BY DRONEs
Words by: ANDREW WAT TON-DAVIEs And the winner is… MILLION DOLLAR INNOVATION PRIZE AWARDED BY DRONEs

And the winner is…

MILLION DOLLAR INNOVATION PRIZE AWARDED BY DRONEs fOR GOOD

14

A fter considering 664 submissions from teams in 121 countries, the final rounds of the 2016

Drones for Good awards took place between 4-6 February at the Dubai Internet City in the

United Arab Emirates – with a cool $1million on offer to the eventual winner. 20 teams, 10

in the International competition and 10 in the National, invited by the UAE Government, spent

three days doing live presentations of UAV projects designed to “find solutions that will improve people’s lives and provide positive technological solutions to modern day issues.”

GuIDe DrOnes FOr BlInD atHletes

A

companion drone to allow blind runners

to

be guided by sound, thus giving them

more freedom of movement and the ability

to exercise independently.

HumanIt3D swarmnet

The teams were amassed from throughout the world, from universities, start-ups, and NGOs, each bringing with them cutting edge technologies, innovative uses and intriguing applications of UAVs’ potential. Semi-finalists in the national category, featuring student creations from around the UAE, included:

Ocean eyes

A platform using four synchronised

quadcopters to provide a sky view of the immediate area, allowing the manoeuvring of ships with greater accuracy and safety.

the manoeuvring of ships with greater accuracy and safety. Flare 2.0 A “folding scissors” style collapsed

Flare 2.0

A “folding scissors” style collapsed quadcopter

stored within a cylindrical tube the size of an umbrella that can travel at speeds of over 60 km/h, with a range of 100km, to seek out the

nearest cell site and transmit actionable details

to emergency services to carry out efficient and

effective recovery.

smart InspectIOn OF sOlar panels

A drone that uses a thermal imaging camera to

allow for more rapid and accurate inspection

of solar panels, thereby improving the

effectiveness and reliability of solar farms through more frequent maintenance.

The international category included entrants from the around the globe, including the UK, USA, Ethiopia and the Philippines. The list of entrants included:

aDvanceD aIrBOrne raDIatIOn mappInG

An automated drone swarm that provides a mesh network allowing for the exchanging and gathering of information in emergency situations where cellular communications and internet connectivity is not available.

communications and internet connectivity is not available. rOmeO The Remotely Operated Mosquito Emission Operation is a

rOmeO

The Remotely Operated Mosquito Emission Operation is a UAV that delivers a payload of half a million chilled sterile adult mosquitoes, breaking the breeding cycle of the disease- carrying insects.

areIOI A low altitude radiation mapper, allowing for A quadcopter system designed to produce 3D
areIOI
A low altitude radiation mapper, allowing for
A quadcopter system designed to produce 3D
maps of an area with the detail and precision
real time monitoring and “hotspot” radiation
intensity maps at incidents akin to the
of Google Maps, enabling rapid surveying and
Fukushima accident, for less than a hundredth
re-surveying of areas and structures.
of the price of current aircraft based systems.
The level of the projects was complimented by
a judging panel of 25 renowned members from
the world of academics, scientific research and
UAV related industries. The three finalists in
each division are over the page:
DRONE MAGAZINE

National

National BUiLdroNe – aeriaL robotics Lab an autonomously operating gas or oil pipeline leak detection system,

BUiLdroNe – aeriaL robotics Lab an autonomously operating gas or oil pipeline leak detection system, that

is able to independently fix leaks with

polyethylene foam.

International

fix leaks with polyethylene foam. International reefrover – new york UniVersity oF abU dhabi an undersea

reefrover – new york UniVersity oF abU dhabi an undersea drone for the collection of coral reef data in a standardised format, made available to both scientists and the public.

format, made available to both scientists and the public. fLyLaB – FLyLab affordable drone technology using

fLyLaB – FLyLab affordable drone technology using computers and microcontrollers, such as arduino or raspberry Pi, and communicating with standard smart devices aimed at being used in practical experiments to teach mathematics, physics, chemistry and engineering.

to teach mathematics, physics, chemistry and engineering. Navig8 Uav – 4Frontrobotics (canada) a vertical take-off

Navig8 Uav – 4Frontrobotics (canada)

a vertical take-off and landing (VtoL) drone

compatible with an array of detection systems, designed to go into buildings for search and rescue operations when it would be unsafe to send response teams.

operations when it would be unsafe to send response teams. Save-Me – sense-Lab (Greece) a compact

Save-Me – sense-Lab (Greece) a compact drone and app that combines life-saving information available on a smartphone if you are inside a cellular network, with the ability to take your phone, and details gathered from it, to emergency services if you are out of service range.

it, to emergency services if you are out of service range. LooN Copter – embedded research

LooN Copter – embedded research Laboratory, oakLand UniVersity (Usa) Part quadcopter, part boat, part submarine, the Loon is usable for search and rescue, investigation and environmental response both above and below water.

Results

Taking away the National Competition trophy, and the one million dirham prize money (just over £188,000 / $272,000), was Buildrone. In the International Competition the trophy, and the one million US dollar prize, was claimed by the Loon Copter team. However, for most of the participants, the competition was about much more than the challenge or the prizes. As Jovan Jovanacevic of the ReefRover team put it: “The competition was our opportunity to showcase our effort and build a network of people who now know about drones. We believe that events like the Drones for Good awards stimulate development in emerging drone technology. The focus on the application of the technologies in the National part, as well as on technological advancements in the International category, gave rise to some amazing ideas and creations.” Given the technology on display, we will be keeping an eye on the dronesforgood.ae site for news of the 2017 competition – and who knows? Maybe this will inspire a few of you to consider entering with your own grand designs next year!

The Loon Copter took home the $1m top prize, offering the potential for search and
The Loon Copter took home the $1m top prize, offering the potential for
search and rescue operations both from the air and underwater.
the potential for search and rescue operations both from the air and underwater. OVERALL WINNER WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK

OVERALL WINNER

Words by: andrew wat ton-davies

Super No Fly Zone

Words by: andrew wat ton-davies Super No Fly Zone 3,000 square miles off limits during superbowl

3,000 square miles off limits during superbowl

T he FAA’s release of a video on 03 February, expressly declaring the Levi Stadium, Santa Clara, California – the

venue of the 2016 Superbowl – as a No Drone Zone was not an unexpected announcement. Concerns about safety issues and unregulated flights simply disrupting the event had been raised by officials and fans alike in the run up to the event. What did surprise people was the fact that the overall no-flight zone extended to a 32 nautical mile radius, and that the follow up press release to the video explicitly stated that the ban on flights “from the surface up”

stated that the ban on flights “from the surface up” included unmanned aircraft operations. So, over

included unmanned aircraft operations. So, over the course of ten hours it was technically illegal to fly a drone anywhere within an area of over 3,000 square miles, including San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and a number of large parkland areas, for a population of around five million people. Ian Gregor, spokesman for the FAA, noted that the FAA could issue a fine for violators and potentially file criminal charges, and confirmed that “the United States government may use deadly force against the airborne aircraft, if it is determined that the aircraft poses an imminent security threat”.

that the aircraft poses an imminent security threat”. Though technically accurate, commentators also noted that

Though technically accurate, commentators also noted that any action taken against drone flyers away from the “inner core” of the zone would be by local police at their own discretion.

Words by: andrew wat ton-davies

ICARUS getS itS wingS

new app simplifies the admin grind

C ommercial drone flying can generate a lot of paperwork, which means a lot of time when the operator isn’t in the

air. CAA stipulations state that an operator’s Permission for Aerial Work permit can be forfeited if a complete risk assessment isn’t performed in advance of every commercial job, in addition to having all flight and maintenance logs fully maintained at all times. To help reduce the amount of time spent keeping records, Aerial Motion Pictures (AMP) has developed the ICARUS Flight Planning App. With a built-in risk assessment form, flying area survey, preliminary finding reports and flight data recordings, the aim of the app is to place the administrative burden of flying into one simplified location. On top of that, the tracking of flight data such as weather, equipment usage, operator flight time and

individual job records are all available as a CSV file or uploaded via the dropbox.com Cloud storage system. Matt Williams, Managing Director and Head of Training and Flight Operations for AMP, said: “The ICARUS Flight Planning App is a useful tool for everyone who is operating a drone for commercial purposes as it completely removes the paperwork associated with each job, allowing pilots to record information in real-time with the added benefit of being automatically backed-up to the Cloud.” The ICARUS Flight Planning App is available to buy from the App Store for an annual subscription cost of £59.99, or £4.99 per month, and is free for the first three months following completion of an ICARUS training course. For further information visit:

aerialmotionpictures.co.uk.

completion of an ICARUS training course. For further information visit: aerialmotionpictures.co.uk. 16 drone magaZine
completion of an ICARUS training course. For further information visit: aerialmotionpictures.co.uk. 16 drone magaZine

Photo by Darren Cool

Coincidentally, Eddie’s arrest was captured on camera. The police officer hardly looks like a natural pilot!

The police officer hardly looks like a natural pilot! Arrested development: eddie mitchell WE’RE All AWARE

Arrested development:

eddie mitchell

WE’RE All AWARE Of thE GOOD thAt DRONEs cAN DO, but MANy NEGAtIvE fEARs stIll NEED tO bE AllAyED; fEARs thAt lED tO phOtOjOuRNAlIst EDDIE MItchEll bEING WRONGfully ARREstED fOR sIMply DOING hIs jOb. DAvID stOck shAREs EDDIE’s stORy AND hIs WORk ‘AbOvE’ thE lAW…

M ost drone pilots wish to fly responsibly and have fun. They understand the inherent dangers involved and that safety is always a priority, while the likes

of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are on hand to issue guidelines and regulations to all pilots regarding the rules and regulations of flying. As with similar organisations in other countries, the CAA also licenses professional pilots whose work requires the use of drones – filmmakers, photographers and surveyors to name a few. It trains these pilots to ensure they are well informed, respectful and always fly within the law. In exchange it gives those pilots special permissions to work outside of the standard regulations imposed upon recreational users. Despite this, drones are still often seen as invasive, spying devices and police, overzealous with anti-terrorism laws can be quick to demonise legitimate pilots.

When a fully-qualified and CAA licensed drone pilot and photojournalist was wrongfully arrested mid-flight, leaving three inexperienced police officers to bring a UAV under control, within the Air Traffic Zone and busy flight path of the UK’s Gatwick airport, it highlighted a general lack of awareness of the rules governing drone flight, especially amongst those entrusted with enforcing it.

Video Captured

The man arrested was Eddie Mitchell, a news photographer based in Sussex. It was in December 2014, when he was covering a fire at a residential site for a major UK news outlet. “I was asked to get a general view of the site,” he says, but despite following all of the rules and good airmanship of his CAA training, things turned from bad to worse. “I did everything right… I was about 750 metres from the scene

DRONE PRO

All Photos by Eddie Mitchell / aerialnews.co.uk, except where stated

Not all of Eddie’s work requires him to get too far off the ground, such
Not all of Eddie’s work requires him
to get too far off the ground, such as
this bus crash in Brighton. But, as the
bottom shot shows, it can help.

“I was amazed. They ripped the controller from my hand; there was nothing I could say. I never in a million years thought they would disarm me”

itself and had the landowner’s permission. I introduced myself [to the police], explained that I was fully qualified and outlined what I was going to do.” He gave the police 25 minutes to raise objections before launching. Mitchell knew that, despite operating near to an airport – he was around 5km away from Gatwick Airport – he was still legal to fly, as craft under 7kg do not need air traffic control’s permission. Besides, he already had an ongoing operational plan in place with their air traffic control: “As long as I stayed under 150ft I wouldn’t have to contact them” he says. But this did not stop the police intervening once he was airborne, and Eddie says he “could see from the drone that these three officers were marching at me from the other end of the site.” Normally it is bad form to disrupt any pilot during a flight, leaving your spotter, if you have one, to communicate when appropriate and safe to do so, thereby relieving the pilot of undue stress. The pilot should be allowed to land safely and in their own time, too, as Eddie confirmed: “The pilot should never be distracted at any point; it is up to me whether I think it is right to bring it down.”

never be distracted at any point; it is up to me whether I think it is
never be distracted at any point; it is up to me whether I think it is

DRONE PRO

This photo shows an ongoing fire at the Gribble Inn near Chichester in West Sussex taken in 2014.

Gribble Inn near Chichester in West Sussex taken in 2014. There’s no harm in supporting the

There’s no harm in supporting the stylish aerial shots with a few ‘down to earth’ photos.

Despite this, the police gave Mitchell one short warning to land the craft, which “couldn’t have been more than 25- 35 seconds,” he says, “which is a ridiculously short time.” What followed left Mitchell speechless. “I was amazed. They ripped the controller from my hand; there was nothing I could say. I never in a million years thought they would disarm me.” Mitchell was arrested and spent three and a half hours in Surrey Police’s custody. But, perhaps worse still, he had to watch as three unqualified pilots passed the controller between them, eventually bringing the drone down with a thump, and not before performing some fairly

erratic and dangerous manoeuvres.down with a thump, and not before performing some fairly What made this all the more

performing some fairly erratic and dangerous manoeuvres. What made this all the more surprising to Mitchell

What made this all the more surprising to Mitchell was the fact that, as well as working as a photojournalist for numerous newspapers and TV stations, he also regularly works for Sussex Police and the West Sussex Fire Brigade. “I have a number of hats on,” he explains. “I am also a fire brigade photographer, trained to work at major incidents,” where he captures images for their internal use and to assist with their training.

An EmErgEncy SErvicE

From his early work as a Worthing Life Guard and subsequently working for a local Sussex newspaper, The Argus, Mitchell built up a good working relationship with the emergency services. “That’s how I got a good on-call working relationship with the fire brigade,” he says, explaining how he often gets calls from fire commanders to come out to incidents. Whilst not all of the images that he takes can be released to the public via news outlets, the unprecedented access ensures that he is often first on the scene and that his shots are from the front line of any incident. When drones became affordable Mitchell saw a great opportunity and was quick to get on board. “I’d flown RC planes or helicopters since I was a kid so I knew all of the ins and outs of it,” he explains. “It was a distant hobby but one that was rekindled with the idea of doing it with my job, as it was a great way of taking aerials.” And with the news gathering and photography industries undergoing major changes at the time, and newspapers in decline, Eddie was quick to jump on any new tool that could “help feather my nest elsewhere”.

DRONE PRO

“I was at the cutting edge… I was one of, if not the only journalist in the country who was armed with one of these”

Brighton Pier is very much in Eddie’s back yard, so we’re not surprised he’s taken an aerial view of it.

Some more great photos from Eddie below, showcasing the unique shots a drone can provide.

After gaining his CAA license in March 2013, Mitchell became one of the first journalists in the country to be fully authorised to use small unmanned aircraft (SUA) in his work. Thanks to his affiliation with the West Sussex Fire Brigade he also gained special permissions to work close to buildings and fly at night. As an early adopter it wasn’t always easy. “People didn’t understand at all what we were talking about,” Eddie says of talking to clients. “But it wasn’t too early for the main part of my business, which was reacting to news, going to major incidents and having a different platform for me to take pictures with. I was at the cutting edge of that, I was straight in, and I was one of, if not the only journalist in the country who was armed with one of these.” He was quick to identify the potential for others too. “I always thought that for the fire service it would be a fantastic tool for them in control and command. No one was using drones in the fire brigade at that point.” Possibly inspired by Eddie’s great work alongside the fire brigade during the Eastbourne Pier fire in 2014 (more in the ‘Pier Pressure’ boxout), emergency services all over the country now utilise drones and the Surrey and Sussex police forces, whom Eddie has also flown in conjunction with, were awarded almost £250,000 to expand their use of drones on operations. “It’s definitely the time and place for drones,” says Mitchell.

of drones on operations. “It’s definitely the time and place for drones,” says Mitchell. WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK 21

DRONE PRO

Eddie’s work during the 2014 Eastbourne Pier fire not only showed the benefits of a drone for news coverage, but also for the fire brigade.

of a drone for news coverage, but also for the fire brigade. Pier Pressure In 2014
Pier Pressure In 2014 Eddie had to opportunity to really showcase how useful a drone

Pier Pressure

In 2014 Eddie had to opportunity to really showcase how useful a drone could be, not only for newsgathering but for the emergency services, too. When a fire broke out on Eastbourne Pier on 30 July, Mitchell was quick to respond. The commanding officer was keen to make use of this new tool and, once airborne, his aerial video feed was relayed live into the control room on the scene. “The Fire Chief was actually controlling the fire from the pictures from the drone and using his assets to put the fire out,” Eddie explains. The feedback he got was amazing: “They loved it and were most grateful.”

“The Fire Chief was actually controlling the fire from the pictures from the drone and using his assets to put the fire out”

So, with emergency services making the most of cutting edge technology, responsible use and enforcement should be a certainty, surely? Not quite, Eddie warns. “There’s lots of ambiguous information out there. The police still aren’t clued up as to what they can and can’t do.” However, Eddie’s arrest triggered a sequence of events that led to a change in the way the police, civilians and other services engage with pilots, both amateur and professional.

Cleared for Take-off

During his arrest and unbeknownst to the police on the scene, Mitchell’s drone filmed the incident and backed up his version of events. It turned out that “the officers had embellished the truth about my arrest and the drone footage proved it,” Eddie says. The footage showed how, contrary to the police account, he was not given ample time to safely land the craft before his arrest. “Once they saw the drone footage they realised that it was a completely false arrest. I did everything right.” Surrey Police settled out of court for a five-figure sum and a letter of apology – a costly mistake by all accounts. In February 2015 Sussex Police also admitted to “gaps in existence relating to overall police officer understanding and in terms of delivering a consistent approach to dealing with the use of drones,” and an Association of Chief Police Officers (ACOP) guideline document was commissioned looking at how police officers should deal with drone usage.

