Introduction to Aerial Photography: Steps to get started

swarm uav toyota aerial photography

Aerial Photography and videography using UAVs is at an all time high…from hobby use all the way up to military use. The list of UAV equipment to choose from is also growing, making it hard for an individual to assemble the right choices of FPV equipment, drone platform and relevant cameras to get started.

In all this madness there are still many variants but in this post I will cover just the basics to get started purely for aerial photography and videography in the commercial space and capture that perfect drone shot!

There are 4 main components to this and we can cover these off one by one:

  • CASA licensing and CASA regulations
  • UAV platform
  • FPV equipment
  • Camera and gimbals

 

CASA Licensing and CASA regulations

This the most important area and without CASA licensing you will not be able to get started in the “commercial space”.

Australia is one of only few countries that allows UAV’s to be used commercially and CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) is the governing body for this application. Instead of going into detail here you can refer to one of our previous write ups on this subject HERE.

CASA has proposed deregulation of the under 2kg class which would effectively put the DJI Phantom and other smaller UAV’s in this class and you can have a read HERE about how the proposed changes wont work in the commercial space.

 

UAV Platform

Options, choices and more options…this is the start of assembling the best suited UAV for your starter kit and will mainly depend on budget and experience. Lets just touch on a couple of the dominant platforms in the market right now.

For the less experienced you may find that using a ready to fly set up such as a DJI PhantomInspire package or the latest release from 3DR robotics “the solo” will be the best choice…why? Well there is everything you need to get started in one box, pre-programmed, installed camera and FPV equipment ready to fly and great for basic aerial videos and aerial photography. These semi professional drone packages are great to start with but do have drawbacks such as limited range, camera quality compared to a compact mirror less camera like the GH4. Most of these options will also provide a fish eye effect to both video and photos requiring post production amendments. 

DJI S900

For the more experienced, a good entry into the aerial game is the DJI S900 which runs a Zenmuse Z15 gimbal and the option of 2 cameras. The GH4 or the Blackmagic pocket cinema camera. A very stable platform with retractable landing gear, running the advanced A2 flight controller and can be paired with good top end radios such as the Futaba 14SG. Still a pretty straight forward platform to set up and run but due to the budget spent, additional features and required programming will only suit the more experienced pilot. This set up will also require the user to have some decent knowledge of cameras to capture the right drone shot with the right settings.

The platforms above are only a limited range of what is available but due to its popularity in the aerial photography world, spare parts, forums and additional information is always at your fingertips.

 

FPV Equipment

Now that you have a guide on some of the UAV platforms available lets talk FPV – First Person View. Flying blind or simply not been able to see what the camera is seeing in the air will not produce very good or accurate content, especially if there is a focus point such as chasing a car. In order to see what the camera is seeing from the ground you will need to add FPV gear to your UAV platform and once again this comes in varying options and upgrades. The main component is going to be some sort of video transmitter/downlink to get a live stream from the air to the ground. In Australia there are restrictions to the frequencies allowed so as to not interfere with other services such as internet, mobile phones etc. Australian regulations place a limit of 25mW on 5.8ghz video transmitters.

Our suggestion to get started is the Immersion RC 5.8ghz 25mW transmitter paired with either a 7 inch FPV monitor with a built in 5.8ghz receiver and battery or the Immersion RC 5.8ghz UNO5800 receiver. For the more advanced you can upgrade to the DJI Lightbridge which also has its pros and cons. Using the Lightbridge which runs on a 2.4ghz frequency you will need to have your radio tethered to the Lightbridge at all times to ensure your 2.4ghz radio wont jump frequency and lose control of the UAV. In saying this it also outputs HD content and has the ability of live streaming.

In regards to monitors or goggles…i will keep this simple…yes there is sun glare and the standard monitor shades don’t always keep this out of your screen, the ability to look up and still see your surroundings and flight path your UAV is travelling will decrease chances of any collisions with obstacles such as tree branches. Goggles can be a little restrictive in this case but are fantastic for racing and hobby flying.

FPV Equipment

Camera and gimbals

Last but not least a brief run down on cameras and gimbals. As mentioned above this will again depend on experience and budget. The out of the box ready to fly set ups will already have a built on camera and gimbal which are great to get started with as the application on your phone or tablet allows for simple and effective control and calibration, although you are restricted to only use the camera/gimbal system and its available settings provided. Most of these set ups are also running on a wifi based ground to air system which also has its limitations. Moving into the mid market and more experienced cameras you start at the GoPro with relevant gimbal like the H3-3D and H4-3D, then head over to the GH4 and Canon 5D’s running the Zenmuse Z15 range, all the way up to the Reds which will need bigger, stronger and better technology gimbals to support the functions of each camera. If you are leaning towards the GH4 camera over the built on cameras then I strongly suggest you have some basic knowledge of photography and how to get your settings spot on.

red epic drone

All in all there is another 1000 options and combinations to get you started but the above is to outline just the basics to get set up for aerial photography in both the commercial and hobby sector.

 

Swarm UAV

We are Australian specialists in drone aerial photography and aerial cinematography. CASA Certified Pilots. We are a business with our heads in the clouds, and our feet firmly on the ground.

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