Multicopters are no longer just a small, insignificant branch in photography. Highly developed algorithms in control and sensor technology, compact and at the same time powerful image sensors and reliable gimbal technology have revolutionized the market within a few years. The step of getting a flyable copter nowadays hardly requires any more in-depth basic knowledge of model making. Not least because of this, more than 900,000 semi-professional drones were sold in 2017.
But how do you get the most out of your copter? After a few years in the industry, we would like to share a few recommendations and tips that should make it easier for beginners in particular to use multicopters.
With the new drone ordinance from 2017, the operation of multicopters was uniformly regulated for the first time. It is essential to consider whether the copter is used for leisure or commercial purposes, what it weighs, where exactly you want to fly and whether you are violating personal rights.
You can find an illustrated overview and a detailed description on the website of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). A general and individual permit can be applied for from the responsible state aviation authority in your state.
Get to know the controls at the beginning! The zest for action when unpacking is always great, but a large number of crashes are caused by pilot errors and lack of experience! The leading manufacturers provide a simulator on which you can practice. Here you can also try out which of the four possible assignments on the remote control is the best for you.
Perspectives and possible applications
Top Down is arguably the best-known setting when it comes to drone photography. Here the gimbal is swiveled down by 90 °, whereby the camera points vertically at the subject. This creates a 2-dimensional impression of the motif, which is also the origin of the name “Flatlay”.
This technique is particularly suitable for photographing high-rise buildings or forests, as these are symmetrical to one another and so interesting perspectives are created from the center to the edge.
In landscape photography, just like on the ground, it is advisable to use short focal lengths in order to be able to locate the surroundings as a whole. The combination of low temperatures and high humidity / fog can, however, lead to the copter’s propellers freezing up!
You should therefore always take a look at the weather on site to avoid the risk of falling. Quite a few spots are also in nature reserves where flying may be prohibited.
Images at night, especially of cities, have a very special charm from the air. However, long exposure times have to be used here, which is why good camera stabilization and a low-vibration drone are essential in order to obtain an acceptably sharp and at the same time correctly exposed image. Especially the latest generation of DJI copters achieve very good results and exposure times of up to 2s can be achieved without any problems.
Image format and sensor utilization
The apps of the drone manufacturers often offer the option to change the format of the photos. Find out in the technical data sheet of your copter what format your sensor has and choose this aspect ratio for your pictures. This is the only way to use the entire sensor and get the maximum out of your copter – you can then still crop afterwards.
Iris and ND filter for drones
If your multicopter has a variable aperture, you have another option in addition to the ISO and shutter speed to regulate the amount of light that hits the sensor. In various tests, however, it was found that with strongly closed apertures, the sharpness suffers particularly in the edge area.
For small sensors as well as for Micro-Four-Thirds sensors, a value around F4 is recommended for the best results. If this leads to an overexposed image, the use of ND filters (gray filters) will help you to reduce the amount of light. These are available for almost every copter model from the manufacturer directly or from third parties. Here it is worth spending a little more to avoid unwanted color falsifications.
Battery care and use
Almost without exception every copter today flies with LiPo batteries (lithium polymer). Compared to older battery generations, these are characterized by a high cell voltage and capacity with low weight. This means that flight times of over half an hour are possible.
The disadvantage of this battery technology, however, is its susceptibility to temperature, mechanical impact and overcharging. At low temperatures, the chemical processes in the batteries run more slowly than normal, which is why their voltage drops and your copter can crash.
In the event of external damage or overcharging, the battery can catch fire or even explode. Therefore, it is essential to find out about the proper use of your batteries and, for example, think about preheating your batteries in winter.
We hope that we were able to give you a small impression of drone photography with this article and look forward to your opinions in the comments.