It was a welcome outcome for Eddie, and not just on

a personal level. “This was very good for the industry

because it had been yearning for some sort of clarification from the police to address the situation.” Particularly pertinent to Mitchell’s case was the guidance that “officers should not attempt to take control of the system UNLESS EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES EXIST, such as threat to life or injury or damage to property […] trying to land the system yourself may cause the drone to crash leading to a

very real risk of injury to persons and damage to property.”

It suggests that the best course of action if a pilot refuses to

land a drone is to “wait for its battery to die”. Most pilots fly responsibly and Eddie is quick to highlight that effective enforcement is important to prevent illegal, nefarious and criminal uses of drones. “They undermine the whole industry and every drone pilot gets a bad name.” He points to the likes of the CAA course that teaches safety and good airmanship for pilots, emphasising that “we try and stay on the right side of everyone and try and be polite, courteous and keep the standards that we have all been taught.” Ultimately it’s all about “safety, safety and bloody safety,” according to Eddie, “as a drone pilot it’s instilled in us.” And that’s why, perhaps, rather than criminalise the responsible pilots, police should be taking the time and effort to reward and encourage them.

Eddie Mitchell operates as Aerial News (www.aerialnews. co.uk) and shoots for local and national newspapers and TV clients including the BBC and Sky News. He uses a DJI Phantom 2 and a Phantom Pro as well as a DJI F550. All are equipped with GoPro cameras.

DRONE PRO

Phantom 2 and a Phantom Pro as well as a DJI F550. All are equipped with
Phantom 2 and a Phantom Pro as well as a DJI F550. All are equipped with
24 DRONE MAGAZINE
There’s almost a limitless number of potential uses for drones within numerous industries, Caption whether
There’s almost a limitless number of potential uses for drones within numerous industries, Caption whether
There’s almost a limitless number of potential uses for drones within numerous industries, Caption whether
There’s almost a limitless number of potential uses for drones within numerous industries, Caption whether
There’s almost a limitless number of potential uses for drones within numerous industries, Caption whether
There’s almost a limitless number of potential uses for drones within numerous industries, Caption whether

There’s almost a limitless number of potential uses for drones within numerous industries,

Caption

whether it’s inspecting offshore platforms, getting a close-up view of wind turbines or gathering

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geographical data for the purposes of surveying sites or assisting with agriculture.

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All Photos by Geo-Mapper
All Photos by Geo-Mapper
the purposes of surveying sites or assisting with agriculture. asdf asdf All Photos by Geo-Mapper WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK

This trial is one of several running across the country with more planned for the future – and there seems to be no shortage of willing volunteers!

THE FLYING SQUAD

ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY, POLICE AUTHORITIES ARE DISCOVERING THAT DRONES CAN HELP FIGHT AND PREVENT CRIME. DISCOVER WHETHER YOU COULD SOON ADD ‘POLICE DRONE PILOT’ TO YOUR CV AS IAN COLLEN SPEAkS TO INSPECTOR DAMIAN SOWERY AbOUT THE LATEST TECH ON TRIAL…

W hen it comes to emphasising the good that drones can do, it’s hard to look past their potential uses within the emergency services. There are

countless ways in which UAVs can aid in the already fine work being done by the police, ambulance or fire and rescue crews. Futuristic visions of fully automated drone patrols aside, current tech has the potential of saving not only time, but also millions of pounds to the taxpayer. Drones and the surrounding tech can aid the police in all manner of activities, providing a helpful new perspective on events. One of the latest forces to get behind the use of drones is the West Mercia & Warwickshire Police Force, led by Inspector Damian Sowery. They’re running a six-month trial, which follows in the footsteps of a similar trial that’s been running in Devon & Cornwall since November, and there are several more happening (and planned) around the country. Damian’s crew of seven CAA-trained pilots will be using a DJI Inspire 1 and a Phantom 3 Advanced – a decision made because they see drones as primarily a response tool.

“Some forces have gone down the line of spending a significant amount of money on a device, in some cases £40-50,000,” Damian explains. “They’ve established a team to operate that device and it tends to be used more as a planning tool than a response tool, because ultimately it can only be flown when those people are on duty, is generally too big to fit in the boot of a car and you can only deploy it when those people are available. My feeling in our force area, because we’re so big (West Mercia takes in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire), is that if we went down that line we would never use it.” Instead they’re using the drones with ‘traffic officers’, or those “who have the higher capability vehicles. They’re the ones who have the higher level of training and are advanced drivers who can get around the force quickly.” Simply put, these are drones on call, ready to respond to any incident, at any time of day – and the purpose of the trial is to see where it works, where it doesn’t, and how (or if) drones can be used, in the longer term, to support operational policing 24/7.

Although their specific use wasn’t revealed, French police were seen using drones during the Paris

Although their specific use wasn’t revealed, French police were seen using drones during the Paris shootings – possibly hunting for gunmen or isolated victims.

– possibly hunting for gunmen or isolated victims. Saving PeoPle, Time and money One thing the

Saving PeoPle, Time and money

One thing the drones won’t be doing is replacing the helicopters flown by the National Police Air Service (NPAS), helicopters Damian admits are “far better and far more proficient and technically capable than a drone will be; this generation of drone anyway.” However, with NPAS suffering the same cuts as most other public services, Damian sees the potential for drones as a support tool, to offer a quick response, to speed up various operations and become “potentially, a cost effective way of helping operational officers to do a number of tasks.” Those tasks might include “everything from finding missing people, aerial photography, to supporting crime investigation or collision investigation. It could be looking for suspects who might be on premises, and there are cannabis farms that might give off a lot of heat. You could have a situation where someone might be suffering with dementia, for instance, and has left a care home and headed into a wooded area or a rural and remote area. We could use a thermal imaging drone and put it up to cover a wide area, whereas in the past we would have had to send a lot of officers on foot to look for that person manually” – which takes up a lot of time and resources. Indeed, saving lives is one thing, but saving money could also be a possibly surprising upside – with road traffic accidents just one example Damian gave us. “If you look at a fatal collision, what would normally happen at the moment is we’d use a Collision Investigation Unit who are specially trained officers. They would carry all sorts of laser measuring equipment, field lights and what have you. There

“The purpose of the trial is to see where it works, where it doesn’t and how (or if) drones can be used to support operational policing 24/7”

would be a road closure and they would spend a long time methodically and meticulously documenting the scene and doing various calculations to work out what happened and how the collision occurred.” This is all very important work, especially if a prosecution is warranted or a coroner is required and a professional investigation is needed. However, as Damian explains, “that becomes a very time-consuming task. In the case of a motorway – and there’s a lot of motorways in Warwickshire, less so in West Mercia – you can end up, and it does happen from time to time, closing a motorway in a busy part of the country for several hours, and that comes at a massive cost to the taxpayer.”

An off-the-shelf DJI is a safe investment for a trial, but other options could be

An off-the-shelf DJI is a safe investment for a trial, but other options could be considered in the long-term.

but other options could be considered in the long-term. The estimated expense for having a major

The estimated expense for having a major road closed during a busy time has been given to us on a couple of occasions (though as yet unverified) as being £1 million an hour to the UK taxpayer. Using a drone to support the work

of the Collision Investigation Unit to capture the scene and document the data can potentially reduce the road closure time from 4-5 hours down to a single hour – saving not only money but also enabling those officers to get back to work

a lot quicker. So the next time someone asks you what good

has ever come from flying a drone, you can tell them that a drone might just have saved them three hours in traffic; oh, and maybe the small matter of £3 million as well – and that’s just from one single incident.

Big Brother isn’t Watching

As you may have seen from our news article on page 11, there can be some public concern about the police flying drones. However, Damian says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the community response after explaining the trial to his local Independent Advisory Group. “I have to say that they have been overwhelmingly supportive about it. I was expecting to

be challenged quite a lot on the privacy angle, that the police would be using these devices to spy on people – that whole kind of Big Brother concept. But actually their concerns were really more about safety and making sure we have the right governance in place.” That said, Damian was still keen to reassure the public that drones will only be used for standard operational work. “The message we want to get across to the public is that this

is not about Big Brother, this is not about surveillance” –

although he did add that using a drone to capture footage of drug dealers in a park, who would otherwise flee at the

“A drone might just have saved them three hours in traffic; oh, and maybe the small matter of £3 million as well”

sight of a police car and disappear, could be one option. However, “by and large we see these as being about public safety, looking for criminals, looking for people who’ve gone missing, supporting existing aviation services in terms of things like photography and so on.” The reaction from the police force itself has also been very encouraging – and unsurprisingly Damian wasn’t short on volunteers when the trial was announced, adding that “I’ve had to disappoint quite a few people!” But it’s not just the pilots who will benefit. “The kind of things we think we’re going to have, are the kind of jobs that the officers don’t particularly enjoy doing anyway. If we go back to the scenario of the missing person in the middle of the night, for a police officer to be out on foot, in rough terrain, in the dark, the cold and the wet, it’s not a particularly pleasant experience. “Most people I’ve spoken to so far, and I’ve spoken to quite a few, are overwhelmingly positive about it and see it as a good thing. Nobody’s come to me and said they’re worried about the impact it will have on their job, because I don’t think it will. I think it will enhance their operational capability and it will take away some of that burden from the jobs that we do at the moment that we don’t particularly want to do.”

a Force For good

It’s worth noting that, for the purposes of trial, Damian is happy to restrict the potential uses for his drones. They do have a thermal imaging camera that has several potential uses (not least enabling them to fly at night) but that’s it for the time being. As Damian points out, there’s no point spending money on some great tech if you can’t be sure you’ll use it. “I’m acutely aware that there are some fantastic applications out there and lots of different devices. Fire and rescue services, for example, use a drone that’s equipped with chemical sensors and things like that which they can fly into a fire and monitor the air. “But, for the moment, those are really expensive. It’s not all about the money, but we want to make sure that what

One early use of the drones before the trial even began was to film ‘T-Pack’

One early use of the drones before the trial even began was to film ‘T-Pack’ training to help educate traffic officers in containing a moving vehicle.

educate traffic officers in containing a moving vehicle. we do buy, we are going to use

we do buy, we are going to use for practical policing rather than it sitting in a van somewhere and not being used. One of the points of the trial, for us, is as much about testing the concept of drones in policing as it is testing the drones themselves. The point of having the six month trial period is to get enough data so that we can properly evaluate them – and that will help us to look at whether the devices we’ve currently got are the ones we would want in the longer term.” One interesting aside, and current drawback, to the use of tech comes from the potential problems for using drone-based evidence in court, as Damian pointed out after we suggested using drones for 3D mapping crime scenes could be useful. “Whenever new technology is brought in, certainly if it’s going to be use evidentially in court, it has to go through Home Office approval. The difficulty with drones at the moment is that, so far, none of this technology has been tested in court.” As one example, laser equipment that the collision investigators use after a car accident has been approved, “and so when they present information in court, there’s never any question. At the moment, I can see us having a challenge in court if we tried using surveying equipment, however good it may be. Ultimately we might even end up losing court cases because the equipment hasn’t been approved. And that’s my roundabout way of saying ‘yes, we’d like to use that technology’ but we have to be careful about the legalities of it.” Clearly Damian does see a future use for drones within the police force. “I think it’s fair to say that the emergency service market for drones is expanding; there’s a lot of interest not just from the police, but the fire and rescue services, the ambulance service. This is a part of the market that hasn’t really been there before and is now emerging. I think once that happens then manufacturers like DJI, globally, will be interested and they’ll be interested to see how they can service other customers.” And certainly we’d be interested in taking up Damian’s offer of another chat in six months time to see how the trial went.

Policing Drone Use Of course, the flipside to Damian’s work is that the police do

Policing Drone Use

Of course, the flipside to Damian’s work is that the police do still have to deal with nefarious drone use themselves – and he says they’re taking a common-sense approach. “As an organisation we would always seek to advise people before we try and criminalise them. What we’ve seen, and from speaking to our colleagues around the country, is that most illegal drone use at the moment seems to be more, not ignorance or malice, but there are a lot of people out there flying these things and not really appreciating the rules and regulations about them. “Devon & Cornwall, for one, has done some work with their communities to try and get that message out, looking at YouTube and identifying people who have been flying them and sending out advisory notices to them, just in the first instance, to say ‘do you realise that what you’re doing is unlawful?’ We would always seek to educate rather than enforce. There’s also work we have to do within the force, and part of that is educating our own officers and making sure they understand what the legislation is.”

Getting an aerial view in the event of a siege or a missing person can
Getting an aerial view in the event of a
siege or a missing person can give the
police an invaluable extra perspective.

competition

All images © 2015-2016 TRNDLabs / Albert van de Maat

All images © 2015-2016 TRNDLabs / Albert van de Maat Win! One Of three SKeYe nanO

Win! One Of three SKeYe nanO with Camera drOneS

It’s quite possibly the cutest drone we’ve ever seen and, thanks to our friends at TRNDlabs, you can win yourself

a SKEYE Nano with Camera in this cracking compo! It’s

billed as the “world’s smallest camera drone” but this nifty ultra-compact quadcopter is certainly punching above its weight once you get it in the air – as you can tell from our review on page 62, having previously reviewed SKEYE’s comparatively enormous Hexa Drone and Mini Drone with HD Camera in Issue 03. Measuring only four centimetres from blade to blade and weighing in at less than half an ounce, the Nano is

a wonderfully light and agile drone – making it great for

flips and other aerial tricks using the 6-axis flight control system. And with ready to fly (RTF) technology built in, you just need to throw it into the air to get flying. The camera is capable of grabbing 3 megapixel images at 640 x 480 resolution, captured straight to the 2GB MicroSD card. It also has three controller options – Beginner, Mid- Level and Expert – which helps to make the SKEYE Nano a fun and fulfilling drone whether you’re a new pilot finding their feet or a seasoned pro who can really make the most of its aerobatics to capture some memorable footage.

most of its aerobatics to capture some memorable footage. We’ve got THREE of these irresistible little
most of its aerobatics to capture some memorable footage. We’ve got THREE of these irresistible little
most of its aerobatics to capture some memorable footage. We’ve got THREE of these irresistible little

We’ve got THREE of these irresistible little flyers to give away, and to be in with a chance of winning one all you have to do is to answer the following question correctly:

Which of these is NOT also part of the sKeYe range?

a)

B)

c)

hexa drone

mini drone With hd camera

super huge megacopter

You can enter by sending an email to dronemagcomp@ gmail.com, with the correct answer to the question in the subject header, along with your name, address and a contact telephone number. Closing date: 31 March 2016. Good luck!

terms and conditions

No correspondence will be entered into. No employees of Uncooked Media or the companies providing the prizes may enter. No cash alternative is offered to these prizes. Entries are only valid if they reach us by the closure date. Multiple entries will be disregarded. The publisher’s decision is final. Good luck!

school break

Kids on the basketball court during the school break in Vilnius, Lithuania

Photo by Karolis Janulis, Supplied by Dronestagram

Flying with the Fire Service 34 DRONE MAGAZINE All Photos by Roswell Flight Test Crew

Flying with the

Fire Service

34 DRONE MAGAZINE

All Photos by Roswell Flight Test Crew

WhEN A fIRE cREW IN thE UNItED StAtES tOOK pARt IN A lIvE-fIRE tRAINING ExERcISE, pAtRIcK “lUcIDIty” ShERMAN fROM thE ROSWEll flIGht tESt cREW OffERED tO tAKE A DRONE EqUIppED WIth A flIR thERMAl IMAGING cAMERA tO hElp. hERE’S hIS REpORt…

The Roswell Flight Test Crew sends their hexacopter into the inferno, using on-board thermal and visible light cameras to monitor the progress of the fire.

O f all the places that drones will be put to work over the next few years, none is more important than alongside

firefighters and other first responders – at least in our eyes. No doubt enormous economic benefits will be recognised in applications as diverse as precision agriculture, mapping and utility inspection, but none of these can offer the immediate potential to save human life. That’s why, whenever we get the opportunity, we head out to the fireground in order to demonstrate the potential of this technology. We were especially excited about

a recent event right here in the Roswell Flight

Test Crew’s home state of Oregon – because it was to be no ordinary drill. For the most part, firefighters learn to fight fires in flameproof “burn buildings” made from reinforced concrete and covered with heat-resistant tiles. However, this was to be one of those rare instances when they would

have the opportunity to practice their craft in

a “live” structure: a dilapidated and disused

residence situated in rural Clackamas County. This ‘real’ venue is invaluable to the firefighters because fire behaves differently in a wooden building, where the flames can spread through the structure itself, providing training that much more closely approximates the circumstances that they would confront in the real world.

Fuelling the Flames

Prior to our arrival, the 1,600 square foot home had been stripped of its furnishings and fixtures. Even the carpeting had been pulled up, leaving behind bare floors. To simulate the household goods that would likely provide the initial fuel for a fire – such as a sofa, a cabinet or an electrical appliance – the firefighters loaded heaps of straw and wooden shipping pallets into the building. These were placed in several different rooms, creating distinct “sets” where they would take turns battling the blaze. However, rather than putting the fire out as quickly as possible, as they would during an actual emergency response, the firefighters would watch how the blaze grows and spreads across the fuel load and into the building itself. Then, before it becomes completely uncontrollable, they “knock it down” with their fire hoses, but stop short of completely extinguishing it. After that, a new team enters the structure and the cycle repeats until the set has been exhausted and the training continues in another room. Thus, they

One of the RTFC drones provides an aerial perspective on the structure as the “terminal

One of the RTFC drones provides an aerial perspective on the structure as the “terminal burn” takes hold.

on the structure as the “terminal burn” takes hold. make the most of this rare opportunity

make the most of this rare opportunity before completely destroying the structure in a final, fiery inferno known as the “terminal burn”. As far as our initial involvement went, we were located safely on the perimeter of the fireground; our mission was to use our drone and its FLIR Vue Pro thermal imaging camera to monitor the fire’s progress. But first we had to ensure that we ourselves honoured the Hippocratic Oath:

“First, do no harm”. This meant strictly adhering to the principles of safe drone operations.

Although the roof is still intact, this thermal image reveals the buildup of heat caused
Although the roof is still intact, this thermal
image reveals the buildup of heat caused by
the fire raging inside the structure.

