I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. That, and to win a basketball dunk contest. I think the dream really was more about kicking gravity than anything else. And now, I’m so lucky to be in an industry where we try, day-by-day, to get just a little closer to that dream. Aerial imaging has transformed into a way for me to see the world. It’s a cliché to say that perspective is everything, but it really is.
The first time I shot aerial video was in the fall of 2012. I was directing a no-budget music video and had been struggling to find a way to have a camera “float” up in the air, looking straight down. I ruled out various harebrained plans, like a pulley system reaching out of the 14th floor of a building or a weather balloon, and I couldn’t afford to rent a crane. Then a friend of mine told me about a radio-controlled helicopter that could hold a camera.
Fast-forward to today, where five main technologies have converged to make the dream team that is the modern Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). And the new perspective this technological team has given us is awe-inspiring.
- Advanced Flight Controllers – The point guard, calling the plays and making the UAS fly safely, accurately, and, in some cases, autonomously.
- New Camera Technology – The shooting guard, whose main objective is to score points, a game- and perspective-changer. Cameras have gotten smaller while the quality has skyrocketed. 4k resolution is now a standard.
- Sensors/IMUs – The small forward, often the most athletic player on the court. New sensor, or inertial measurement unit technology, is introduced to RC technology, changing how an RC aircraft interacts with its environment.
- Lithium Polymer Batteries – The power forward, power to weight ratio of new LiPo battery technology allows for greater flight times and multiple systems to be powered at once.
- GPS – The center, tall enough to see the whole court. The ever-growing network of GPS satellites allow for pinpointed hovering capabilities and flight stability for UASs.
In a world where amazing technology has converged within the same aerial imagery dream team, the field has become democratized.
For example, you can buy a drone for around $1,400 at a store in the mall with unreal gimbal-stabilized, high-resolution video that five years ago would have only come out of Hollywood. This is the same thing that happened when DSLRs hit the market. Everyone had the ability to shoot professional level video, and the video world exploded. First it was DSLRs, then it was GoPros, and now it’s “drones.” What will be the result of this new influx of technology? What technology is sitting on the bench today, waiting to be the next superstar of digital advancement, and how will it expand our perspectives even more?
Ric Remington owns Skyform, a Section 333 Exempt, aerial focused production company based in Denver, CO.
Featured photo by Peter Linehan on Flickr.