Guide to Drone Aerial Photography In The UK

Drone_27aIf you have ever owned a drone, or are planning on buying one, you may be doing this to take photography. While drones do offer some stunning views from the air, and you can control them easily with a controller form the ground, there are some laws on aerial photography that you should know about. The need for the laws came as there is an increasing need felt for security and privacy, something drones can easily compromise.

Drones aren’t exactly dirt cheap these days. If you want to buy a good model for yourself you can pay as much as £10,000. Given that fact, you may want to find out about all the laws of the country you are flying in.


How Can You Use Your Drone?

Drones in recent times have become a popular alternative to manned aircraft. Known by many names, a drone may be called a helicam, quadcoptor, ROV (remotely operated vehicle), SUSA (small unmanned surveillance aircraft) and multiple other terms, depending on country to country and context to context. Drones have recently become the tool of choice for photography.

You have different drones available today. UAV is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that is the most popular while many use ROV or Remotely Operated Vehicles as well. Helicams and Quadcopters are popular today as well.

The development of cameras in drones that has resulted in us being able to take breath taking pictures from the sky has been possible because of three reasons.


castlefromthesky1.Pictures are more real life than ever before

The first one is advances in photography. It has become increasingly easy to photograph objects and people very accurately from considerable distances or at great velocities too. Cameras have developed at an unprecedented pace.

  1. Great battery life

The second thing is the evolution of battery life and technology. You can fly your drones for half an hour easily, if you have bought yourself a high end model, contributing to the unmanned bit.

  1. Easy manoeuvring and control

Finally, flight technology has contributed to making drones popular. From just a piece of technology in fiction novels to multi-usage operations today, drones are becoming increasingly versatile.

A drone has a distinct advantage of being able to get closer to the ground compared to a manned aircraft. They have become a favorite with film-makers. You can monitor the footage live from the ground and make any changes you want instantly. Another thing that is attractive about them is that they are cost effective. A drone operator will charge you less than hiring a helicopter will, so it makes sense to use a drone instead.

The Camera You Need

It is better to get hold of a good quality camera. A GoPro camera can be a good choice. Remember, larger cameras can have batteries that last only for 6 or 7 minutes. The stronger your drone, the more weight it can carry. Octocopters for instance can carry cameras like the Panasonic GH4 or Canon 5D easily. With liger cameras, flight times of around twenty minutes is easily possible.

The new Brushless Type gimbals is a great choice for taking pictures. There are either single or separate pilot and camera setup for controlling the drone. In fact, much of how much a drone costs depends on how good a quality picture it can take.


Things to keep in mind when Flying your Drone

In the UK, certain restrictions and rules have been made regarding filming by drones. You cannot for one, ascend to a height above 400 feet. 400 feet equals 120 meters. You cannot even have a drone more than 500 meters away from its operator while flying

Additionally, it is mandatory that the visibility be at least 5 km. The drone also needs to be in the line of sight of the operator at all times.

Do not fly drones at night, until and unless you get special permission to do so. It is mandatory to get permission from the owner of point from where your drone takes off. There should be more than a 50 meter distance between the drone and any structure or people that are not controlled by the drone operator. This simply means that you are not allowed to catch people unawares or cause any inconvenience. The drone can fly closer to your crew or cast, which is not an issue.

Some other factors may play a part too in your rights to take photography from your phone and fly it.


Drone Legislations and Qualifications that are necessary

Any company that works with drones commercially must have their aircraft registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, otherwise referred to as the CAA. They should also have a permit to fly for aerial work. Permissions documents also show what kind of conditions their pilots are fit to fly under. Before you do decide to use a company, ask to see their permit and permissions, to stay on the safe side.

The Civil Aviation Authority also wants to check if the pilots can demonstrate a minimum level of skill when flying the aircraft. For a PFAW qualification, pilots now have to pass a theory and flight exam, which tests how much they know about the aircraft and UK drone rules.

If you find a company who doesn’t have a permit, it most likely means that their pilots aren’t qualified enough, and you won’t get an ideal result anyway. Pilots who have such a permit have passed a legitimate theory as well as a practical exam that shows their skill in flying a drone, and will give you a good result.