“We wondered… would our aircraft literally melt while hovering over the fire?”

We worked as a two-man crew, with the pilot wearing First-Person View (FPV) goggles to see the live video feed coming down from the aircraft, and a visual observer looking for hazards outside the pilot’s field of view as well as potential conflicts with any manned air traffic that appeared in the vicinity. We also took care to avoid flying directly over the people on the ground, to ensure they wouldn’t be hurt if the drone suffered a catastrophic failure and came crashing down to earth.

Our EyEs in thE sky

Our primary aircraft for this mission was a custom Vortex hexacopter from UAV Experts in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s unique in that the airframe is produced entirely using aerospace-grade 3D printers and it flies with a DJI E600 power system and NAZA flight controller, bound to a Futaba 14SG transmitter. It is powered by a massive, six-cell, 16,000mAh battery that weighs four pounds by itself – bringing the craft’s overall flying weight to ten pounds. The payload was a cluster of three front-facing cameras:

the FLIR Vue Pro thermal imaging camera with 640 x 512 pixels of resolution; a GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition sports camera mounted on a DJI Zenmuse H3-3D three-axis gimbal; and a SKY Runcam 650 TVL First-Person View (FPV) board camera in a metal enclosure. Throughout the day, the FLIR Vue Pro was capturing thermal video at its maximum resolution, and while 640 by 512 pixels doesn’t sound very high-resolution by the modern standards of HD video, it is considered very good quality in the thermal imaging business. As an added bonus, each frame of video essentially constituted a full- resolution still picture, making it easy to analyse and share images afterwards.

The drone captures the view from directly above the conflagration, revealing how emergency response vehicles and personnel are deployed around the site. The rising smoke column being carried away also shows the prevailing winds at altitude.

carried away also shows the prevailing winds at altitude. The GoPro was recording 1080p video at

The GoPro was recording 1080p video at 60fps in the visible light spectrum, and the Runcam FPV camera, which has no integral recording capability, was available as an emergency backup. A three-position switch on the Futaba allowed us to change back and forth between all of the cameras. If the other two cameras failed, the Runcam would provide an alternate source of video to safely manoeuvre and land the aircraft. We also had a Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K, both to capture high-resolution aerial stills and as backup – albeit without thermal imaging capabilities – in the event the Vortex became unserviceable at any point during the day.

Slow and Steady

The idea of an emergency response conjures up images of heroic firefighters smashing through doors and pulling trapped victims to safety; dynamic action worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. However, for those of us operating the drone, “dynamic” was not an adjective that applied to our activities – nor did we want it to be. For the most part, the Vortex hovered overhead in a fixed location, simply providing an aerial perspective on the scene. What modest drama we did experience revolved around maintaining a ready supply of fully-charged batteries and ensuring that we could safely launch and land the drone as an increasing number of curious onlookers gathered to watch the proceedings. For the majority of our flight time we stayed with the video feed from the FLIR thermal imaging camera because, for the first few hours at least, the visible light cameras had little to show us, apart from the intact roof of the structure with occasional rivulets of white smoke escaping from it. The thermal camera, however, showed us something of the drama unfolding inside the building.

FLIR and the Vue Pro

FLIR is the world’s leading manufacturer of thermal imaging cameras and produces thermal imaging systems for military and public safety users, in addition to utility and building inspection, technical and scientific applications, security and maritime operations, as well as the general consumer market.

maritime operations, as well as the general consumer market. In 2015, FLIR introduced the Vue Pro

In 2015, FLIR introduced the Vue Pro camera, designed specifically for use on small, civilian Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Based on the company’s Tau camera core, it incorporates many features specific to the drone market, including:

n On-board recording of

both thermal stills and video

to a micro-SD card, as well as future MAVLink integration.

n A mini-USB plug compatible with GoPro-type connectors that provides both

power in and video out.

n The ability to start and stop recording, change colour palettes and set other

camera functions via the Pulse-Wave Modulation (PWM) controller input.

The company also recently announced a partnership with DJI to develop the Zenmuse XT thermal imaging camera gimbal, expected to be available by the beginning of Q2 2016. For more information visit: www.flir.com.

expected to be available by the beginning of Q2 2016. For more information visit: www.flir.com. WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK
Firefighters from Clackamas Fire District #1 listen intently as their officers provide a briefing about
Firefighters from Clackamas Fire District
#1 listen intently as their officers provide a
briefing about the day’s planned activities.

Contrary to what you may believe after watching movies and TV shows about secret agents, thermal imaging will not allow you to see through walls or other solid structures. However, it will reveal the presence of a heat source inside a structure as it raises the temperature of the structure itself, and this can provide you with a fairly nuanced understanding of what is happening inside. From our perch high above the fireground, we watched as different locations within the structure flared with heat and then diminished a few minutes later as the exercise progressed to another room – just as we would have expected. However, one thing we didn’t anticipate, which stemmed from the fact that this was a “real” structure and not a purpose-built burn house, was that we could actually pick out the individual roof joists in the thermal image, as they absorbed some of the heat from the fire below. As those

The RFTC’s hexacopter monitors the progress of the fire even as heavy billows of black
The RFTC’s hexacopter monitors the progress
of the fire even as heavy billows of black smoke
begin to obstruct the view provided by its visible
light cameras.

began to disappear, we realised that they were now fully engulfed in flame, and the end was near for this house.

Feeling the Burn

If you have never been at the scene of a structure fire (and we’d hope you never have to be), the experience – most especially during the terminal burn – can be difficult to put into words. It’s obvious that fire is hot, but there is nothing short of actually having lived through such an event that will help you understand how much heat radiates from a burning building. As the fire builds, it becomes impossible to stand within 50 feet of the flames, then 75 feet and then 100 feet. Coming home afterward, your face feels like you have spent a sunny day at the beach without sunscreen, and you notice that your clothes smell distinctly of soot and smoke. More than

Flying Colours Thermal imaging cameras, like the FLIR Vue Pro, detect the heat emitted or
Flying Colours
Thermal imaging cameras, like the FLIR Vue Pro,
detect the heat emitted or reflected by objects in
the environment and use the temperature variations
between them to construct an image that the human
eye can recognize. Of course, these fluctuating
variations occur at wavelengths that are invisible to
unaided vision: between 7.5 and 13.5 micrometres in
the infrared spectrum.
Consequently, thermal images do not have any
intrinsic ‘colour’. Instead, the user can choose
between different pre-defined colour palettes that are
integrated into the camera to determine how the image
is displayed, based on the subject and the personal
preference of the user.
In the three sample images shown here, the same
scene is rendered in three different colour palettes.
The left-most image is “black-hot,” meaning that the
warmest object in the frame is black and the coolest is
white. Notice that the roof of the structure, where heat
is rising from the fire burning inside, is almost entirely
black. You will also notice that the firefighters and their
vehicles around the perimeter are darker shades as
well, owing to their intrinsic body temperature and the
heat generated by their engines.
The centre image is ‘white-hot’, so that the warmest
object in the frame is now white, and the coolest is
black. The right-most image is rendered in a FLIR colour
palette named “Ironbow”, which does a particularly
good job of highlighting warm objects against the
background. All palettes can provide vital information.
“It was an experience that left us profoundly struck by the courage and fortitude of
“It was an experience that left us profoundly
struck by the courage and fortitude of the
firefighters who face this mortal peril”

anything else, it was an experience that left us profoundly

struck by the courage and fortitude of the firefighters who face this mortal peril. However, we were determined to capture visible light and thermal imagery throughout the final phase of the fire, and this was clearly the most dangerous moment – for our craft,

if not for ourselves. For all of its intensity on the ground, the

overwhelming majority of the heat generated by the blaze rises skyward, creating turbulence and pockets of hot air that could potentially bring down a drone. Indeed, we watched as even the robust and powerful Vortex got bounced around while traversing the smoke column that provided a visible indicator of the heat plume’s location. We had an additional concern, as well:

3D printers, like the ones which were used to create the Vortex’s airframe, use heat to render the printing medium malleable. We wondered… would our aircraft literally melt while hovering over the fire? It turns out that the fact aerospace-grade 3D printers were used in its creation proved to be an important distinction. Although the main body of its fuselage was almost too hot to touch when we brought it back to earth, there was no discernible deformation of the material. The firefighters stepped back as the final conflagration

took hold, the goal of the exercise shifting from controlling the flames to destroying the structure as thoroughly as possible. At the end, they even brought in a backhoe to knock over the remaining walls and pile them up in the centre of the blaze. Finally, where only a few hours before

a countryside cottage had stood, all that remained was a concrete foundation and a smouldering pile of ashes.

Patrick “Lucidity” Sherman is one of the founders of the Roswell Flight Test Crew – an educational non- profit and civilian drone demonstration team based in Portland, Oregon, and active since 2011. You can find out more about their drone coverage at www. RoswellFlightTestCrew.com and view their regular series of YouTube videos by searching for ‘Roswell Flight Test’.

The Vortex hexacopter from UAV Experts provides thermal and visible light imaging from above the
The Vortex hexacopter from UAV Experts
provides thermal and visible light imaging from
above the scene of the fire as the “terminal
burn” begins to devour the structure.
as the “terminal burn” begins to devour the structure. Seeing Through The Smoke The infrared wavelengths

Seeing Through The Smoke

The infrared wavelengths captured by thermal imaging cameras like the FLIR Vue Pro do not interact with materials in the environment in the same way as visible light. For example, glass is transparent to the light we see with our own eyes but opaque to thermal imaging cameras, so you are not able to see through windows with a FLIR. However, as the pair of sample images shown here reveal, the thermal imaging camera (on the right) can see through the smoke rising from the burning structure, which obscures the vision of the visible light camera (left). This is one reason why thermal imaging is so highly prized by the military and the fire service, even during daylight operations.

GoinG

UnderGroUnd

Words by: IAN COllEN

AS PART OF ThE lARGEST CURRENT INFRASTRUCTURE PROjECT IN EUROPE, 118kM OF NEw RAIlwAyS, INClUDING 42kM OF TUNNElS, ARE BEING ADDED IN AND AROUND lONDON. wE ChAT TED wITh INNOvATION CONSUlTANT wIllIAM REDDAwAy TO FIND OUT hOw DRONES ARE hElPING TO kEEP ThE PROjECT ON TRACk…

T he Crossrail project dates all the way back to 1941, when the first proposals for a cross-London railway were presented. However, it took until 2008

until plans were finally agreed upon and approved, and construction began a year later – with a vast network of new rail lines stretching from Reading to the west of London, to stations in Shenfield in the north-east of the capital and Abbey Wood just south of the River Thames. That’s 118km of new track, 42km of it underground, taking in 40 stations, including 10 brand new ones. With a project as big as this, just how can a few small drones make a noticeable difference? The answer comes from one simple idea quickly snowballing into an entire building site of possibilities. Crossrail’s Innovation Consultant, William Reddaway, is also part of the company’s Innovate 18 programme which funds research into new technologies, and one early question posed was about using drones to help with field inspections. “One of our field engineers was working at one of our depots which is over a mile long and requires regular inspection,” William explains. Using drones seemed like a good time-saving proposal for a tedious task. “One of the initial ideas was to create an automated system using drones. So the drone would take off, do a circuit, come back,

and the field engineer would then be able to report back on the overview of the site. That seemed like a good idea and we could see some potential savings there, in terms of freeing up the engineer to do some engineering work rather than time-consuming paperwork.” After some initial research and CAA training, it became clear that some degree of control would be required, as well as constant line-of-sight with the drone. “This changed our approach a little bit and we thought, ‘okay can it be used to enhance the site inspection, rather than replacing the field engineer’s requirements?’” William and the team could see the benefits of this bird’s eye view and the level of detail they could get from their DJI Inspire 1’s camera – while also appreciating that a human presence to interact with people was still important. “But that’s where the seed of the idea was planted and grew,” says William. “How could we improve our site inspections and what could we do to make the drone a useful tool for large sites? From there the ideas started to increase on how we could use the drone on site.” Those ideas are showing no signs of slowing down, with 3D mapping and modelling, thermal imaging and more constantly adding to the drone’s potential. Other sites quickly began to take notice.

“How could we improve our site inspections and what could we do to make the drone a useful tool for large sites?”

In the beginning there were some obvious safety concerns, William told us, explaining that, “we don’t want to have people looking up, then tripping over and creating potential health hazards by having the drone.” However, those fears were quickly forgotten after a handful of flights. “The more we started to use it on-site, the more we got acceptance that it was there. People started to ignore it and began to realise that it was just there as a tool and it wasn’t a threat or monitoring their work or anything like that. “And the more people accepted it, the more people wanted it on their sites: ‘Ooh, they’re getting good footage, we want some’. So the first six months with the drone was more about ‘let’s see if we could use it’ and ‘let’s see if the sites are happy for us to use it’. Since then it’s become a more important part of our tool kit.”

Have Drone, Will Fly

Indeed, as the drone became an increasingly familiar tool, so its work load spread on an almost accidental basis. One example William gives is of an impromptu crane inspection. “One of the crane ‘appointed persons’ came up to us and

said: “I’ve got a warning light on my display. While I test the pulleys can you fly up and inspect the crane for me?” So we flew up and he did a few tests with it and we could see there was no error. “What that did was to save him having to bring the crane down, dismantle it and then test it, having wasted several hours of lifting time. He might have solved the problem without our help, but we just happened to be on site and sped up that process.” Not only that, but it echoed the quality of the 4K camera because “the resolution was so good that you could even read the serial number off the control box at the top of the crane!” Another example of the power that drone-compatible technology can bring to any site came with an early foray into volumetrics and using the drone to evaluate a mound of excavated earth. “We flew over it and got an output of something like 75,000 square metres of earth,” says William, “and they worked out they needed something like 36 dumper trucks. They then worked it out for themselves and

it was within one or two dumper trucks of accuracy – so for

a very quick calculation, for an approximation, it was very

useful for them to corroborate their calculations. Again, it was one of those ad hoc things; ‘can you try this for us?’”

neW TecH, neW iDeas

On more of a day-to-day basis the drone was initially used mainly for surveying work – not to mention giving some nice aerial shots to help showcase the project to the media or the local community and give them a great view of the work-in-progress. A lot of the drone’s work is done in the tunnels, running checks and providing live data back to the team (although “in a tunnel the signals aren’t particularly great”) and high-quality images for gathering data. However, William and the team have also seen the potential for using drones to create 3D models, not so much as part of Crossrail as so much of it is underground, but for importing exterior models into their BIM (Building Information Modelling) data. “The advantage of this,

All images courtesy of Crossrail

We’d agree with William that drones can become a regular, and useful, tool for any
We’d agree with William that drones can become a regular, and
useful, tool for any large-scale construction project.
and useful, tool for any large-scale construction project. potentially, is that you can create an ‘as-is’

potentially, is that you can create an ‘as-is’ or an ‘as built’ model – so you do a scan to show how the model currently is, then you overlay it on top of your plans and you can see how the models interface with real life. This gives planners and engineers a better perception, a better feel, for how progress is going and it can actually bring some tangible data to the planning.” Another important twist on technology that can help in this and many other industries is thermal imaging – obviously a relatively new feature for the DJI tech team to play with. “We’ve done some extensive trials here at Crossrail for the use of thermal imaging cameras within spray concrete areas. We’ve learned from using thermal imaging that we can detect water ingress, and in concrete, water ingress is the last thing you want, but by detecting it early you can fix it early.” William also sees the benefits of using the tech to further support their BIM models. “If we were to fly over one of our depots we could then create a thermal image model of our depot and understand if there are any potential environmental issues, such as if the insulation is poor in some areas and heat is pouring out. We can trim and tailor the thermal gradients to basically flag up things that are beyond a certain threshold.

“The more people accepted it, the more people wanted it on their sites: ‘Ooh, they’re
“The more people accepted it, the more people wanted it on their
sites: ‘Ooh, they’re getting good footage, we want some’”
Innovate 18 The use of drones as part of the Crossrail project is due to

Innovate 18

The use of drones as part of the Crossrail project is due to the company’s Innovate 18 scheme – named after the year Crossrail

is due to open: 2018. With funding from

a range of major engineering companies,

each donation matched by Crossrail, the programme “is a mechanism by which we can enable proof of concepts throughout the research and development arm of Crossrail”. So far more than £600,000 has been invested with 450 ideas followed-up from

more than 1,000 submitted – and all results will be shared. “Crossrail is going to pass what it’s learned onto the rest of the UK

construction industry,” William explains.

“Our aim is to pass on all we’ve learnt through our learning legacy portal, which launches later this month (February). This includes all the innovations, all the lessons learned and all the stuff we’ve done on Innovate 18, including drones – there will be this central pot of knowledge.”

“Also flying through a tunnel and getting a thermal map of Crossrail’s tunnels; that will either enhance the data we’ve already got from our thermal imaging trials or add to it. Imagine having our 3D model and then being able to add a thermal imaging layer over it. It may well provide some very useful information that we may not have thought of initially. So that’s the next toy I’m asking for at Christmas!” Although with a 360 degree camera recently bought, “so you can then have a full inspection of the tunnels as you fly through them,” there’s no shortage of fun toys already at the disposal of his team.

