What you need to know before taking to the skies
What should I do before taking on a shoot for a client or before that magical event you have been waiting for?
What do I need to take with me?
How do I ensure safety for all involved as well as the drone I will be using?
All these questions have crossed the minds of most responsible drone pilots.
Therefore, here are a few hints and tips I have come to include in my “pre-shoot checklist”
Crack in joints and structural members
Loose or damaged screws, ties, fasteners, straps
Loose or damaged wiring
Loose or damaged connections (solder, plugs, etc.)
Inspect prop mounts and screws and apply slight counter pressure on arms to check for loosened components
FPV , inspect / clean FPV (Camera) Lens and insure it is secured and connects are firmly attached
Camera settings are correct (still images, video, framerate)
Battery / Batteries are fully charged, properly seated and Secured
Fail-safe equipment functioning
RTH (return to home)
Firmware Airport Proximity Detection Functioning
Props are smooth and free of damage / defect (check blade, surface and hub)
Prop adapters are tight / secure
Ensure voltage alarm is connected
Ensure arming / idle timeout is properly configured
Correct model is selected in transmitter (if applicable)
Check RC transmitter shows the right range and centering for all sticks
Perform range test
Have a clear vision of the site where you will be flying/filming
Filming at a venue from the sky without ever having been there is daunting and unfamiliar. You have no idea of terrain, obstacles, weather and a good spot from where to launch and operate your craft.
I have found a platform like Google maps to be invaluable in this regard. Although the imagery might be old, certain landmarks and terrain features obviously remain unchanged. Maps give you a good idea of elevation as well as the general surroundings of the site/event you will be filming.
Have a clear vision of WHAT you want to film
Take a good look around and establish EXACTLY what you want to film. Whether it is people, scenery, a specific point of interest or buildings. Know what your subject will be for every shoot.
Inspect the site/premises you wish to film. Take note of obstacles and surrounding and try to envision a flight path for the craft around your subject. If your subject is not stationary, it is a good idea to pre-program a flight path, allowing the operator to focus on panning or moving the camera.
Take a test flight before recording to get a clear understanding of WHERE you want to be to film WHAT. The view from up there is a little different to ground zero and knowing your terrain and surrounding from the sky will prove invaluable once you take off to start filming.
Check camera settings
Before take-off, basic camera settings should be checked. These include capture format, frame rate, resolution etc. However, ISO, Shutter speed, white balance and aperture should not be set before your craft is airborne.
Exposure values (EV) are different on the ground to EV in the sky. Reflective light, cloud cover and light reflected from the surface all have an influence on your EV.
Get to your filming altitude, hover and then fine-tune your camera settings. Ideally your EV should be around +0.
Once you have the correct exposure value, be sure to engage the exposure lock (AE) lock as this will ensure the EV does not change even if lighting conditions do.