Expert tips

Here are some of the expert tips that will help you if you have bought one amazing drone and are looking to fly it.

 Get insurance. Public liability insurance is the minimum cover you should get, you can get more as per your requirements. However make sure to check the terms and conditions imposed by your insurance provider in fine print, because some of them don’t cover drone insurance in high-risk areas.

– Insure your cameras. If you are using cameras and equipment belonging to the company where you hired the drone from, they are already insured. Make sure to get insurance for your cameras. If you are hiring your cameras from a different camera rental outfit that does not have an association with drones, communicate your purpose to them as their insurance cover might not include drone photography.

– Go in for a shorter camera when possible– Remember this tip – the bigger your camera, the shorter your flight. Get advice from an expert if you aren’t sure about which camera to use. Don’t hesitate to take the opinion of your drone controller, s/he might have such experience.

Top 5 Amateur Drones For Aerial Photography in 2016

Pictures are memories that will be cherished forever. As a result, it is only fair that you take them as professionally as you can afford. While taking photographs on land is easy, you have to be very careful with aerial photography. As a photographer, you will need a drone that will help you with the job without being too troublesome in terms of controls. See below our favourite aerial photography drones for 2016.


ALtaFreefly Alta Drone

The Freefly Alta Drone is one of a kind. It is well thought out and optimally designed for professional photographers out there. This large system folds into a small case that can easily be carried around.

Its precision and power give it a spot among the best drones for aerial photography. You can also easily manoeuvre the drone and thus take splendid photos. The inbuilt GPS and velocity damping feature make it easy to achieve slow and precise moves that enable you to fly very close to the subject.

Even though it has a wind-resistant co-axial system, it is not great in windy conditions. Stiffness settings are also not properly programmed for different payloads. You have to do a lot of guesswork before you settle on gains that will work for you.


dji_phantom_3DJI Phantom 3

This is a professional drone that offers a refined flying experience and state of the art photography. This masterpiece gives you the ability to fly even as an amateur because of its intelligent inflight system. Once it is in the air, you can record 1080p videos and shoot 12 MP photos using its integrated camera. Regardless of how you fly it, the gimbal stabilization system will guarantee you quality results, and you also have real-time access to what the camera is seeing.

While you can take awesome photos with the drone, its battery life is nothing special. The wide angle lens is also not very clear and shows some distortion on the edges of photos taken.



inspireDJI Inspire

This is another monstrous drone from DJI. It is a well-built drone that can take 4K videos. Given that it has a removable camera, you can easily upgrade it if you have something else in mind. You can also use two controllers with it making it easy to pilot and control the camera separately. It is loaded with DJI’s intelligent flight options like Follow Me and autonomous waypoint navigation.

Battery performance is one of the main shortcomings of this drone although you can buy additional batteries. It may be possible to use two controllers, but the controllers ate costly. Lastly, it has limited Android support.


Walkera GPS QR X800

This is a professional level drone that can carry heavy loads. It also gives you limitless options regarding the cameras to use. Whether you have a DLSR or action camera, you are good to go with this drone. It was also designed for portability and comes with GPS.

There is nothing specific to mention when it comes to the cons of this drone although learning advanced controls is not easy. It can also be difficult to fold especially for first-time owners.


Parrot BeBop DroneParrot BeBop Drone

When you need a drone with a camera that can record 1080p videos at 30FPS, look no further than the Parrot BeBop. It may be small, but its fisheye camera can take exquisite panoramic and still shots. It was developed with an anti-vibration algorithm that eliminates shakiness in the pictures takes. With a flight time of about 22 minutes and a maximum speed of 31 mph, this drone can surely help you out as a photographer.

One of its biggest setbacks in the inability to record sound. Furthermore, you can only control it from your phone if it is within 100 metres.

Having a drone for aerial photography completes you as a photographer. Luckily, you can always get this right by investing in any one of these drones.