Cross PurPoses

William clearly sees drones as having a very welcome home on any construction site. “If they’re used safely and sensibly, and as the technology gets better and safer and more safeguards are put into them, I think they’ll become much more accessible.” On potentially hazardous sites, with William pointing to the water industry as an example, drones could end up keeping humans away from risk. “If you could send a drone up to do that inspection, which provides as much data as the human eye, then why wouldn’t you do that? Why would you not spend a few thousand pounds on a drone and getting yourself certified when you could spend five times that amount to send a crew up to do that inspection and put people’s lives at risk?” We’re not disagreeing. However, William is quick to counter that the human element is still key, and he’s not looking to replace that. “It won’t replace a human being in terms of making certain

Simply using the drone to capture aerial views of sites can help Crossrail to manage
Simply using the drone to capture aerial views of sites can
help Crossrail to manage those sites and inform the public
and shareholders of the ongoing progress.

decisions and potentially fixing a problem, but certainly once you understand you can inspect something from a safe environment, you can better prepare a plan for addressing that problem without rushing in to inspect it in a hazardous environment.” Neither will the team force the use of drones just because they can and he admits that sometimes “sticking a GoPro on a crane” is “a much simpler solution”. Another problem is staying within the laws. They may not need a PFAW (though all pilots are fully trained) but Crossrail does still need to take responsibility for things like managing crowds of workers. The law enables you to fly drones over crowds of 999 or fewer people as long as they’re under your control, which is easy enough on a site where daily briefings can be given to inform the workers of all flight plans – but problems with residential areas and managing public awareness is one reason why drones aren’t being used on Crossrail’s central London sites, and that’s always going to be one concern for drone use in the construction industry as a whole. However, Will still sees a bright future for drones. “Certainly for construction and engineering, moving forwards, I see a place for them, absolutely. As the technology becomes increasingly available, as apps are developed for it and as the uses for it become cheaper and more accessible, as the controls become easier, as the risk mitigation software for it gets better – all of this combined makes it a much more attractive opportunity. Things like creating wire-frame models and real-time data monitoring, I think there is a huge opportunity for drones to become, certainly in this industry, a common practice.”

to become, certainly in this industry, a common practice.” Crossrail also use the FLIR Vue Pro

Crossrail also use the FLIR Vue Pro thermal imaging camera, as explained in the previous article.

imaging camera, as explained in the previous article. Flying in underground tunnels does pose some problems

Flying in underground tunnels does pose some problems for maintaining signals and downlinks for live feeds.

underground tunnels does pose some problems for maintaining signals and downlinks for live feeds. WWW.DRONEMAGAZINE.UK 43

An Overview Of

History

Image by Skyline Images © Historic England

WE’VE All sEEN THOsE PRETTY AERIAl sHOTs Of OlD cAsTlEs AND sTATElY HOMEs, buT DRONEs cAN AlsO bE usED TO HElP ExPlORE AND PREsERVE THEM. PAul bRYAN fROM HIsTORIc ENGlAND ExPlAINs TO IAN cOllEN HOW MODERN TEcHNOlOGY Is HElPING TO uNRAVEl THE PAsT…

H istoric England is a relatively new body, formed in April 2014 when English Heritage was divided. According to Paul Bryan, whose full job title –

Geospatial Imaging Manager, Remote Sensing Team, Investigation & Analysis Division – could fill two business cards, its role is as “the government’s official independent advisor on what we call the historic environment. We advise them on the survey applications for recording, analysing, understanding and even revealing heritage.” It’s a list of tasks that might not sound immediately appealing to some drone users, but as the technology continues to grow far beyond getting a few nice aerial photos, so the likes of Historic England can find more and more uses for UAV technology. It’s not only capable of surveying sites in a manner that’s far quicker than traditional methods but it’s also revealing new and previously hidden information about some historically significant sites. According to Paul, who admits that his job title “is really just a fancy title for surveyor”, when he joined Historic England in 1985 they were using the likes of analogue photography and stereo photogrammetry (photogrammetry being the use of photos to determine measurements and

pinpoint surface locations). “A lot of manual surveying was undertaken, generally creating maybe several hundred points of data a day. Now we’re into laser scanning, point clouds and capturing devices, and we’re generating millions and millions of points every day.”

TOP: A low level aerial view of Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire.

A low level aerial view of Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire. EyEs in thE skiEs His team’s

EyEs in thE skiEs

His team’s first introduction to the potential of drones took place in 2008 at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. “A manufacturer, Microdrones, had contacted us as they had a drone they wanted to show to us, so I organised that with a group of colleagues involved in architecture, conservation and The National Trust. It was obvious that the interest in the technology was really great, even at that time. People were starting to think outside the box about how we could potentially tap into that.” From there, the use of drones grew. “The first thing we looked at was a quadcopter, one not too dissimilar to what we’re seeing today. It had a compact camera attached to it; it even had a thermal camera way back then. They were trying to promote this sort of real-time application through VR goggles so that architects, or people that have to manage heritage, could physically see the image as it’s flying along.”

Image by Future Aerial Innovations © English HeritageImage

by Jon Bedford © Historic EnglandImage

by Rebecca Pullen © Historic England

“We’re finding that drones, because of their ability to just raise that camera above the ground, start to give you another view of the landscape”

It’s worth noting that Historic England don’t actually own or fly the drones themselves – “we prefer to use commercial contractors who do this full time, who know all about the health and safety and the risks involved” – but they do process the data from each flight and the benefits of the new technology were quickly apparent. “The simple answer is that it enables us to elevate the camera,” Paul explains. Other props such as kites, poles and cherry pickers had been used to get cameras up in the air before, but “a drone means you’ve got a lot more flexibility in what you can record. So for a site like Fountains Abbey, which is already giving you fantastic visual images, by surveying that site it means we can not only study the landscape but also the buildings as well. “The more and more we become aware of the capabilities of the platforms, the more potential applications may surface. And when you talk to the end users there, some of them get extremely interested and excited,” Paul told us. Although interestingly he did add that there was a flipside:

“Others are slightly nervous of the technology, particularly people that are using conventional methods for capturing aerial photography. It may be seen as something of a threat.”

Multirotor or Fixed Wing?

One interesting discussion we had with Paul was about the pros and cons of using multirotor drones over fixed wing craft, with the latter being used quite a lot in general surveying work. Multirotor or rotary drones have greater manoeuvrability, can carry more weight and take better images, while fixed wings can fly for longer over pre- planned routes – making them a good choice for covering larger areas. “To us, image quality is key,” Paul explains. “We don’t see the point in capturing sub-quality imagery because when you post-process that you end up with sub-quality data, so we like to use good quality cameras and lenses, and make sure that people are aware of their operation of the camera. To us, the rotary ones are, I wouldn’t say the better platform, but they’re currently the more appropriate platform for quite a lot of the applications that we do. “The sites that we get involved with tend not to be large- scale landscapes. In a typical English Heritage site you’re talking a few hectares really, which is quite easy for a fixed wing craft to capture. However, the rotary ones are winning in terms of being able to carry cameras, and of course you can go down the video route; 4K, 6K, 8K. That’s where the rotary wins out, because of the gyro-stabilised mounts and all of that. But if you’re purely focused on surveying a landscape and you want to do it quickly, then the fixed wing is very appropriate.”

taking in the SiteS

One thing crucial to the work of Historic England is that as the technology evolves so does the quality of the results and the data they can gather. One quick example given was at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, where a drone survey was able to reveal where a parterre garden had once stood – a garden

A nice shot of Tintagel Castle, Cornwall captured by Future Aerial Innovations.
A nice shot of Tintagel Castle, Cornwall
captured by Future Aerial Innovations.
Castle, Cornwall captured by Future Aerial Innovations. ABOVE: In this screenshot you can see Structure from

ABOVE: In this screenshot you can see Structure from Motion (SfM) processing for Thornton Abbey showing the automatic alignment of drone acquired imagery within Agisoft Photoscan.

BELOW: Here’s Paul Bryan showing off the DJI Phantom 3 with a GoPro Hero 3 at Thornton Abbey, North Lincolnshire.

Bryan showing off the DJI Phantom 3 with a GoPro Hero 3 at Thornton Abbey, North

Drones can be used to inspect the tops of walls and are able to scan an entire building in a matter of minutes.

Image by Rebecca Pullen © Historic England fancy flying Over HistOry?
Image by Rebecca Pullen © Historic England
fancy flying Over HistOry?

If you want to fly over an English Heritage site, you’ll need to get permission first. “People who are interested need to email their requests to customers@english-heritage.org.uk” Paul explains. “Every single enquiry that comes in will be considered,” although he adds that he can’t guarantee a speedy reply because a few different teams might need to view the request and they do have to be careful who they give permission to. “But at the end of the day we’re pleased that people have contacted English Heritage; the issue is when people don’t.” To boost your chances of a positive response, Paul offers the following advice: “If anyone wants to do anything that has a hint of commercial use to it, they have to provide four documents: Their valid Permission For Aerial Work; a risk assessment of what they’re planning to do; a copy of their valid insurance – so if anything does go wrong they are covered in that respect – and also some method statement highlighting what they’re flying and what it is they’re looking to do with it. Those four documents will help us consider their request. If they don’t send anything in and just say “I want to fly my drone”, they can probably expect a very short answer, very, very quickly!”

Image by Skyline Images © Historic England

they’ve since been able to recreate. Another prime example of the technology can be seen from Paul’s work at Thornton Abbey in North Lincolnshire. “Back in 2007 English Heritage undertook a very detailed archaeological survey of it using the technology available at the time, which was basically GPS on a pole, and they had people there interpreting the landscape and recording it with GPS.” Times change, and in 2014 the team returned to the site along with a crew from Skyline Images equipped with a Droidworx Aeronavics XM8 octocopter carrying a Canon EOS 5D MkIII DSLR camera. “One of the things we wanted to compare and contrast was both the quality of the data that the drone could provide and also its accuracy, its representation and its ability to actually derive new information.” Needless to say, the results were very encouraging, to the point where previously unnoticed features and areas were highlighted. “That site began to tell us, and colleagues in our assessment team, that there is scope for using them on other projects as well, particularly on the landscape side.” And it’s not just Paul’s team making the most of the available drone technology, with English Heritage making good use of 3D mapping to help showcase their estates. “If you visit Tintagel Castle (in Cornwall) it’s had a revamp in terms of the visitor facilities and within that there is a three-dimensional model, a physical model, of Tintagel Castle upon which various virtual information has been projected. It’s a sort of three-dimensional projection screen. That was all created through drone-acquired imagery and processed in-house through modern photogrammetry software.” It’s fully interactive, too, giving visitors an entirely new and unique perspective of the site.

Image by Skyline Images © Historic EnglandImage

by Skyline Images © Historic England

Here you can see how aerial images of Thornton Abbey can be processed to reveal
Here you can see how aerial images of Thornton Abbey can be processed to reveal
Here you can see how aerial images of Thornton Abbey can be processed to reveal

Here you can see how aerial images of Thornton Abbey can be processed to reveal valuable information - not just for mapping but also in helping to identify where long-lost structures may have once stood.

Image by Skyline Images © Historic England
Image by Skyline Images © Historic England

Looking to the Future

The potential needn’t stop there. We met up with Paul at the SkyTech conference which was showcasing many new and emerging technologies and a couple caught his eye. First up was low level aerial LIDAR (light detection and ranging). “We already use high level LIDAR so it makes sense to tap into that technology if flown at a lower level, so that to me is a very interesting area and it could tease out more archaeology, particularly under vegetation canopies. “The other thing is the multi- and hyperspectral sensors that we’re seeing as well. I can’t help but think that if there is going to be one sensor that has all of this technology, that would give people like us, and also people in the agriculture industry, most of what we need. Some of the platforms have multiple sensors and that’s one way of doing it at the moment, but maybe the future is ‘one box fits all’!” For now, though, drones are very much an incredibly useful option for Paul and the Historic England team. “I like to say they’re complimentary to what we’re already doing and, because I’m a surveyor we tend to talk about the tool

and, because I’m a surveyor we tend to talk about the tool ABOVE: Tintagel Castle dates
and, because I’m a surveyor we tend to talk about the tool ABOVE: Tintagel Castle dates

ABOVE: Tintagel Castle dates back to medieval times, before the castle itself was built in the 13th Century.

before the castle itself was built in the 13th Century. LEFT and FAR LEFT: The3D- printed

LEFT and FAR LEFT: The3D- printed model on display in a new visitor exhibition that explores the origins of Tintagel’s links to the legends of King Arthur.

origins of Tintagel’s links to the legends of King Arthur. “I hope drones are here to

“I hope drones are here to stay, but we need, in the industry, to keep promoting all of the positive uses”

kit – and this is just another tool in the surveyor’s tool kit. I will say that they’re not appropriate for every single project; fixed wing systems will always have a place for capturing photography using LIDAR data that’s off the shelf. When we want to do targeted research we’re finding that drones, because of their ability to just raise that camera above the ground, start to give you another view of the landscape. “The public tend to think of drones as bad, as a nuisance, that they’re only doing things that will intrude on their privacy. Hopefully things like SkyTech and this article can demonstrate that there are lots of positive applications out there that will justify this increasing trend of money and funding being put into drone technology. I hope drones are here to stay, but we need, in the industry, to keep promoting all of the positive uses.” We’re happy to help.

PREvIOusly wE’vE lOOkED At thE lAws AND hOw tO bEcOME A quAlIfIED PIlOt; NOw MARk bAkER Is ON hAND tO tAlk yOu thROuGh thE PRActIcAl AND ADDItIONAl lEGAl REquIREMENts Of flyING PROfEssIONAlly…

Part one
Part
one

Permission to Fly

I

n Issue 03 of DRONE Magazine, Steve Robins from Heliguy

gave us a comprehensive look at the process of becoming

a commercial drone operator in the UK. In it he covered

the steps from recreational flyer to trained pilot with CAA accreditation. However, in many ways that is just the start of the journey and the step from theoretical flights to live ones can be daunting to say the least. Confidence is often the hardest skill to learn, and over the following pages and into the next issue, we’re going to look at some real-life situations and some of the key factors you need to consider if you want to fly a drone as part of your job. If you are still considering a course with a National Qualified Entity (NQE), are working towards

your Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW), or have recently attained it, then hopefully you will find some of these case studies and experiences very useful in making the move into commercial flying.

Taking off The ‘L’ pLaTes

Much like with a driving test, there are a minority of flyers who think that once they have a PFAW it is a licence to do what they want with a drone. The fact is that most of the restrictions which apply to a hobbyist are still in place for commercial pilots. If anything the requirements for someone carrying out aerial work are more exacting (‘aerial work’ being the CAA term used to describe “any paid work

undertaken by an aircraft”). Fortunately most NQEs do a good job of weeding out the

undertaken by an aircraft”). Fortunately most NQEs do a good job of weeding out the ‘boy racers’ and sending out competent pilots ready to step confidently, and responsibly, into the world of aerial work. Perhaps more prevalent are the new pilots who are overwhelmed by the amount of work that actually goes into an assignment. They can find themselves pressurised by a client into compromising their safety procedures. At the other extreme they will turn away work because they are intimidated by the amount of planning and preparation that it entails. There are no shortcuts but there are some common misconceptions and misunderstandings that we should be able to clear up…

InsURance TIps

n

Start with a clear idea of the cover that you want/need, and use this as the basis for comparing policies.

n

Remember that if you have a policy in place for recreational flights this will not cover you for any type of aerial work. The same principle applies in reverse – most UAV insurers will not cover recreational flights unless they are clearly linked to your commercial operations. In many cases it is worth the relatively small expenditure to hold a separate liability policy if you plan on using your UAV ‘outside of work’.

n

Always factor insurance costs into your business plan, and allow for considerable price rises at renewal.

n

Most insurers can provide you with a ‘proof of cover’ document. This will usually be a straightforward one-pager which does not have any commercially sensitive information on it. This can be used to reassure clients at the planning stage of an operation.

n

Your Public Liability insurance is one of the key things that sets you apart from an unlicensed operator. Don’t be tempted to take any shortcuts or carry out work beyond the scope of your policy.

UsefUl ResoURces

NATS

www.nats-uk.ead-it.com Formally known as National Air Traffic Services, NATS provides the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS). This is a fantastic resource for all pilots and contains comprehensive information on airports/aerodromes, NOTAMs and the AIP. It also has links to many of the authorities you might come across as a commercial operator. Although primarily aimed at manned aviation it is a treasure trove of information for UAV pilots.

it is a treasure trove of information for UAV pilots. Sky Demon www.skydemonlight.com A free but

Sky Demon

www.skydemonlight.com A free but very useful downloadable air chart. It shows and gives details of the different airspace categories in the UK. If you keep it updated, it will also allow you to input a flight plan onto the map and view relevant restrictions, hazards and NOTAMs, making it a great tool to use ahead of a site survey to identify other potential air users and safety considerations.

ARPAS

www.arpas.uk The Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems is a non- profit association representing UAV pilots in the UK. It’s a good source of industry information and ARPAS also offers membership options at different tiers.

in the UK. It’s a good source of industry information and ARPAS also offers membership options
in the UK. It’s a good source of industry information and ARPAS also offers membership options
“A minority of flyers think that once they have a PFAW it is a licence

“A minority of flyers think that once they have a PFAW it is a licence to do what they want with a drone”

GETTING INSURED

The issue of insurance is often a contentious one. What level of cover is required? How expensive it can be? Where do I get it from? These are all topics which generate a lot of discussion. Some of the official guidance is at best ambiguous but here are the key points:

n What cover do I need?

As a bare minimum for aerial work you need to have Public Liability insurance in place. This needs to be a policy that specifically covers the use of UAVs for aerial work. Whether you choose to extend your coverage to include damage/ loss/theft of equipment is entirely up to you but not a compulsory requirement.

n How much cover do I need?

The CAA refers to Regulation (EC) 785/2004. This convoluted regulation is primarily aimed at manned aviation but does provide guidelines for liability cover. Confusingly it is based on the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Right (SDR). This is an amalgamation of four of the world’s key currencies. Assuming you are flying a UAV below 500kg then the minimum cover expected is 750,000 SDR. Handily, one SDR currently equates to approximately one British pound so, with a generous allowance for currency

fluctuations, a figure of £1million cover is more than adequate. In practice some local authorities and corporations will demand a higher figure. Most PFAW holders typically have £2-10million of Public Liability insurance in place, but it is dependent on the type of industry you are working in.

n Where can I find an insurer?

The number of insurers offering specialised UAV policies is still fairly low but has grown considerably in the last 12-18 months. Your NQE may be able to give you specific advice and some have arranged discounts with named insurers. Fellow pilots may not be able to pinpoint the ideal policy for you, but generally they will provide enough leads for you to be able to carry out some research and start to generate quotes for comparison.

n How much will it cost?

