* There are people who become curious and want to know more about how this technology can be used to enhance their lives or business.
* There are the people who become paranoid and worry about the repercussions of these new devices.
* There are the early adopters who want to purchase the device right away to experiment with it.
* There are the disinterested people who ignore the technology.
As a photographer who teaches others, I thought I would be the first to try and set our own standard for the use of these devices.
The word "drone"
First of all, lets start with the term drone. I really hate calling these "drones" since that term has such a negative connotation. When we hear the word drone, we usually think of military devices used to spy or attack our enemy. They have many other names for these consumer devices, including octocopters (which have 8 props) and quadcopters (which have 4 props)...but I think we should call these flying cameras.
Regulations and privacy
Agencies around the world are trying to figure out what regulations might be required for these flying cameras. I find it interesting that so many people worry about a "camera in the sky" when we are surrounded by aerial cameras. As we walk down the street, through the mall, around our office park, we are constantly on cameras. If people were really concerned with being on camera, nobody would ever go to Las Vegas! I don't think there is any space in Las Vegas where you are not on camera.
In the mean time, I think that us photographers should do our best to create our own standards. We should not use these to spy on our neighbors or take photos or video in areas where we are not invited. But then again, these are the same rules we should follow with our DSLR cameras. In other words, we should be good citizens, regardless of what camera we are using.
Fly where it is safe
I have been in numerous situations where I am flying my camera over people (like the crowds at the WRC rally in Italy), and I am very careful not to get too close to the people. At home,when I am with friends and family, I will often fly within a couple of feet of them, but I would never do that with strangers.
Where can we use these flying cameras?
Recently I flew my Phantom 2 Vision+ around the Golden Gate Bridge. Before doing so, I searched the Internet to see if there were any restrictions from doing this, and I found nothing. I know that all of the National Parks in the US have banned these flying cameras, probably more for the noise issues than privacy concerns. I am sure that there will be more restrictions to come, as the popularity of these devices increases.
I do know that, in the US, it is illegal to fly once of these devices within a 5 mile range of a major airport.
Demystify the technology
Wherever I fly my Phantom 2, I get a lot of people asking questions about the copter, the camera, the gimbal and the controls.
When flying over the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, I had a lot of people wanting to come over and see what I was seeing on my iPhone display.
Promote the advantages over the disadvantages
We should promote the advantages of this amazing new technology, and try to make people understand that there are more good uses of these flying cameras than bad uses. As a photographer, I love the ability to photograph scenes that were previously impossible or near impossible. Our range of photo opportunities just got so much bigger.
In Sardinia, there are more sheep than people. I wanted to take a photo of sheep to add to my story, but could not get close enough to them to get a decent shot. But with the Phantom, I could fly up and over the field and get a wide shot, previously not possible for me.
And of course, there are the countless other good uses of these flying cameras, like search and rescue, farming, disaster recovery... I personally feel that there are way more positives than negatives when it comes to using these devices.
For now, it sounds like the commercial use of flying cameras is still up in the air (yeah - I just said that). I am personally not sure how this will unfold, as more and more professional photographers and videographers add these to their hardware collection.
Recently, while shooting a wedding, I was asked by the bride and groom if I could take an aerial shot of their wedding. I was happy to do so, with their permission. Now the big question is, can I legally sell them this image or not?
Be creative with this camera like you would any other camera
I have always enjoyed shooting photos that are different from everyone else's. Since adding the Phantom to my collection, I now look at aerial opportunities too. I view the flying camera just like another lens choice. I see the scene that is in front of me, and then determine whether it would be best from the ground (determining the best focal length) or from the air.
So...maybe you are one of the thousands of people who has either purchased a flying camera, or is about to make that purchase. The most important thing is to have fun with these amazing new cameras. Once you have tried one, you will be hooked!
For those of you wondering what aerial equipment I am using, here is my list:
DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (which includes the camera and gimbal)
2 extra batteries (each one lasting approximately 25 minutes)
HPRC Travel Case (with wheels)
3 of the Lexar 32GB 633x microSD cards (which come with a USB 3.0 reader))
If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.