Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs, which are sometimes referred to as drones, are becoming commonplace in the video industry.
Shots taken from them are making their way into every day television, and especially YouTube videos, as well as into movies.
They’re also a highly discussed item in many countries as users and authorities struggle with who has the right to use UAVs, where they can be used, and under what circumstances. In the United States, that fight is happening in courtrooms.
But that’s another story for another time. Here, let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is that you can fly these UAVs into tight spaces that would cause a fatal accident if a Hollywood helicopter were to try it. Some of the smaller camera-capable UAVs that are no longer than your forearm and hand, you can shoot High Definition video from a gyro-stabilized mount that compensates for shaking from the wind, and from you suddenly adjusting the controls. You get a smooth shot, without having to fly smoothly.
You can even see the video beaming back down live as you fly the helicopter, allowing you to know what shots you are getting. If you need a quick aerial, you can be out of your car and flying in minutes.
UAVs have far-reaching applications outside of the video industry. They can be flowing up and over debris and into areas of destruction to send back live video immediately to an operator who can look for people who might need to be rescued. A fire commander can immediately assess the danger of a brush fire by launching a UAV, and police could quickly fly the remote camera around and even into a building, showing them what they need to see, without putting any personnel in harm’s way.
The disadvantages of UAVs are, they are limited by battery life to much shorter flights than a conventional passenger carrying small plane or helicopter, and they can easily get lost or damaged. One of the reasons that can happen is interference, or a software or hardware issue. Another reason is pilot error. While the same principles of flight that apply to a passenger helicopter also apply to a UAV, UAV pilots don’t require the pilot training that passenger helicopter pilots do. So there is a greater chance of pilot error causing a crash. For the light weight UAVs the size of an arm, that’s much less likely to cause injury, death, or property damage, even if you do end up destroying your UAV. But with the larger flight vehicles the size of a smart car, which are lifting a camera rig the weight of a bowling ball and flying at 25 miles an hour, a crash could cause injury or death.
In the Courts
So lets get back to that courtroom battle over UAV use. Is it necessary to hammer out some rules and regulations? I’d say from my perspective of someone who flies UAVs, yes. There certainly should be some restrictions. But I’ll let someone else work out that deal. I’m off to go fly.