UAV insurance is still an emerging market with policies struggling to keep pace with technological advances. There can be wildly divergent prices between companies and getting a direct comparison can be difficult. Depending on your levels of cover, excesses and equipment you can expect to pay anywhere from £600 to £1,800+ per year. Heavy price rises after year one seem to be prevalent, though.

CROWD CONTROL

The regulations around operating within a congested

area are some of the most difficult to interpret. The recent EASA publications concerning UAV classification and use are likely to add to the confusion. Even defining what is classed as a “congested area” is open to debate, with the CAA guidance stating that it is “any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes.” There is some good news. Currently if you hold a PFAW for a UAV of up to 7kg then permission to operate within

a congested area is given as standard. There are some

restricted areas (especially around central London) which are excluded and this does not supersede the mandatory 50m distance requirement. If you are using a UAV in the 7-20kg category, you currently need to submit a CAOSC (Congested Area

Operations Safety Case) to the CAA. This is also the case

if you want to make a variation to the standard terms of

the PFAW, such as a reduction in the permitted distances you are required to maintain. The process requires a substantial amount of paperwork and the cost for the CAA to review your documents stands at £134 per hour. If you envisage carrying out a lot of work within a congested area (particularly with a 7kg+ UAV) then your NQE is probably the best place to start for advice.

your NQE is probably the best place to start for advice. Mitigating Risk With the right

Mitigating Risk

With the right planning there is almost nothing that is impossible within a congested area. The problem comes when you look into what is feasible and/or practical in any given situation. Your focus needs to be on bringing as many variables as possible under your control, assessing the risks posed by those which you can’t, and mitigating for them with additional safety measures. The following pointers are not exhaustive but should give you some idea of the considerations you need to make.

Roads/tRaffic

n Most local authorities have a mechanism in place to

manage applications for temporary road closures or traffic restrictions. This can be an expensive and time consuming

process. Whether it is practical will depend on the scale of the operation and the amount of time and money available at the planning stage. If you do get permission remember that you may have further conditional requirements placed upon you.

n If you have a relatively quiet road (or one with limited

access points) then it may be possible to position helpers along it 50 metres or more from your operating site. You

will not have the authority to stop or divert traffic, but if you have communication in place then the pilot can be advised to move the UAV to a safe position and maintain the required distances. You will need to consider the safety of your helpers and identify safe holding areas and landing sites for the UAV.

n Keep in mind that the potential for a collision with the

UAV is only one of the possible safety issues. UAVs can be a distraction for drivers so always be aware of your proximity to fast/busy roads and consider your flight route carefully. You also need to be mindful of your own safety and that of your crew if anything does go wrong and you need to land in an alternate location.

Google Earth can be a great tool for flight planning, but remember the imagery may be years out of date so don’t allow it to take the place of a thorough site survey.

allow it to take the place of a thorough site survey. Congested areas pose more problems
allow it to take the place of a thorough site survey. Congested areas pose more problems

Congested areas pose more problems than just a collision risk. GPS systems may not function as expected and different building materials can cause UAV calibration issues.

building materials can cause UAV calibration issues. “As a bare minimum for aerial work you need

“As a bare minimum for aerial work you need to have Public Liability insurance in place”

Managing client expectations is a considerable challenge; detailed planning and some lateral thinking can sometimes
Managing client expectations
is a considerable challenge;
detailed planning and some
lateral thinking can sometimes
lead to a workable compromise.

Buildings/structures

n Most buildings and structures aren’t going to do anything

surprising, but there are a couple of important things to

think about in relation to a safe flight. It is easy to assume that the worst case scenario is a collision which causes damage to the building, the UAV, or both. The reality is that even a minor crash can escalate quickly into something much more substantial. Don’t be tempted to fly that bit closer or more aggressively because ‘it’s just a building’.

n Think about the potential for people/vehicles to enter or

leave a site without warning. It’s usually polite to inform residents or workers that you will be operating nearby, but this does not constitute a safety briefing. You can’t infer that a notice or an email brings someone within your

control. Look at exits and access points and try to identify any possible incursions.

n Take into account how your UAV systems could be

affected. GPS is susceptible to problems within built up

“If you hold a PFAW for a UAV of up to 7kg then permission to operate within a congested area is given as standard”

areas and this can impact on flight behaviour as well as failsafe systems. Residential and commercial areas are often flooded with Wi-Fi signals and other transmissions which could interrupt control or video signals. If you don’t have the confidence or ability to control your UAV in manual (or at least ATTI) flight mode than you should seriously consider whether you should be working within a congested area.

n Have a clear process in place to manage the shutdown

and recovery of your UAV in the event of a crash or collision. Even if you remain airborne your priority should be landing as quickly and safely as possible.

congested AreAs

In one case study, our original brief was to provide video

footage of a luxury property on the south coast of England. The client had requested a fairly standard combination of low level shots and some panoramic views to show off the surrounding area. They also wanted us to be able to complete a continuous flight, from the property itself, along a river towards a local landmark, to show how the route could be walked. A few problems became apparent at the early planning stage:

n The full route from point to point was just over 1.2km,

much further than our visual line of sight (VLOS) restriction of 500m.

Stay PoSitive

Try to manage your clients’ expectations without them losing their enthusiasm. Where possible give them solutions to a problem rather than concentrating on what you can’t do. If they can’t work with the compromises you suggest then don’t be pressured into taking risks or flying outside the terms of your PFAW.

n A direct flight would have taken us over a densely

populated residential area.

n There was a busy main road which looped around the

flight path before crossing the river.

n The land on the final approach to the landmark itself was

almost certainly going to be very difficult to get permission to operate within.

Rather than go straight back to the client and tell them that the project was impossible we decided to try and look for some solutions. After a lot of research our proposal was to split the flight into six separate legs. This allowed us (with some editing trickery!) to give the idea of a continuous journey but meant that we could complete flights on either side of the main obstructions. As well as maintaining VLOS we could now break the flight down into more manageable chunks which made sure we kept our safe distances. It was also much easier to manage the possibility of public incursion and other variables. We obtained permission from the landowner on the much quieter side of the river to take off and land on the first four legs. We also found a tennis club and private marina closer to the landmark so that we could maintain the illusion of having flown across the congested areas. This meant that we could have relatively secure and controllable sites to operate from which were still close to our target locations.

The end result was something that both we and the client were really happy with. With careful planning we were able to maintain our 50m distance while flying some really nice smooth lines through the congested area. Where it was impossible to do this we had found sites with enough room for us to be able to carry out more controlled filming close to the town centre. Come back next issue for more tips on flying pro!

Mark Baker is a fully licensed commercial drone pilot. You can see more on his work at www.naughtycatmedia. co.uk – and in his photo composition feature on page 76!

IN PARt 2 cOMING NExt IssUE…

Chart SuCCeSS: Making the most of flight planning resources.

In the Zone: Flying safely and confidently in controlled airspace.

PermISSIon to Land: Helpful advice on dealing with landowners.

Flying safely and confidently in controlled airspace. PermISSIon to Land: Helpful advice on dealing with landowners.
All Photos by Adam Juniper Play Time! WE’vE cOvERED A lOt Of RAthER sERIOus usEs
All Photos by Adam Juniper Play Time! WE’vE cOvERED A lOt Of RAthER sERIOus usEs

All Photos by Adam Juniper

All Photos by Adam Juniper Play Time! WE’vE cOvERED A lOt Of RAthER sERIOus usEs fOR

Play Time!

WE’vE cOvERED A lOt Of RAthER sERIOus usEs fOR DRONEs IN thE WORkplAcE, sO NOW ADAM JuNIpER Is ON hAND tO hElp yOu uNWIND WIth sOME OffIcE-bAsED fuN AND GAMEs…

T hroughout this issue you’ll have seen numerous examples of drones in the professional world, all helping to get

tasks done and contributing to the cause of productivity. That’s certainly exciting stuff but, here in Britain, we already work the second-longest hours in Europe (behind only the Greeks) and are always up for a break from the 9-5. Subsequently, the government’s own statistics also show that despite those hours, our national productivity is far from second in the corresponding list. Drones, it seems, can be part of the “problem” as well as the solution. So let’s go and stir the pot! Leaving aside all the stats (they’re a bit too much like work, after all), let’s say you find yourself, through no fault of your own, in the office with an idle few minutes. Up until now (assuming you didn’t have a willing co- worker and keys to the stationery cupboard) your options for in-office entertainment were

cupboard) your options for in-office entertainment were pretty limited. Trawl the web for the latest cat

pretty limited. Trawl the web for the latest cat video? Meh. Perhaps if you had a little more imagination you might fashion whatever projectiles you could from paperclips and rubber bands. Now you simply need to reach for a drone. We can remember DJI talking a lot about the Inspire 1’s indoor manoeuvrability (thanks to the “revolutionary” optical flow sensor), but they certainly weren’t thinking about our offices, or anywhere else with people and/or paper. Parrot, however, has been using the technology for a relatively long time now – since the AR.Drone 2.0 was launched back in 2012 – and it’s always been a lot kinder on interiors (with optional prop guards or bumpers included in the box) and noticeably kinder on the wallet, too – the cheapest Phantom which inherited that tech from the Inspire is the £700 ‘Advanced’, and that’s before you find any prop guards.

and that’s before you find any prop guards. Parrot is far from alone in the small-drone

Parrot is far from alone in the small-drone space either. If you’re prepared to forego the stabilizing influence of optical flow, there are countless mini-drones available in the stores Admittedly a lot of that has to do with the power of modern business practices – it’s a lot easier to start a company selling a drone designed by a generic firm in China than it is to design your own. Look closely in stores and you’ll start to get what we mean, but one thing you’ll want to take seriously indoors is prop guards. Inside, away from the long arm of the CAA, you’ll need to be responsible all on your own (and your HR department will have a lot to say about it if

you slice out anyone’s retina). Even if you’re an evil robot with no concern whatsoever for the preservation of squishy humans, offices have

a lot of sharp corners, so prop guards are just

a common sense way of preserving the life of your future flying overlords.

Francesca Leung, author of The House Rules, comes under attack.
Francesca Leung, author
of The House Rules,
comes under attack.

OFFICE

GAMES

The CirCuiT

The concrete pillars that form the basis of all modern office architecture naturally form goals. Bet you can’t fly round the column in accounts and back without hitting anything!

Build a GaTe

Take things up a notch by making the route a little harder. Two paper recycling bins, perhaps with some tape between them, will make things more challenging.

espionaGe

Some people think drones are creepy. Prove them right by hovering over their desk and capturing the contents of the document on top. Best picture wins. (Parrot Minidrones feature downward-facing cameras that can be activated from the phone-screen controller).

JousTinG

The object is to hit the other drone as hard as possible in the air and be the only one flying afterward. Keep some spare props handy!

Parrot Minidrones Street Price: £80 Weight: 55g Diagonal: 10cm hoW long before the boSS getS
Parrot
Minidrones
Street Price: £80
Weight: 55g
Diagonal: 10cm
hoW long before the
boSS getS back: 6 mins, USB charge
WoW factor: Big drone flight quality

Robust enough to be flown around in an office environment, and with the added inclusion of one or another form of prop guard, Parrot’s smartphone-controlled mini-quads are an excellent choice. Thanks to Bluetooth control, you won’t even have to drop out of the office Wi-Fi network, and if you choose the Rolling Spider version you’ll have enough protection to go for a ground-based rolling race too.

Pete Hunt, senior production manager at Octopus Publishing Group, decides that size does matter.

Indoor Drones

Sanlianhuan CX-10C

Street Price: £20 Weight: 25g Diagonal: 4cm hoW long before the boSS getS back: 4 mins (USB charge) WoW factor: Just so tiny, still has camera

Although you can’t look through the camera live, it nevertheless manages to cram one in to record your adventures, and a MicroSD card to capture to. The ‘plasticky’ controller requires AAA batteries but works surprisingly well.

Parrot Bebop

Street Price: £320 Weight: 400g Diagonal SPan: 248mm hoW long before the boSS getS back: 22mins WoW factor: Streaming HD Video

If you’ve got the space, why not move things up to the big leagues? The Parrot Bebop increases range since it works via Wi-Fi, and will also let you watch the flight from the comfort of the boardroom TV (with Apple’s inordinately expensive Lighting Port to HDMI adapter, £40). Get a couple of these dancing in the air in your open plan space and you can create fun and mayhem in equal measure!

WWW.DroneMagaZine.Uk 55
WWW.DroneMagaZine.Uk
55

Grand Prix

Show Jumping in Dargužiai, Lithuania

Photo by Karolis Janulis, Supplied by Dronestagram

All Photos by Extreme Fliers
All Photos by Extreme Fliers
All Photos by Extreme Fliers REVIEW Words by: anDreW Watton-DavieS ExtrEmE FliErs Micro Drone 3.0 L
REVIEW
REVIEW

Words by:

anDreW Watton-DavieS

ExtrEmE FliErs

Micro Drone 3.0

L aunched to much fanfare, including an article in Issue

across the media, (not to mention managing to raise

02 of this very magazine and widespread coverage

3,077% of its IndieGoGo crowdfunding project), the Micro Drone 3.0 from Extreme Fliers has been one of the most anticipated and talked about mini-drones of the last six months. Promising an impressive range of features for $175, the product started shipping on 01 February to its 4000+ backers, and we were sent one of the Level 3 packs to see if the wait has been worth it. Open the minimalistic box and you are greeted with the drone sitting on its holding card with “hello” written at the top. The ovoid design of its central hub instantly gives it a sleek look and feel. Take it out of the holder and it feels light and delicate, but also well-built and ready to go. Despite having different coloured rotors already attached, it lacks a ‘face’ which can be a bit disorienting whilst getting used to

which can be a bit disorienting whilst getting used to • Street Price: From $175 (£120)

Street Price: From $175 (£120)

camera: 1280 x 720 HD (30FPS video)

Weight: 56g (71g with camera)

gyro: 6-axis MEMS gyroscope

Frequency / range: 2.4GHz / 120m

Battery tyPe: Lithium 450mAh

Flight time: Up to 8 mins

charging time: Approx. 1hr

DimenSionS: 50 x 135 x 135mm

WeBSite: www.extremefliers.co.uk

58 Drone magaZine

it for the first couple of uses. At a diagonal width of 165mm

it’s not quite palm-sized but it’s certainly easy enough to move around one-handedly without worrying anything is going to fall off. Move down to the next section of the box and you have the main components presented in a clear and well- organised manner. The custom 450mAh battery and

charger are up first, both in the stylish black plastic that

is the unit’s motif. The charger uses a Micro USB port to

get it powered up; the provided cable is either a “compact” five and a half inches or “very short” depending on your preference, although it can be easily substituted for anything you may have to hand already. The pair work effortlessly together and the charging display’s LEDs show what’s going on without lighting up the room. A set of blade guards are included, however the manual doesn’t give much of a clue on how to mount them and it’s not the most intuitive process. Care needs to be taken here, as it’s easy to apply too much pressure in the wrong direction and then have to shove the drive units and their housing back into place. Once on, the blade guards provide reasonable protection against light bumps and grass crash landings. In addition to the pre-fitted rotors there are a set of regular replacements and a set of inverted flying blades, along with a mounting tool. Instructions are given on the process, but they are not particularly well written. The final portion of the box is given over to the controller, which is a lovely piece of kit. Comfortably two handed, spaciously laid out and of the traditional radio-controlled variety, it comes with two control modes (Mode 2 for roll on

the right and turn on the left, or Mode 4 for the opposite), an invert trigger and three sensitivity ratings (Slow, Fast and the fittingly entitled Insane). You’ll also find Standard and Stunt mode, incremental trim controls on all axis, as well as

a digital readout which shows battery, percentage position on

the last moved axis, plus other info. It also beeps a lot, giving audio confirmations when in flight. The only thing it doesn’t come with is batteries, so make sure you have a set to hand. The manual does warn you to be careful when putting the battery onto the drone, but with the runners guiding it in you would have to be careless rather than incautious to do any harm. Pairing with the controller is almost instant, as is calibration, and once you’ve found the biting point you will be confidently airborne in seconds. And you’ll be happy, because we are glad to report that this is certainly a fun flyer.

micro flight

It’s zippy, it’s responsive, it can handle impacts, and –

thanks to the tail of the recent Storm Imogen hitting the UK

– we can confirm it still operates in moderate winds without

too much trouble. Its size also practically encourages you to see what you can fly it around and through, although that takes a bit more practice. However, whilst auto-levelling is included, and at times it shows through well, this is not a ‘point and click’ lazy-flying experience. Beginners will be able to use it due to the pecise controls, but you will need to stay on the ball to avoid things going awry, and bunny- hopping is never that far away.

“It has managed to live up to the hype so far and has the clear potential to continue to do so. It’s just a joy to fly”

potential to continue to do so. It’s just a joy to fly” With a stylish design

With a stylish design and effortlessly fun to fly, the Micro Drone 3.0 is a good choice if you don’t want to spend a fortune getting in the air.

if you don’t want to spend a fortune getting in the air. The app can offer

The app can offer a secondary control system as well as a useful camera view finder.

in the air. The app can offer a secondary control system as well as a useful

As an interesting aside, this image almost perfectly represents the ‘rule of thirds’ discussed in our photography feature on page 76.

A Glimpse into FpV One other thing that the combination of camera and companion app
A Glimpse into FpV One other thing that the combination of camera and companion app

A Glimpse into FpV

One other thing that the combination of camera and companion app can do is give you a first- person view of the flight. Due to the quality of the camera and the variable nature of phone displays inside the DODOcase 3D viewer, this is certainly far from the ultimate FPV experience available, but it does gives you a reasonable taste of it and is a perfectly usable mechanism. Just be prepared to crash into things as you are getting used to it, and avoid flips if you’ve recently eaten.

