Published December 29, 2016

As technological advances have caused the prices of drones to drop in the past few years, and cameras have become smaller, aerial photography has grown in popularity. Let’s look at what some advanced pilots are capturing with their skills, starting with the most advanced.

Indoor aerial photography is dangerous. It’s easy to snag the drone on a piece of furniture or wall, especially if collision avoidance is turned off. The potential for breaking rotors or the camera is high. But, with high risk comes high reward.

At the forefront of indoor aerial photography is the real estate sector. While drones have been in demand for sweeping outdoor shots (showing the entire home), the current trend, especially for luxury homes, has the pilot starting indoors. The drone can hover through the kitchen and living room before zipping out an open door or window, revealing the exterior of the home, or capturing the marvelous view owners will see from windows. Or, they could start with an overhead view, fly in through the front door, explore the the interior, and leave through a sliding door into the backyard.

It’s the next best view to actually standing in the house, and a powerful advertising tool.

Another way to advertise – or just have a conversation-starting piece – is to use a drone to capture high definition photos of your house and feed the data to a 3D printer. This produces a small 3D representation of your home, the perfect gift for new homeowners.

But the technology need not be limited to only houses. A favorite building, statue, or other architectural marvel could be photographed and printed. Imagine an engineer decorating an office with models of bridges they designed, proudly displaying their accomplishments in miniature.

Real estate photography and 3D printing aren’t the only type of advertising drones can be used for. Turn on the TV, and you are likely to see a car zipping through the countryside, winding down roads. But, the aerial view wasn’t captured by a helicopter – it was a drone.

Besides getting closer to the vehicle than a helicopter reasonably could, a drone can follow a car into tunnels. With some commercial-grade camera drones, like the DJI Phantom, topping out at 35 mph, the drone can fly around the car even while the car is moving.

BUT why limit filmmaking to just commercials? A drone is far cheaper to rent or buy in the pursuit of making a movie or short film to get the perfect aerial shot. Like the Phantom, the Yuneec Typhoon features a stabilized camera gimbal for steady shots despite the drone vibrating from the rotors. This allows for a smooth, controlled shot that a helicopter pilot in a similar situation would find difficult or even impossible to replicate.

The camera can be feet from the actor’s face for a close-up, to suddenly zooming in the air and following the actor as he walks around. Some drones allow for object tracking, automatically following the chosen object, or following set waypoints.

The drone itself could even be a character. Competition pilots have been recruited to capture entire short films with racing drones, garnering millions of views.

Not yet ready to capture video, but looking to upgrade your photography? Drones, which can shoot up to 1080p or even 4k, excel at single-frame aerial photography. Fly a drone straight up, point the camera down, and snap an awe-inspiring photo from the sky. It’s a rarely seen view, giving a unique spin to the photo.

The applications for aerial still photography are too numerous to mention, but let’s look at a few examples.

You’ve toiled away, installing a sprinkler system in your backyard by hand. Instead of climbing up onto the roof, taking a photo of where the pipes are, slipping and hurting yourself, you could take aerial photos with your drone, with no danger to yourself. It gives the perfect overhead shot, clearly mapping out where every pipe and sprinkler head is located.

Or perhaps you are a construction crew foreman. Your client wants constant updates on how the build is going, but is halfway across the country and can’t make constant trips out. What better way to show progress than flying the drone around the build site, getting whatever angle you need of the work done, without putting yourself in danger?

Both still photos and videos can be combined using a drone. For example, you have been hired to capture a local high school’s football game. Until now, options were for a TV crew on the ground, or an expensive camera on wires often limited to college and professional events. With the drone, you can take aerial shots of the athletes while following a running play overhead.

These examples only scratch the surface of what is possible with aerial photography. If you are ready to dive into the world of drone camerawork, a nano or micro racing drone is the perfect place to start practicing, with no worries of breaking a camera, thereby turning a small mistake into a costly accident. As you gain confidence in your skill, upgrade to drones with cameras – and finally to commercial grade drones with high-definition cameras with a 3-axis gimbal and sophisticated programming. It’ll take your photography to a whole new, sky-high level – literally.

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