UAV Photography Introduction & Applications

Aerial photography has been around since 1858 when a French photographer took photographs of Paris from a balloon; since then aerial photographs have been captured from kites, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, rockets and satellites.  The latest advance in aerial photography uses a type of model aircraft, a UAV, fitted with a camera.

The Bakehouse Aerial Photography Drone in action

The Bakehouse Aerial Photography Drone in action

UAV photography uses an unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with still and/or video cameras to capture aerial views. UAVs, popularly known as drones, fly using multiple rotors (multi-rotors) and come in several different designs. One such design is the hexacopter; equipped with six motors and propellers it makes the ideal platform for shooting using expensive professional still and video cameras. In the case of a motor failure the pilot is still able to control and land the aircraft.

Hexacopters are versatile flying machines. In the hands of a qualified pilot, who controls them using radio control, they can approach objects closely and zoom up to 400 feet in the air, the legal maximum.  They can also hover for extended periods at low altitude. They are equipped with video cameras that transmit a live video signal to a receiver on the ground so that the images can be composed remotely before they are shot. Typically battery life restrictions limits flights to around 15 minutes between battery changes. 

While conventional aerial photography using manned fixed wing aircraft and helicopters is prohibitively expensive for all but high end projects, drone photography is affordable and available to many different business and other activities. It can really make a difference and add considerable value. It has applications in public and private events and promotions, and is an important research tool. UAV photography can achieve angles that are not feasible using other techniques.  Below we summarise some important applications. 

Places where aerial photography makes a difference

There are many places where a bird’s eye view can make a real difference to your business, especially now that UAV photography is so affordable. 

  • Aerial Inspection - drones can be flown to precise locations, which make it easy to carry out detailed inspection of roofs, chimneys and other structures to assess if they need maintenance or repair. It is generally much cheaper with drones than with traditional techniques such as using mobile elevated platforms.
  • Marketing – aerial photographs and aerial videos can make a big impact on your promotional material. Whether an aerial image of your hotel, an aerial video tour of your theme park or golf course, or scenic views of the surrounding countryside, all can be affordably captured using a drone.
  • Construction – drones are gaining popularity in the construction industry where aerial photography can be used for site surveys and monitoring overall progress of major construction projects. Projects can be documented over time to provide a complete record of every stage of the work.
  • Real-estate – aerial photographs of individual properties and new build estates can be a great tool for estate agents, giving potential buyers an entirely new perspective and make your estate agent business stand out from the crowd by adding a truly professional touch to your brochures and online images. 
  • Archaeological research – archaeological UAV photography has been used by university research groups to survey important archaeological sites and digs and has played a key role in several important discoveries.
  • Family events – drones have the potential provide a whole new perspective on recording important family events such as weddings and special parties. Shooting part of your wedding video and stills from the air can add a whole new dimension, making a stunning visual impact on your record the most important events in your life.  
  • News media – UAV photography is a great way of capturing live events for reporting to news media, subject to the appropriate legal constraints outlined below.     

Drone Photography and the Law

While the increasing popularity of drones is to be welcomed, there are potential problems that relate to public safety and privacy. No-one is permitted to fly drones without regard to the rules. As a business you have certain responsibilities for the actions of your contractors, so it is important to use a drone operator who is entirely compliant with the latest regulations. 

safe legal aerial photography

In the UK safety regulations stipulate:

  • The pilot is legally responsible for the safe conduct of the flight
  • People and property must not be endangered.
  • The drone must be kept in visual line of sight of the pilot and can only be flown in daylight hours. 
  • It mustn’t be flown within 150 metres of congested areas or open air groups of people of more than 1,000 individuals. 
  • It mustn’t be flown within 50 metres of any vehicle or person apart from takeoff and landing.
  • Maximum flying height is 400 feet 
  • Any photographer who uses a drone commercially must have prior permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). This can only be obtained by people who have passed a practical and theoretic exam on flying small unmanned aircraft. 

Additionally all images collected are subject to the Data Protection Act as it applies to their collection, storage and use for commercial purposes. Drone photography laws are still in a state of flux so these rules could change in the future.

Finally

Drones can add a new dimension to commercial photography. Whether you are looking for a stunning eye in the sky view of your wedding or you wish to use aerial photography for your construction projects, marketing or real estate business, with a drone it becomes not only possible, but affordable too. Drone photography is both cheaper and more versatile than alternatives such as cherry pickers and conventional (manned) aerial photography. You can also capture angles that are not available using other methods. 

Currently there are few licensed UAV photographers in the UK; in fact we are the first aerial film and photography company working in East Yorkshire. It is important to use only licensed operators otherwise you could compromise public safety and be held responsible under the law. 

Ben O'Leary

Bakehouse Studio Ltd, Hull, HU5 3DT, United Kingdom