If you’re feeling brave, you could just cut straight to Stunt mode and have the flips trigger when hitting 100% on the corresponding stick’s axis. Then do it again and again and again, as you can chain them together into acrobatic contortions and have four non-trigger axis available to guide it around. You can also try the Fast mode if you are ready for that bit more speed and delicacy in your movements or, if you’re very awake, the twitch-sensitive Insane mode. The difference in settings is satisfyingly noticeable and at good increments, so whilst you might bite off more than you can chew you’ll know that it’s coming. Inverted flying is, as you would imagine, tricky but once you get used to the controls changing it can quickly become a good party trick to show off with to your friends. All of this is great UAV entertainment, but the main package isn’t the only thing that’s been sent out. Included in the bundle was the Wi-Fi Camera Module – a 1280 x 780 pixel add-on that also allows for flight control through your phone. The camera itself is another svelte black plastic affair and only slightly larger than the battery. Connecting to the battery through the Neodymium nickel magnets is easy, and once on the extra weight is noticeable in the flight dynamics but not unmanageable. The only two issues we found with the design of this component were the aerial on the side occasionally slipping out of place or off of its holder, and rough landings causing the unit to occasionally fall off. Both can be countered with a small bit of black tape or a little more careful handling.

It might only be small, but Extreme Fliers has big plans for the Micro Drone
It might only be small, but Extreme Fliers has big
plans for the Micro Drone 3.0 in the coming months.
“Inverted flying is tricky, but
once you get used to the
controls changing it can quickly
become a good party trick”

Installing the Android or iOS app to use it isn’t that straightforward, though, as at the time of review the link in the manual and on the box lead to a 404 message, so an App Store search was needed instead (‘Micro Drone 3.0’ will do it). Once on your device, a straightforward Wi-Fi scan will connect you and from there your options are either to use it as an okay substitute controller or as a good camera view finder. Slightly larger camera control buttons would be a nice addition, and we hope they will be included in the multiple updates that Extreme Fliers has told us it has planned through the year. The provided holder will take most smartphones and

a few of the smaller tablets, and sits firmly onto the main

controller, mimicking the control setups of popular larger drones. The picture quality is good, both in photo and video mode, and playback is clear and timely. Getting the right shot with a single position camera can be tricky, at least until the gimbal comes out, but the images are of a perfectly usable quality for personal use, and if the lighting is right you can get some excellent results. Images can be sent and stored on your device or you can put a MicroSD into the camera itself, which will allow for 128GB of storage. Fundamentally, space and rapid sharing isn’t going to be an issue.

a work in progress

Final evaluation of the Micro Drone 3.0 has to take into account three key things. Firstly, you need to remember

that it’s essentially three drones in one: a stunt flyer,

a camera platform and an FPV drone, and you can get

arguably better versions of each of these for a similar price. However, it’s the diversity of the unit that makes it what it is, and puts it beyond simply ‘jack of all trades’ and into ‘competent all-rounder’ territory. This leads onto the second consideration: that this is a Backers version of the product, so some of the issues (the not- great manual, the app link not working, the weak aerial clasp on the camera) can be forgiven if it’s viewed as a ‘version one’ rather than final finished product. All of which brings us onto the final consideration: that the 3.0 is designed to be something that gets added onto. As the box itself says, the current elements are “just the beginning of the Micro Drone 3.0”, so its real value is going to depend on the next 12 months of development that Extreme Fliers (which has the gimbal planned for launch in May and alternative blades planned for July) and the community put into it. Taking these three things into account, and having put the Micro Drone 3.0 through its paces, we think it’s fair to say that it has managed to live up to the hype so far and has the clear potential to continue to do so. It’s just a joy to get your hands on and fly, even if you’re limited to around seven minute sprints. So, should you be looking for something exciting, adaptable, that gives you a taste of several areas of UAV flying and the promise of more to come, you may well want to look at getting one of these ordered.

Skeye NaNo DroNe with Camera

Words by: anDreW Watton-DavieS

Skeye NaNo DroNe with Camera Words by: anDreW Watton-DavieS REVIEW Regaled in the orange and white

REVIEWSkeye NaNo DroNe with Camera Words by: anDreW Watton-DavieS Regaled in the orange and white of

Regaled in the orange and white of TRNDLabs’ rapidly growing fleet, this latest addition to the Skeye ranks is a version of its Nano quadcopter. The company claims it to be the “world’s smallest camera drone” and it’s certainly a good looking and undoubtedly cute flyer, but what’s it like once you get it out of the box? The controller is the same size and style as the one which came with the Nano Black that was reviewed in Issue 02: a small Xbox-style affair with minimal buttons and very little space for your hands. Other than the different colour scheme it also has one less trim button, with just forward and back present and the left and right trim button now given over to the camera controls. The positioning works surprisingly

to the camera controls. The positioning works surprisingly • Street Price: £49.99 • camera: 3 Megapixel

Street Price: £49.99

camera: 3 Megapixel SD (640 x 480)

Weight: 14g

gyro: 6-Axis Gyro

Frequency: 2.4GHz

Battery tyPe: 3.7V 120mAh

controller Battery: 2 x AAA (not included)

range: Up to 50m

Flight time: 3-4 mins

charging time: 30 mins

DimenSionS: 4 x 4 x 2.2cm

WeBSite: www.trndlabs.com

well thanks to the smallness of the controller, and the heel of your thumb can reach those buttons with ease. The charging cable is built solidly and comes in ‘can’t lose me’ yellow, fitting snugly into the drone with no risk of falling out, even when moved around. Charging cables may not be the sexiest of technologies out there, but with an average flight time of three and a half minutes you’ll be glad that thought went into this one. You’ll also be glad that the charge up only takes 30 minutes. Also included are a 2GB MicroSD card and a USB MicroSD card reader. The card can hold around 25 fully filmed flights worth of footage, but other cards can be used by if more space is needed. Getting them into and out of the drone is easy, with the card-holding housing being solid and nicely sprung. The card reader isn’t flawless though, and a number of times a bit of jiggling is needed to get it to connect, so if you have a spare then you may want to break it out. The drone itself looks very much like the original Nano; cute and ready to go. However, there are a couple of differences in the layout and construction that allows for the inclusion of camera, whilst also giving it something of a Nano 2.0 look. It also feels reassuringly solid for something of its size and weight. Connection, calibrations and launch are straightforward; although the initial flight experience isn’t the smoothest going while you get used to it, with lots of bunny-hopping happening, and only the one trim makes balancing out very difficult. If flying outside then expect even a light breeze to add to the ‘fun’, due to its minimal weight.

All images © 2015-2016 TRNDLabs / Albert van de Maat

All images © 2015-2016 TRNDLabs / Albert van de Maat Three levels of sensitivity are available,
All images © 2015-2016 TRNDLabs / Albert van de Maat Three levels of sensitivity are available,
All images © 2015-2016 TRNDLabs / Albert van de Maat Three levels of sensitivity are available,

Three levels of sensitivity are available, with a noticeable gradient between them, but it can still take a while to really get to grips with this Nano. As ever with drones of this size, the short flight time doesn’t help as you are forced into a landing and recharge just as you feel you’re getting comfortable with it. However, it has got a flip trigger that’s perfectly responsive, giving the requisite and hugely satisfying ‘whoop’ when performed, and it’s an enjoyable piloting experience overall. Fortunately for something that can fly a little erratically, the build quality is top notch – with nary a scrape nor mark on it from having it bounce into walls, furnishings, concrete and a tree. Unfortunately, unlike with the original Nano, no protection guard is available, so any impact does have the potential to leave marks from the blades. From testing out the blades on flesh (the things we do for you! Please don’t try this at home!), and the groans that resulted, it makes the promotional video showing it flying near animals and people, and having some of those people batting the drone out of the air, a little bit questionable! When you do get used to flying it, or if you simply enjoy bouncy motion videos in the meantime, then the video camera is easy to kick in and has no appreciable impact on flight time. The resulting footage is totally usable for a fun share with friends or a quick upload to YouTube, and it will even give you a mayhem-eye-view of the flips. The picture quality is pretty good, too, although unless you either get very lucky or can get the drone to stay stable when you hit the button, pics may mostly be something of a blur.

“The company claims it to be the “world’s smallest camera drone” and it’s certainly it’s a good looking and undoubtedly cute flyer”

Putting a camera into such a small frame is no mean achievement, but without smooth flight it’s hard to really make the most of it. If the same camera went into the Hexa, or if the Nano had a little more stability, then we would be singing its praises. However, if you are willing to put in a decent amount of practice time, or just want a fun flyer with the odd photo opportunity, then this becomes a much more appealing proposition.

TURN fOR A chANcE 31 TO TO WIN sKEyE NANO A pAGE DRONE WITh cAMERA
TURN
fOR
A
chANcE
31 TO
TO WIN
sKEyE
NANO
A pAGE DRONE
WITh
cAMERA

Features:

SD Camera

Throw to Fly

RTF (Ready to Fly) Technology

6-Axis Flight Control System w/ Adjustable Gyro Sensitivity

Stable & Easy to Fly

Aerobatic “Flip” Capability

LED Lights for Night Flights

3-Level Adjustable Controller Sensitivity: Beginner, Mid-Level, Expert

Package contents:

1 x Skeye Nano Drone with Camera

1 x 4-Channel 2.4Ghz Transmitter (Mode 2)

1 x USB Charging Cable

1 x User Guide 4 x Replacement Rotor Blades

1 x 2GB MicroSD Card

1 x USB MicroSD Card Reader

Open Air

Mass yoga exercise in Vingis Park, Vilnius, Lithuania

Photo by Karolis Janulis, Supplied by Dronestagram

The Pro’s View

FreeFly AltA

Part 3

Aerial cinematographer Will Glover is now getting so comfortable with his Freefly Alta that he’s been teaming up with others for a triple Alta display…

F lying one of three Freefly Altas in close proximity to

each other was, to be honest, more nerve-racking than

I expected. Including cameras and gimbals, that’s over

£45k’s worth of kit in the air; so it’s not for the faint hearted! For those of you that don’t know, we form part of The Drone Aerial Operators Group (aka Drone Aerial Ops or DAO), which is a specialist group of very experienced operators worldwide. In part, knowing this did help calm the nerves a little! The flight took place in mid-February when we took to the skies with a few of the other guys from the group to gather our collective thoughts on new kit, drink a few beers, share stories and have a bit of fun at the 8,000 acre DAO testing ground.

Team Work

To go into a little more depth, the DAO is a collective of extremely experienced operators working together to use drones in the best possible way with ops like ourselves, and others, providing new kit reviews (HD downlinks are next on my radar!) to help you lot decide what to spend your hard earned cash on next. We’ll also be providing tutorials to figure out how you use what you’ve shelled out on and, lastly, running a drone training and testing site up at the DAO base in the north east of England. As mentioned, part of the premise of Drone Aerial Ops is for operators like me to test and review the latest kit – kit that we’d like to use – and pass what we learn onto

other members of the group, so they can buy or rent with confidence that the kit will be awesome, and they can then refer to tutorials that teach them how to set it up and use it. With the release of Freefly’s new Akira firmware for the Movi, and a good few of us really liking our Altas, it seemed like a good idea to have a meet up and see what we could do with them and the new firmware. The operators involved were ourselves (Fleye Aerial), Rogue State Media, Skyhook and Horizon AP. Being the professionals that we are, we had a few drinks the night before, and so made it to one of the Drone Aerial Ops test fields around 11am. It’s great up at the DAO base, with so much space and varied terrain. Plus we lucked out on the weather – a great sunny day with low winds, which has been rare lately!

Taking FlighT

Installing the new Freefly Movi Akira firmware was pretty easy and from there we filmed a talk-through of the Alta, getting it ready for flight, for a soon-to-be-released Aerial Ops video. I have to say, I’m normally the one behind the lens so being in front of it was a little different! Then came the fun part: flying! After a quick chat about some possible moves (a bit complicated with three Altas in the air!) we decided to go for it, so we lined them up and took off together. It was awesome. The stability and manoeuvrability of the Alta platform meant that, with a bit

Whenever you’re flying close to any other moving objects, it pays to be extra careful.

of communication, we immediately started pulling off some cool moves together. We were soon flying out over a close by lake, then over and through trees for some more flights and all while staying in close proximity to each other. This is where the new Movi firmware came into its own; after a bit of tuning we were getting superb stability even at focal lengths on 100mm (FF equivalent), which allowed us to get awesome close up air-to-air footage of the Altas in flight. Needless to say I think the video will look great. While it was great fun and pretty special to see, a day like this also has some very good learning opportunities. We’re all very experienced ops and being part of the ops group allows us to have days like this where we can share set-up tips and ideas – basically all the knowledge we have built up over the years. We all have had different experiences and learned from them, and the group enables us to share this with each other and so improve as a whole. It also means we’re building up an awesome knowledge base that Drone Aerial Ops paying members can access, thus avoiding the time consuming (and often costly) trial and error approach! For more on getting the Alta set up and flying (with me on camera!), and setting up your Movi with the new firmware, go to www.droneaerialops and check us out.

As ever, if you guys have any questions for Will, please feel free to drop him an email over at hello@fleye.co.uk. And if you want to find out more about the work of Will and his team just head over to www.fleye.co.uk .

All Photos by Fleye Aerial

Is there a collective noun for a group of drones? We’re opting for a ‘payload
Is there a collective noun for
a group of drones? We’re
opting for a ‘payload of Altas’.
Is there a collective noun for a group of drones? We’re opting for a ‘payload of

on point:

A Guide to 3d MAppinG

UsING sIMplE DRONE tEchNOlOGy wIth RE ADIly AvAIl AblE sOft wARE, thERE’s lIttlE tO stOp yOU fROM cREAtING yOUR OwN thREE- DIMENsIONAl IMAGEs. ADAM JUNIpER tAlks yOU thROUGh thE bAsIcs…

W hen you picture a map-maker, you

might think of an engineer with

a high-vis tabard and a slightly

mysterious orange box on a stick. Alternatively, if you’re of a more romantic bent, you may even picture someone with callipers fumbling with their scrolls. Since you’re reading this magazine, though, it’s a safe bet that you already know where we’re going next! Tripods, careful measurement and paperwork are so last millennium, after all. Bring forth the rotors, gimbals and SD cards! Actually before we do, let’s step back a bit. Mapping with drones doesn’t really sound super-scientific. All that business with the Ordinance Survey, theodolites and trig points has to be pretty essential for accuracy, doesn’t it? In fact, no. Not if you really think about it.

All the hard work has been done in terms of putting things in their planetary position. Modern mapping is all about the application. On a larger scale you can already easily ‘see what’s there’ – Google Earth or the luscious 3D Apple Maps have got that covered. Where UAVs come into their own is tasks specific to you, in which you’ll no doubt crave higher-resolution, more up-to-date imagery than these providers offer. Whether that’s to help monitor a whole farm, plan the foundations for a building or record a place of interest for posterity, the principles will be broadly similar.

Photogrammetry

Though it sounds a little hokey, the science of taking measurements using photographs, or photogrammetry, is pretty well established.

photographs, or photogrammetry, is pretty well established. In Google Earth you can select the Ruler tool,
photographs, or photogrammetry, is pretty well established. In Google Earth you can select the Ruler tool,

In Google Earth you can select the Ruler tool, then click in one spot followed by another to get a spot-to-spot measurement.

select the Ruler tool, then click in one spot followed by another to get a spot-to-spot
Used instead of DJI Pilot, DroneDeploy can guide a Phantom 3 or DJI Inspire (including

Used instead of DJI Pilot, DroneDeploy can guide a Phantom 3 or DJI Inspire (including the Zenmuse X5 variant) to do its bidding, then send the files directly to the Cloud.

do its bidding, then send the files directly to the Cloud. The Draganfly Micasense camera records

The Draganfly Micasense camera records in a number of different spectra at once, specifically designed to see minor differences in the colour of vegetation – the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). This is the data that agricultural drone users crave.

This is the data that agricultural drone users crave. You can use it in a very

You can use it in a very simple way with Google Earth’s Ruler tool, clicking on one point and then another to get a measurement (a very handy way to establish if your chosen flying spot meets CAA’s distance rules). When it comes to create new maps, the principle owes a lot to image stitching tools, like the one you might use in Photoshop, but with one big difference: the software has to cope with the camera’s movement. In a panoramic image, the camera remains in the same spot and is simply rotated, so finding overlaps is merely a matter of looking for similar arrangements of pixels in different positions. As soon as you start to move the camera, it’ll see things from different sides. And from different sides things can look different – that’s not going to make life easy for any stitching algorithm. The solution is to realise that, as soon as you start to take multiple images, the lens can perceive 3D (just as our eyes do). It’s still going to need a lot of computing horsepower, but with enough images a computer can discern shape from the appearance and disappearance of surfaces from the camera lens. Using the lens’ and sensor’s specifications the drone can assess where each ray of light has come from before reaching its sensor pixel. It can take advantage of

“Any drone with GPS Loiter will be reasonably easy to fly around a subject, taking a still image often enough”

fly around a subject, taking a still image often enough” additional information, too, like knowing where
fly around a subject, taking a still image often enough” additional information, too, like knowing where

additional information, too, like knowing where in 3D space the picture was taken – something some drones routinely add to the image’s EXIF data (though it’s only as good as their sensors). Before taking it into the air, this is a technology with its roots firmly on the ground, too, and one you can try out with nothing more than a phone as a useful way of getting to grips with it. The best way to have a play is to download 123D Catch and dive in (more in the boxout). This application takes a series of photographs and converts them into the kind of 3D file a computer understands, made up of polygons and “textures”. For example, a boring block of flats could be made of just five polygons (rectangles for each side) and projected onto each would be a picture of that side of the building – the texture. Put very simply, textures are why video games don’t look like Tron any more.

Lift it up a Notch

123D Catch is a great partner for 3D printers, but only Mr Tickle, or perhaps Futurama’s Bender, would have arms long enough to photograph a whole house, castle or farm, if they had the inclination. That’s where your drone comes in. By flying around a larger place of interest, or by flying in a planned pattern over a larger area, you can collect the data to cover a much bigger space. In the case of a single location, like a building, then it’s perfectly possible to adopt the former; in fact any drone with GPS Loiter will be reasonably easy to fly around a subject, taking a still image often enough that each has a good overlap (opinions differ, but between 50% and 80%). Three orbits at different altitudes (with a smaller radius

SenseFly R&D engineer Adam Klaptocz (pictured on the opposite page) has been to the summit of the Matterhorn to get it mapped in 3D.