The History of Aerial Photography

Aerial photography is commonplace today with most people being within sanfranfromabovemoments of being able to source online, high definition satellite photography of almost anywhere on the planet. While satellite technology allows for such incredible resources that once would have been quite incomprehensible, likewise personal drones are now allowing enthusiasts the opportunity to collect real-time images entirely under their own power. Such a combination of logistical efficiency and personal artistic license has long been inherent to the history of aerial photography, and as we shall see even with the massive technological ahistorydvances of recent years humans still like to take a step back and enjoy the ‘birds eye’ view of their world.


The Early Years Of Aerial Photography

Aerial photography was pioneered during the second half of the the nineteenth century with the motives behind it’s progression to stay synonymous with the skill even up to the modern day. In these early days photography was seen very much as a portraiture art – largely of people in their personal settings and only occasionally being used in any regular journalistic or historical context. Frenchman Gaspard-Félix Tournachon is the father of aerial photography when he attached a camera set on timer to take aerial shots of Paris (sadly these no longer exist).


St Paul’s Cathedral

Black & King are accredited with the first surviving aerial images, taken of  Boston in 1860, yet while pioneering the practice was still considered a novelty for occasional penny-postcards. It wasn’t until towards the end of the century when meteorologists, followed closely my military tacticians began to see a greater potential in the practice. As photographic technology improved so too did the means of powering vessels and then powered aircraft to which they could be attached. Kites, followed eventually by early aircraft at the turn of the century started a trend towards the potential of aerial photography that culminated with the first film taken from the air – Rome in 1909.


The Advances Of World War One

WW1 Countryside was covered in shell craters

The often static lines of WW1 lent themselves enormously to the practical application of aerial photography as a means of examining the enemies defensive lines, movement of forces and logistical capabilities. Photography quickly became seen as far superior to rough sketches that pilots would make in their rickety ‘kites’ as they tried to stay in the air while jotting down enemy positions.


Britain led the way in developing the technology an practicalities of making aerial photography clearer and more efficient, yet the Central Powers were never far behind (photographic technology was comparatively easy to harvest and replicate from captured aircraft). Rather than taking photographs from the side or cockpit of the aircraft, specialized planes were developed with cameras fitted underneath allowing for map-like images to be taken directly from above. With enhanced focal power alongside stereoscopic technology that allowed for images to have greater depth and proportion, aerial photography became massively used throughout all the major theaters of the war.


Inter-War Period

By the armistice of 1918 aerial photography had developed from an occasional curiosity to the backbone of contemporary cartography. Huge areas had been surveyed and recorded, and it wasn’t long before many demobilized aircrew were back in civilian employment taking part in huge ventures mapping from the air. Over the next two decades cameras became far more powerful and capable of taking automatically synchronized images that could be pieced back together to form entire maps of regions in very little time.



Aerial view of bombs exploding during a German bombing run over Poland
Aerial view of bombs exploding during a German bombing run over Poland

Once a delicate and temperamental skill aerial photography by now was robust and widespread, providing the absolute backbone of all strategic (and later in the war much tactical) planning. Bombers were fitted with cameras to survey not just the damage that they caused, but also to prove that aircrew had released their bomb load at the correct location. In naval terms it was essential for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare, while on land it was the pivot for the planning of huge and historic operations such as Overlord and – to more controversial success – Market Garden.


AerialphotographyPostwar And New Technologies

Aerial photography – especially from helicopters – and alongside the rise of broadcast news played a major role in the broadcasting of many other conflicts throughout the 20th century. It allowed documentary film makers the opportunity to likewise convey the majesty of the natural world through means which had never been seen before. Overall the culmination of these advances were perhaps the first ever photographs of the Earth taken from orbit and then space – adding a philosophic marvel to aerial photography that perhaps played a degree of homage to the early roots of the art.

Today and as touched upon at the introduction to this piece powerful, small and inexpensive drones allow anyone to be able to take their own photographs from the air of any landscape within range. Cameras are becoming ever more powerful in terms of definition, zoom and stability – while miniaturization allows these devices to become astonishingly light.