This has been a long winter around the household. We got in some good skating and snowshoeing early on, but then the flu took turns kicking everyone's butt. And in the middle of all that, I was trying to study for my "Remote Pilot's" license. This is the FAA Part 107 test, and it is basically the ground school portion of an actual pilot's test. 60 questions, 2 hours, multiple choice. It covered everything from weather, to flight characteristics, to airport operations, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Lots to study. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. It had been a long time since I had to study for something this important. "Flying a drone is important", you say? For my line of work? Yes, very important. I would go so far as to say that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) are the future of aerial photography and videography.
I just pulled the trigger on a new DJI Phantom 4 Professional UAV. When you add in the extras, including extra batteries, you're looking at about $2300. A serious drop in the bucket, to be sure, but not nearly as expensive as the UAV's that are now filming for show's like "Gold Rush" on the Discovery Channel. The Phantom 4 Professional, let's call it the P4P, shoots a 20mp image file using a 1" sensor. The sensor is 4 times larger than the sensor in the Phantom 4 (not professional), which will produce much better quality photographs. And the 20mp's gives you enough file size for a decent sized print. Not even close to what my Canon 5DsR can produce, in size or quality, but much better than the other UAV's in my "fleet".
Where the P4P really shines is with video. The new lens has a field of view of 84˚, or about a 24mm on a 35mm format. This means less distortion than with previous models. And this baby can shoot H.264 4K video at 60 frames per second, recorded in a 100 Mbps bitrate. Which translates to glorious video that has more "wiggle room" in post processing.
So what direction does Maine Imaging go from here? Well, I have my remote pilot's certificate, so we'll be pushing UAV flights a bit more. But the first thing on the list is going to be letters to all of my clients, explaining the new UAV rules, including where you can and cannot fly. For example, you cannot fly within 5 miles of an airport, a very important safety rule that many Portland drone owners seem to want to ignore. I've seen a whole bunch of drone photos from new "aerial photography" companies in Maine, of the Portland waterfront. What's wrong with that? Well, it's only 3 miles away from the Jetport. And the area in front of the waterfront, and over the Fore River is known as the "Harbor Approach" which is the flight path that most commercial passenger jets take into the Jetport. It's also an area that I do a lot of commercial aerial work from helicopters. Last year, when I was shooting the Zumwalt come into Portland from a helicopter, I was nervous as hell that someone was going to fly a drone into the cockpit. So keep in mind that any picture that you see of the Portland Waterfront taken by drone, is probably taken by a "newbie" that doesn't have their Remote Pilot's license, and doesn't understand, or care, about the danger he/she is putting people in by their reckless operation of a UAV. This group of people will be a large problem going forward.
If you have a drone- fly safe and be smart. And follow the rules! If you are taking money for flying your drone, that makes you a commercial pilot, and you MUST take and pass your FAA Part 107 test and carry the proper insurance. If people can follow the rules, it will all work out. But I have to admit, I have my doubts...