Highway Dreams

Travelling Australia

Aerial Photography with a DJI Phantom 1 + GoPro

DJI Phantom Drone

During our travels, like anyone we love getting creative with our camera and capturing the places we visit. We recently came across a new way (maybe not new but definitely a more realistic and affordable way for us) of taking photos and capturing video from the air- a brand new perspective of recording our travels and a great way for us to get creative it’s also damn good fun to fly! A DJI Phantom.

So what is it?

Its called a Phantom Quadcopter and is made by DJI Innovations. A 4-propped, battery operated, radio controlled UAV. (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)- some will liken them to a drone, but I don’t!

What does it do?

The DJI Phantom quadcopter allows us to mount a GoPro Hero3 Action-cam to the body and control the quad via a 2.4ghz RC controller. Whilst in flight we can record in various modes and take still shots from the air.

The Phantom is special in respect to it having a very clever GPS system that controls the position and stability of the quad. An inbuilt compass and smart computer-like processor can hold the quad in a position at a set altitude. The GPS will control the motors to help hold the unit still and compensate for any cross winds that would usually interfere with its position.

In the event of signal loss from the remote the DJI Phantom has a very clever ‘fail-safe’ feature where the quad will return and land at the position where it started from (the ‘home’ position).

 

Legally we can fly it to a maximum height of 400ft (but it can go higher). Privacy rules do apply to its application for filming in public places and because of its 4 powerful propellers it can be quite dangerous if it was to crash in a crowd. We intend to use it only in isolated areas and in places where we think it wont be a risk of injuring someone.

How do we get the photos and videos to be still and straight?

When the GoPro is hard mounted to the body, as the quad ’tilts’ during flight or because of the effect of wind- the horizon becomes crooked. This is a huge pain when trying to frame up a nice photo.

We installed what is called a ‘Gimbal’. this clever unit has a 2 axis pivot system controlled by 2 brushless motors. A sensor is attached above the GoPro that reads the gyro (angles etc) of the camera. when it detects a slight change in tilt (left to right) or roll (front to back) it instantly compensates to hold the camera perfectly horizontal regardless of the angles of the Quad.

We also installed an adjustable knob on the controller which allows me to tilt the camera from 180 degrees (straight ahead) to 90 degrees (directly below). This way I can control the cameras position even during flight.

When we started we had no idea how expensive this hobby can be- we have already looked at getting more batteries (we only get a 10min flight time from a battery) and installing a small LCD display on the remote which will receive vision from the GoPro whilst in flight. This will help us see what we are filming and will ensure we will get that ‘perfect shot’.

To see more of these visit the DJI WEBSITE

We are still very new at flying the quad. With practice I’m sure our photos and videos will get better. Until then, I’m just going to keep on having ball flying it!

DJI Phantom Aerial Photography

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