(pictured on the opposite page) has been to the summit of the Matterhorn to get it
Fixed wing aircraft can cover a lot of ground in a single flight; only 11

Fixed wing aircraft can cover a lot of ground in a single flight; only 11 flights covered the 28 square km around the 4,478m mountain at a resolution of one pixel for 20cm on the ground.

at a resolution of one pixel for 20cm on the ground. as you climb) should serve

as you climb) should serve you well, but don’t skimp on the imagery and make sure that, as you climb to the new altitude and adjust the camera pitch, you don’t forget to take a few extra snaps as you go so you’ve got a good chain of overlapped images. To get a 3D picture of a larger area, it’s best to let software handle the route plan – though you’ll need to know the altitude of the tallest obstacle in the neighbourhood. There are a number of tools but they all work in a broadly similar fashion; you define the area you want to map and the tool works out a route that’ll capture enough overlapping images to work from. Pix4Dcapture is one such tool.

Tools of The Trade

Pix4D offers a suite of applications, including the capture tool already mentioned. A Swiss company, Pix4D is (arguably) the market leader and it’s certainly very drone focused, with professional pricing to boot: £224 a month, £2,400 a year rental or a truly eye-watering £7,900 to buy. For that you’ll still be doing all the processing at your end, so you’ll also want to budget for a very meaty computer. It’s on Windows only for now, though you can try the Mac beta. This tool gives you the power to review and clean up data to your heart’s content on your own computer system, and supports advanced features like Ground Control Points –

123d CaTCh Autodesk’s 123D Catch is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and PC, and
123d CaTCh Autodesk’s 123D Catch is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and PC, and
123d CaTCh Autodesk’s 123D Catch is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and PC, and

123d CaTCh

Autodesk’s 123D Catch is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and PC, and using it

is simplicity itself. You just need to get your

subject in a well-lit area and follow the on- screen instructions. You’ll be asked to take photos from different positions around the

object, indicated by a segmented circle which

is shaded in as you progress. Afterwards

you’ll be given the opportunity to review the images and re-shoot any bad ones before submitting to the Cloud for processing. After some ‘thinking’ time, you’ll be shown the

results and asked to frame the view (a bit like

a 3D version of cropping in Instagram) before sharing your creation with the world.

Working with Aerpyn Labs, Pix4D was used to create a stunning rendering of Rio’s Christ
Working with Aerpyn Labs, Pix4D was used to create a stunning rendering of Rio’s Christ
Working with Aerpyn Labs, Pix4D was used to create a stunning rendering of Rio’s Christ
Working with
Aerpyn Labs,
Pix4D was
used to create
a stunning
rendering of
Rio’s Christ
the Redeemer
statue with
enough detail
that it can
be used in
preservation
works.

super-accurate measurements of ground locations with professional GPS tools made to ensure greater accuracy than the aircraft’s consumer-grade sensor. Another option is Agisoft Photoscan, which is a tool with its roots in capturing objects (just like 123D). With a 30-day Free Trial or $179 for a Standard edition ($3,499 for the pro), this is an accessible, if not entirely welcomingly priced, consumer version. As with so much specialist, but potentially very interesting, technology, cost is a big barrier to experimenting the first time. Economics require software creators to earn as much as they can from their commercial customers. DroneDeploy, at least, has put its service in the Cloud so you can get a good idea of what you get before you subscribe (five maps a month at up to 20cm per pixel are free – any more detail or processing and you’ll need $99 a month). The user uploads their images and awaits the results, just as with 123D. This time, however, you can switch through a number of views. Alternatively, if you’re determined not to part with a penny, the open source community can oblige you, too. You could turn to Visual SFM, an application which again works in a similar manner to 123D or Agisoft, to create Structure from Motion (yes, the SfM!). More encouragingly there are titles such as OpenDroneMap, although, while we would urge open source enthusiasts to check this out themselves to see if it’s ready for their attention, it’s still in need of Ubuntu at this point, but it can already manage textured surfaces models.

The Sky’S The LimiT

Once you’ve created your map, your software will allow you to measure in both 2D and 3D, for example to compute the volume of mud still left to dig out of a hole. And mapping technology is progressing all the time, and the size and accuracy of your maps is limited only by time and technology. The Parrot Disco could prove as interesting in democratising 3D mapping as the Phantom did for aerial photography – to get a sense of that you only need look at the mapping of the Matterhorn; a drone using the Disco’s ‘big brother’ the eBee. If you decide to take things more seriously, you’ll find a whole world of specific technologies available too, from LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) which uses lasers to accurately measure the distance to a target, and multi- spectral cameras like the Draganfly Micasense. However, right now it’s just a great time to get out there and try the demo products, as firms are increasingly seeing the enthusiast community as one to engage with.

You can download a demo and sample files to experiment with for free from Pix4D.
You can download a demo and sample files to experiment with for free from Pix4D.
You can download a demo and sample files to experiment with for free from Pix4D.

You can download a demo and sample files to experiment with for free from Pix4D. In this sequence, after the initial import, we were able to see the views from every capture overlaid in 3D space (as if the drone had been some kind of projector). From there a Point Cloud was

calculated (points with X, Y &

Z coordinates), and onto that

a mesh was overlaid creating the polygons.

Cloud was calculated (points with X, Y & Z coordinates), and onto that a mesh was

“Mapping technology is progressing all the time, and the size and accuracy of your maps is limited only by time and technology”

of your maps is limited only by time and technology” Top TipS for GreaT imaGeS n

Top TipS for GreaT imaGeS

n Cloudy is good. You might think a cloudy day isn’t ideal for photography, but clouds

act like a giant diffuser, making sure that light hits your subject from every angle reasonably evenly and that nothing is lost in shadow.

n Glass and reflective surfaces don’t work. 3D mapping works on tracing the path

of light rays, and shiny surfaces like glass and water are confusing since they have reflections on them that dramatically alter the apparent colour.

n Sequence your pictures logically. Computers have to start somewhere when they

look for overlaps and matching information, so if they encounter overlapping images in sequence they’re more likely to detect the overlap quickly.

n Use an aircraft that embeds GPS data, but for complete accuracy you’ll need to

make ground reference marks, measured using a professional, ground-based GPS unit.

WIth sO MANy GPs-bAsED cONtROl systEMs AROuND, OWEN JAMEs POsEs thE quEstION: DO yOu REAlly
WIth sO MANy GPs-bAsED cONtROl systEMs AROuND, OWEN JAMEs POsEs thE quEstION: DO yOu REAlly

WIth sO MANy GPs-bAsED cONtROl systEMs AROuND, OWEN JAMEs POsEs thE quEstION: DO yOu REAlly NEED tO kNOW hOW tO PIlOt A DRONE ANyMORE?

I f you listen to what the slew of new drone manufacturers have to say then the answer you will get is no. Every week it seems there is another start-up or crowd-funded company that has a drone that flies itself. These devices are controlled by pointing to map locations on a tablet or smartphone and tilting your device to control direction or using some type of armband, leash or tracking device that programs the drone to do what you want it to do and / or enables it to follow you. So, with all these options on the table, why do we actually need to learn the basic flight controls of how to fly a drone? One thing to consider is that most automated flight controls rely on a good GPS signal to operate. If the signal is not there then the aircraft will not know where it is in relation to anything else. But isn’t GPS available everywhere? Well not always; depending on your location and proximity to buildings and other obstructions such as mountains and so on, the GPS signal can be compromised. Some manufacturers have even added the ability to access both US and Russian satellites to give more accurate GPS tracking data but not all drone GPS systems have this. Most drone manufacturers point to their failsafe Return to Home (RTH) feature as a cure all for any problem, but in reality, without a good GPS signal it will not work. Now don’t get us wrong, automated flight has huge benefits; it allows mission planning for aerial surveys, 3D mapping and even automated filming with products such as the 3DR Solo’s automated smart shots and the enhanced collision avoidance of the Yuneec Typhoon H.

However, ultimately of all these great features are controlled by software and, as a former software engineer for 25 years, this writer can attest that even the best software can be prone to bugs. And if a manufacturer releases a software update with a bug it could mean the end of your drone if that glitch causes the flight controller to malfunction in an automatic flight mode. So where does the benefit of manual flying come in? When flying in GPS mode the flight computer will correct deviations cause by wind and sudden gusts, making the aircraft much easier to fly. If you get confused you can just let go of the controls and, hey presto, it will stay in a hover in the last location it was. Some pilots only fly in GPS mode because it’s easier. However, if they are flying in high winds at a distance and suddenly they lose the GPS signal, their aircraft can start to drift. Novice pilots can quickly lose orientation and, without manual flight skills, things can quickly escalate and cause loss of control or collision with another object. A number of years ago a relative of ours was on a flight from London to New Zealand. This was in the days before they locked the cockpit compartment to passengers and he was able to talk to the pilot. He asked him how long he had actually been flying the plane since take-off. He was told the pilot had not flown it at all. It was all controlled by computer auto-pilot. The technology to fly aircraft automatically has been around for decades, however the public still demands a fully trained pilot be at the controls at all times just in case

Being able to program a drone to simply follow you around via a sensor strapped
Being able to program a drone to simply follow you around via a sensor strapped to
your wrist is fine - but someone needs to able to take control if something goes wrong.
needs to able to take control if something goes wrong. something goes wrong. When you fly
needs to able to take control if something goes wrong. something goes wrong. When you fly

something goes wrong. When you fly a drone you should always be thinking that something could go wrong and, when things do go astray that you have the contingency in place to take care of it. Being able to manually fly your aircraft is one of these contingencies. You should always be prepared to regain control of your aircraft at all times from automated flight. When you have a fully automated drone with no manual control you are at the mercy of the software. If it fails or one of the sensors feeding it information fails you could be in serious trouble. There is also a legal aspect to think about for commercial operators, as some countries require that you have full manual control over your platform at all times and require a license for automated flight, such as waypoint mission planning. In the event of an accident, saying that the drone lost its GPS signal and crashed will not save you from prosecution and, if it turns out that automated flight without a license is prohibited in your country, you could well find yourself in for more legal headaches. Certainly the automated flight of drones is here to stay and will no doubt bring huge benefits to the industry by opening up opportunities to users who would never have piloted a drone under any other circumstances. However, just like the cliché, with power comes responsibility. Users of these platforms must recognise the limits of their machines and operate them in ways that offer the least amount of risk to the public, property and themselves – and being able to maintain control of the craft at ALL times is a crucial factor in that.

of the craft at ALL times is a crucial factor in that. Owen James is the

Owen James is the festival director for the inaugural London Drone Film Festival taking place in May. You can find out more about the event at www. londondronefilmfestival.com.

Phillip Kocmund is understandably happy with his company’s latest creation. Taking Con T ro l
Phillip Kocmund is understandably happy
with his company’s latest creation.
Taking
Con T ro l

PIxR AcER Is thE l AtEst ADDItION tO thE PIxhAwk fAMIly Of flIGht cONtROllERs. lEE schOfIElD sPEAks tO Its cO-cREAtOR PhIllIP kOcMOuD AND ExPlAINs thE tEch bEhIND thIs NEw ARRIvAl thAt’s tARGEtING thE fPv cROwD…

T he PixRacer is the latest in a long line of flight

controllers that supports planes, multirotors, rovers

and helicopters. In 2009 a project established by

3DR spawned a series of flight controllers that flew well, had excellent GPS support and could also fly autonomous missions using GPS. The original ArduPilot board was released in 2009, followed by the APM 1.0 in 2010, APM 2.0 in 2012 then the APM 2.5/2.6 in 2012. All of these platforms were based on the Arduino and started to look dated with their small memory size and dated architecture, so in 2013 the new PixHawk, a modern 32-bit successor, was released. The new board was a huge improvement over the APM with better electronics, an ARM core and improved sensors, and it was one of the more popular choices for pilots looking for solid GPS flight modes and the ability to fly autonomously but using the same easy- to-use PC interface as the previous versions. The PixHawk and the APM series has been a go-to flight controller for those flying multirotors where a reliable ‘GPS hold’ and ‘return to home’ features are needed. It’s perfect for camera drones and great for many other practical applications like aerial photography and mapping. However, the latest incarnation, the PixRacer, has its sights set firmly on the drone racing community.

The PixRacer is the first of a new PixHawk generation referred to as FMUv4 and was born out of the development team’s desire for a board that was designed to fly the most powerful quads being built today. “There was a big push to use the latest generation of IMU chips,” PixHawk co-creator Phillip Kocmoud explained. Other boards are expected using this improved architecture fully in 2016, with the PixRacer being considered ‘FMUv4 Lite’. This specification will become the standard for PixHawk-based flight controllers moving forward. “We are committed with all of the FMUv4 boards to creating a long term support path so that manufacturers can develop products that use these boards without worry,” Phillip says. “The PixRacer is manufactured in the EU and we are also hoping to manufacture them in the US too.” The new PixRacer uses four times the sampling rates on its improved updated sensors to allow it to fly even the most powerful drones. “This is the only board we’ve found that works in a drone that can pull 9G,” Phillip explains. “There are developments in the code that will allow PixRacer to fly the latest advanced fixed wing aircraft with features like VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing), too.” There are significant changes to the input and sensor electronics on the new boards. “The ability to use the

redundancy we have in the sensors on the board is now far superior to what it was.” The new design also increases the speed of the connection between the processor on the PixRacer and the signals from the radio receiver, making the board much faster to respond to the pilot and eliminating

lag for a better flying experience. “It’s faster because all of the I/O functionality has been brought on-board. We’ve removed the separate I/O processor.” The size of the new PixRacer board is now the same physical size as others that racers commonly use and mounts using the common 30.5mm x 30.5mm mounting holes found in the majority of frames today. Despite the smaller size, the team has managed to fit almost all of the electronics from the previous versions of PixHawk into the smaller physical package and add some new ones, too.

A MicroSD card slot is fitted underneath, allowing for log

files and telemetry to be saved to replaceable, inexpensive SD cards. This also provides support for pilots to save ‘boot- up scripts’ onto the SD card that can be used to alter the configuration of the PixRacer at start-up, making the board and port configuration extremely flexible. There is now on-board support for both ‘traditional’ and SmartPort telemetry for FrSky pilots, allowing for the telemetry to be easily transmitted back down to the radio without extra electronics and displayed in real time. “We have very clever inverters on the board that will turn, twist or do

whatever it needs to get the signal into the board,” Phil says. The new board is available with a custom power distribution board (PDB) of the same size that not only provides power to the model but also provides current and voltage sensing right into the flight controller for easy power management and monitoring. But what about the GPS support and Mission Planning? All of the features that PixHawk and APM pilots use are still there. “We have all of the same interfaces that the PixHawk does,” we’re assured. Due to the Open Source nature of the project there are choices for the software we can use with these new boards as well. Options for ground-station and configuration software include the traditional Mission Planner, PX4 AutoPilot, ArduPilot and QGroundControl, among others, so that Windows, Mac, Linux and Android pilots are supported.

It looks like we may finally have a small and powerful 32-

bit board that can not only handle the demands of the ‘fly it like you stole it’ crowd, but also provides advanced features like solid GPS support, autonomous flight and advanced GPS flight modes for those pilots who need those features.

More information, and the board itself, can be found at www.auav.com, with more on the work of PixHawk at www.pixhawk.org.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

PixRaceR SPecificationS

Integrated Wi-Fi telemetry and boot loading through ESP8266

Invensense ICM-20608 Accel / Gyro (4 KHz)

Invensense MPU9250 Accel / Gyro / Mag (4 KHz)

Honeywell HMC5983 magnetometer with temperature compensation

Measurement specialties MS5611 barometer

JST GH connectors

MicroSD

S.BUS / Spektrum / SUMD / PPM input

FrSky telemetry port

OneShot PWM out (configurable)

FrSky telemetry port • OneShot PWM out (configurable) The design is still a work-in-progress, and readily
FrSky telemetry port • OneShot PWM out (configurable) The design is still a work-in-progress, and readily
FrSky telemetry port • OneShot PWM out (configurable) The design is still a work-in-progress, and readily

The design is still a work-in-progress, and readily open to the community to make requests and refinements, so it may well see a few modifications in the coming months.

to make requests and refinements, so it may well see a few modifications in the coming

PhotograPhy on the Fly

Composing a

Masterpiece

CONtINuING hIs sERIEs Of IN-DEpth tutORIAls, pROfEssIONAl AERIAl phOtOGRAphER MARk BAkER ExplAINs thE kEy fACtORs IN fRAMING thE pERfECt shOt…

C omposition is one of the fundamental skills in all aspects of photography and understanding it can help you create

great images. Some people have an ‘innate ability’ to visualise a shot and know instinctively how to frame a subject and bring a scene to life. Luckily, for the rest of us, there are some simple techniques to learn which can make our images

76 DRONE MAGAZINE

more interesting. Whether you just want to improve your understanding of photography, or you are moving towards creating prints, there are a few simple tricks which can make your shot stand out from the crowd. We’re going to cover two distinct areas of composition. The first is what you can do before the image is committed to SD card;

understanding some basic rules of thumb will help you in terms of visualising the shot and giving yourself the best chance of capturing something that will require little or no editing. If that doesn’t work then your second chance to get it right is in the way you process the image. Often minor changes can lead to something more balanced and eye-catching.

All photos by NaughtyCatMedia.co.uk

PhotograPhy on the Fly

Air Time

Aerial photography has some particular challenges when it comes to planning and executing the perfect shot. Things often look very different from 400ft up than they do at ground level. A bit of consideration and planning will help, but remember this is one of the great things about drones so don’t kill the fun by over-analysing things! Some of the best shots are happy accidents. Find a balance by preparing for one image but be flexible enough to spot the opportunity for another. You might only have 20 minutes in the air but you have a lifetime to spend editing, so give yourself as many options as you can. Take shots on the way up and the journey to and back from your subject. Remember you effectively have a floating camera so you’re free to shoot from as many angles and heights as you can. Just remember to leave enough juice to bring it back home safely…

PhotograPhy on the Fly

The Rule of ThiRds

Many of the principles for composing a modern digital image have their roots in thousands of years of mathematics, philosophy, architecture and art. While it is impossible to quantify what makes something aesthetically pleasing there are some well-known ratios which seem to occur in so many places that we can safely say it’s more than a coincidence. Thankfully that’s where the history lesson ends – we’re more concerned with how they can help us produce great aerial shots. This leads us to one of the cornerstones of traditional composition:

‘The Rule of Thirds’. Like most rules it can be broken (and we’ll look at that later) but understanding its uses in drone photography can completely change the way you look at your own images (and almost every other piece of art, photography or architecture you come across). So let’s get started with some fairly ordinary shots, and see what magic we can work on them…

ordinary shots, and see what magic we can work on them… If you fly using one

If you fly using one of the popular apps you might have come across an option to overlay a grid similar to the one shown above onto your display. If not then you will almost certainly have come across it elsewhere. Many digital cameras and smartphones have the same feature, and almost all editing apps and programs will have it as standard when you are resizing or cropping an image. The reason for this is to aid you in composing an image according to the rule of thirds.

LINED UP

The shape of the nine sections can vary according to the dimensions of the frame, but in all cases you should have four lines which meet at four intersections. The screenshots to the right are taken from Photoshop and demonstrate the principle – the dimensions of the image may change but the horizontal and vertical planes will always be divided by four straight lines with four intersections. In classical composition the horizon will fall onto one of the two horizontal lines. Depending on the line you choose you should end up with an image that is 1/3 sky and 2/3 foreground, or vice versa. We need to lose the ugly props, so you can see in the middle screenshot that we’ve placed the horizon on the top line (which is also a good way of checking that your image is straight!). Our horizon now sits perfectly, but in order to achieve that we’ve altered the image’s dimensions to such an extent that it has a ‘letterbox’ look. That can be interesting in its own right but also problematic if you wanted to have prints made. Also certain websites will only let you upload in a standard 4:3 or square format. The result is your image essentially being cropped again, or having large borders applied to it. This brings us neatly onto the next, and perhaps even more important, element of this mode of composition.

brings us neatly onto the next, and perhaps even more important, element of this mode of
brings us neatly onto the next, and perhaps even more important, element of this mode of
brings us neatly onto the next, and perhaps even more important, element of this mode of

PhotograPhy on the Fly

Straight to the Point

The four intersections of our grid are often called the ‘power’ points. Because of the way our brains process imagery the overwhelming majority of people will subconsciously be drawn to them. We mentally scan an image along its imaginary grid of thirds. Placing points of interest along these lines and their intersections gives the viewer a natural ‘flow’ and focal point. This often leads to their attention being held for longer as they are drawn to the image’s different elements. In the screenshot to the right we’ve tried to take advantage of some of these power points. By cropping in from the left and then making minor adjustments we’ve achieved two different things. The red buoy and distant yellow sail are the two brightest colours in the shot. They’re now positioned almost exactly over the bottom right and top left ‘power’ points. Also the mast of the yacht in the left foreground now sits neatly along the first vertical grid line. The temptation would be to crop down further so that the black sailed yacht sits on the right-hand vertical line. For some reason, though, our brains seem to distrust this symmetry where the two objects don’t mirror each other. As our two foreground yachts are both heading in the same direction (and for other reasons we’ll look at later) we’re going to resist this urge and let the red buoy be our focal point. We’ve also come close to our original aspect ratio, which should make

come close to our original aspect ratio, which should make exporting it for print or online

exporting it for print or online that bit easier. Other than cropping, our final image has had no other processing carried out on it. We had to take out the propellers anyway, and with a couple of tweaks we’ve produced a nicely balanced shot. If your first step is usually to crop out unwanted props or landing gear, then take the extra few seconds to try out some of the principles of the rule of thirds.

Situational awareneSS You won’t always have a nice clean horizon like the example to the

Situational

awareneSS

You won’t always have a nice clean horizon like the example to the left had. If you’re flying at low level, or among trees and other structures, you might need to adopt a slightly different approach. Sometimes you will be shooting straight down from overhead, or at such an angle that you don’t have any sky in shot at all. The same basic principles apply, though, and later on we’re going to look at a couple of common aerial photography situations. While they are not as straightforward to fix as our previous example they should help us to focus on getting the basics in place before we’ve landed. As with most photography, the more options you can give yourself the better chance you have of ending up with something special.

options you can give yourself the better chance you have of ending up with something special.

PhotograPhy on the Fly

PhotograPhy on the Fly Between the Lines Now we’re going to introduce another idea. As well
PhotograPhy on the Fly Between the Lines Now we’re going to introduce another idea. As well

Between the Lines

Now we’re going to introduce another idea. As well as our four power points being useful places to position elements, they can also be used in a different way. In this scenic shot of a riverside cottage, the low altitude and treeline mean that we don’t have a horizontal divide between the foreground and sky. In this case we could use the ‘implied horizon’ (the point

where the river meets the tree line at the left edge) to meet the rule of thirds criteria. The alternative approach is to make the most of some of the strong diagonal lines in the shot. As well as placing subjects on our power points, we can use lines within an image to intersect them. This sort of composition works really well when you have

a natural ‘vanishing point’, where some of the diagonal lines within an image converge to a single point. You can use rivers, coasts, tree lines, fencing, roads and so on – anything that creates a strong line in your image can be used to frame other elements or lead the eye towards them. In the top right image we’ve highlighted the three main

In the top right image we’ve highlighted the three main diagonal lines in red to show

diagonal lines in red to show what we mean. Remember, they don’t have to be perfectly straight; our brains do a pretty good job of ‘joining up the dots’ when they need to! The final image is probably the best compromise of the different elements. The river bank passes through our bottom right power point and disappears from view on the top third line. The cottage now sits on the top right power point and looks more natural than if we had framed it centrally. Shooting from this sort of angle also helps to make the buildings look less flat than if we had been directly facing them. All in all it’s not a bad image – there are some strong recurring triangles and we’ve got the cottage nicely placed within the frame. It could have been better, though, and this is what brings us back to having as many options as possible at your disposal.

PhotograPhy on the Fly The ArT of SubTrAcTion We’ve already seen how easy it is
PhotograPhy on the Fly The ArT of SubTrAcTion We’ve already seen how easy it is
PhotograPhy on the Fly The ArT of SubTrAcTion We’ve already seen how easy it is

PhotograPhy on the Fly

The ArT of SubTrAcTion

We’ve already seen how easy it is to crop out unwanted parts of an image. Sometimes it’s simply to remove props, other times it’s beneficial to the overall composition. What we can’t do, however much we’d like to, is to add anything back in. We’re going to work backwards in our next example to try and highlight the benefits of shooting from different perspectives. What we are looking at here is a group wedding shot almost exactly as it was commissioned. The bride is very much front and centre but we also have plenty of the venue and gardens to look at. It’s good to remember that aerial photography isn’t all about flying as high as you can – this shot is close to the ground but the angle would just not be possible without the additional 40-50 feet of elevation that a drone provides. The composition is straightforward and works fairly well. Our lower third line passes at eye level through the central row of guests. The upper third line cuts neatly through the dark beams of the hotel and meets the lowest portion of sky over the flat roof on the left of shot. It would have been easy to frame this shot on our FPV monitor as it is and think ‘job done’. But then we look at the shot and wonder if it’s a bit cramped, and whether it would have been nice to have a wider aspect.

stepping back

So we take a step back to the image that we cropped our final shot from. Our upper and lower third lines are in practically the same place but our left and right hand thirds now both pass through the smaller pitched roofs. We haven’t had to change the aspect ratio by much but the ‘breathing space’ around the hotel and the guests makes the composition far more balanced. On reflection this makes us wish we’d pulled back a bit further and really pushed the boat out with a wide panorama, a bit like the previous incarnation of the same image. The attention is definitely moving away from the bride and towards the hotel. This helps to give the buildings much more of a grand and gothic feel. In composition terms we have three distinct horizontal thirds – the wedding party and gardens, the buildings and, on top, the skyline. The diagonal lines in the shot might not pass through the ideal points but they do a good job of leading the eye towards the hotel from the top of the shot as well as the bottom. Even the last shot is itself a crop down from the true original. Hopefully, you’ll appreciate this subtle trick, though, and it will give you some ideas of your own as well as showing the benefits of shooting at different heights, angles and distances. It would have been easy to set up the close- cropped shot by just flying nearer to the group. However, by starting with a wider angle we’ve opened up the possibilities for three or more images from a single capture.

PhotograPhy on the Fly

PhotograPhy on the Fly Space Travel We’ve already touched on the concept of allowing space around
PhotograPhy on the Fly Space Travel We’ve already touched on the concept of allowing space around
PhotograPhy on the Fly Space Travel We’ve already touched on the concept of allowing space around

Space Travel

We’ve already touched on the concept of allowing space around a subject and here we can take it a step further. We’ve seen that we don’t need to fill the centre of an image, as it can be more effective to have our main elements on the power points around it. This also helps to demonstrate another important aspect – the idea that we can convey movement in a still image. We saw in our previous shot of the sailing regatta that the wake behind the yachts gave an impression of where they had come from. The yachts that had already rounded the buoy added to the idea that our two main subjects were also going somewhere. Much like with the diagonal lines we covered, if we give the brain enough information it can fill in the blanks and infer motion. This helps to make a shot more visually appealing and have a greater impact. We’ll stick with the wedding theme for now but feel free to try out some completely different ideas. We’re going to use three similar shots, and with the first of them we’re going to throw everything we just mentioned out of the window! Our first image captures a candid moment where our bride has leant forward to kiss her pageboy. Having her central in our composition works as a moment ‘frozen in time’ but it is impossible for the viewer to infer any movement within the image. We’ve cropped down

tight so that there is nothing else in the shot to distract the eye. The space around our subject acts as a ‘frame within a frame’ and draws all the attention to the kiss. We’re going to stick with the idea of leaving space around our subject but return to the power points idea. In the next shot we wanted to try and give the illusion that our bride was moving so we’ve framed her with her eyes on our bottom left power point. Unfortunately, because her body angle and line of sight are aiming towards the lower left, the empty space is almost useless. It’s too easy to focus on the bride first then follow her eye line and completely disregard the space behind her. The only way this composition might have worked was

if we had: a) other members of the wedding party to trail

behind her or b) she was a true Bridezilla and had a 60ft wedding dress train! Either of these two things could have functioned like the wake from our yachts and given a natural sense of where she had come from.

Congratulations

In the end we settled on the image to the left for our final composition. We’ve placed our subject on the upper right power point to take advantage of her eye line and body posture. Hopefully it gives the suggestion that she is moving through our shot on a diagonal line which would take her through our lower left power point. We called this one ‘The Lonely Walk’ as the space around her gives the impression that she is completely alone on her

way to the altar. The truth is that she was standing still for

a posed portrait from the ground after the ceremony, with

friends and family just out of shot. We’ve used a fair bit of artistic licence, but remember that you don’t always have to tell the truth in the pursuit of the perfect image.

PhotograPhy on the Fly

“We’ve used a fair bit of artistic license, but remember that you don’t always have to tell the truth in pursuit of the perfect image”

have to tell the truth in pursuit of the perfect image” A HigHer LeveL After a
have to tell the truth in pursuit of the perfect image” A HigHer LeveL After a

A HigHer LeveL

After a few low-level examples we’re going to climb a bit higher and try out some of these concepts on some more traditional aerial photos. The top-left head-on shot of a cruise ship approaching shows an interesting angle but has a few problems with its composition. Because the ship is so dominant, moving it onto either of our vertical third lines leaves the shot very unbalanced. We’ve got a nice ratio of foreground to sky but there is very little we can place on our power points. Overall it feels a bit flat, without a real sense of movement. Fast-forward thirty seconds and we’ve swung the drone around to keep our legal distance (it sounds obvious but remember when you are filming a moving object you need an awareness of how close it is). This actually gives us a much more balanced and stronger composition. The subject is still fairly central but we now have it cutting diagonally through the shot. Its prow sits on our lower right power point and its wake trails away towards the upper left one. There is enough space in front of the ship to suggest where it is heading, which also adds to the sense of movement. We’ve also returned to our cottage from earlier, this time

from a lot higher and further out. The only thing we can really use to give us some movement is the river itself. Because we have such a clean horizon on our top third, it’s a nice contrast to have the river breaking in and out of the lower

third line. The effect is to lead the eye to the only real subject in the shot - the cottage in its clearing. We’ve put this on our lower left power point rather than having it too central. The fields in the foreground are quite featureless

but the space they provide echoes the sky. In this case we don’t have a straight line to sit on our lower third. The curves of the river, though, are close enough to it while still breaking the image up enough to stop it becoming too flat.

are close enough to it while still breaking the image up enough to stop it becoming

PhotograPhy on the Fly

Point of inteRest

One of the common challenges with aerial photography is finding a subject within an image to naturally guide the eye. There are some stunning landscapes and panoramic views at 400 feet up but they often end up looking flat by the time they make it to your laptop. Sometimes even a tiny detail can be the difference between what makes a great print and what would make inoffensive wallpaper behind it. We’re going to look at how we can incorporate some composition skills into both planning a shot and editing it. Shooting straight down (the traditional ‘bird’s eye view’) can throw up some really unique perspectives and is especially good for revealing patterns and shapes that aren’t apparent from the ground. So how do you stop it from becoming a glorified Google Earth image? The image to the right was shot just after sunrise on a freezing morning

in the forest. This was to try and take advantage of the long shadows against the frosty ground. Unfortunately the ponies who were supposed to be the subjects decided to wander off in the other direction. We had deliberately launched about 200 metres away to avoid spooking them, but they changed course and left us with frostbite and five empty batteries! However, what had now become little more than a gratuitous selfie was salvaged from the recycle bin to help show the benefits of a bit of lateral thinking. There are only really two prominent elements in this shot – the devastatingly attractive pilot in his woolly hat, and the clump of vegetation in the lower right hand corner. We could have rotated the image 45 degrees counter-clockwise, which would have put the two elements close to our lower power points. Instead we’ve put the

close to our lower power points. Instead we’ve put the pilot on the lower left power

pilot on the lower left power point. The clump still sits on a third line but it’s the shadows that make the shot. The way we’ve cropped it means that the pilot’s shadow now ends at the upper right power point. It might not be what we set out for, but at least we have something interesting and plenty of ideas about how we could apply this to other shots.

Bending the Rules

There are times when it’s interesting to come at composition from another angle. We can still apply the same principles but interpret them slightly differently. Often when we try to break the rule of thirds we still end up with something

that conforms to it! On the face of it this sunset shot goes against many of the ideas that we’ve looked at. Our horizon passes through the middle of the image and the sun itself sits almost in the centre. So why does it work? If we go back into Photoshop and overlay our thirds a couple of things become clear. Our top third runs through the narrow band of cloud, and our lower third runs through its reflection in the water. The wooden post is our only real vertical line and

it sits directly on our lower left power

point. What we end up with is a nicely balanced image that still conforms to the classic style of composition. The use of vertical lines can really help in aerial photography. We looked earlier at the river as an example of placing something along our horizontal

third lines that isn’t perfectly straight. Sometimes breaking up our straight lines can be a good way of adding some interest to a shot. When you’re planning

or objects that can be used to give some vertical elements. We used this panoramic sunset (bottom right) in our feature on ‘photo

hacking’ last issue, but it also serves as

a good example of how we can break up

our horizontal lines. The skyline sits very low, a long way from our lower third line. This helps to make the clouds the main element of the image. Boosting the contrast of our foreground and using the silhouetted structures helps to turn a thin sliver of foreground into a series of vertical lines which break through our lower third line. Remember, some rules are made to be broken. If you find yourself in a rut with your composition then experiment in as many ways as you can. See what other

photographers are doing (Dronestagram

is a great place to start) and what

ideas you can incorporate into your own planning and editing. Whatever you do, have fun and don’t forget that photography is just one part of the whole flying experience!

you can see more shots from Mark Baker and the work that he does

a

shot (especially a sunrise or sunset) it

by heading to his website over at

is

always worth looking for structures

www.naughtycatmedia.co.uk .

to his website over at is always worth looking for structures www.naughtycatmedia.co.uk . 84 DRONE MAGAZINE
to his website over at is always worth looking for structures www.naughtycatmedia.co.uk . 84 DRONE MAGAZINE
to his website over at is always worth looking for structures www.naughtycatmedia.co.uk . 84 DRONE MAGAZINE

PhotograPhy on the Fly

Framing tips

We wouldn’t call them rules, because in photography, as in many things, rules are meant to be broken. However, by keeping the following ‘tips’ in mind you might be able to transform a good photo into the perfect image. As always, experiment with everything and have fun with it!

Complex shapes can be difficult to compose – try and place interesting elements along the third lines.

try and place interesting elements along the third lines. Using strong diagonal lines guides the eye
try and place interesting elements along the third lines. Using strong diagonal lines guides the eye

Using strong diagonal lines guides the eye naturally through an image.

The rays of light emanate from the upper right power point and give some depth to an otherwise flat image.

power point and give some depth to an otherwise flat image. Experiment and combine colour divisions
power point and give some depth to an otherwise flat image. Experiment and combine colour divisions

Experiment and combine colour divisions with straight and broken lines together in the same image.

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ThE NExT GENErATiON

DJI Is makIng bIg plans for the future. We have all of the latest Developments.

P l u s

Yuneec TYphoon h // odYsseY pockeT drone rhi anna Lakin // permission To FLY pT 2 // a nd more!

ON SALE Thursday 31sT March

Skeye Nano Drone with Camera © 2015-2016 TRNDLabs / Albert van de Maat

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