Aerial photography using drones flying at very low altitudes and at slow speeds has put the perspective from an aerial view within reach of almost anyone. Until recently the only way to obtain this kind of filming and photography was in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, or perhaps using cameras mounted on expensive booms. Aside from the cost of such filming, piloted aircraft also have the disadvantage of being unable to fly slow and low around, between, and even under the obstacles that might surround a house, hotel, or historic landmark. Drones have made it comparatively easy and affordable to achieve impressive results.
Drone technology has developed rapidly and continues to evolve and at the same time the cost of multirotor craft has dropped. This has put them in reach of not just small photographic businesses, but also amateurs who want to experiment with aerial photography. These GPS enabled devices are capable of maintaining a fixed altitude and position even in a strong breeze. Some can be programmed to fly a pre-programmed course of waypoints, pausing at each so that the operator can concentrate more on the filming than on the flying. Improvements in battery technology have increased the flying time, and programming that detects loss of control signal provides a failsafe function which flies the drone back to its take-off point where it will land, all on auto pilot.
However, aerial photography using drones is just one their uses. The number of applications is increasing in proportion with the developments in the technology. UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) are being used in agriculture, disaster relief, SAR (Search and Rescue), environmental surveys, wildlife monitoring, anti-poaching efforts, scientific surveys, structural surveys, mapping, surveillance in hazardous areas, and many other fields. If the work is dull, dirty, or dangerous then there’s probably a way in which a drone could be used to save time, money, effort, and the risk of injury to a human operator. Drones are no longer confined to military use and the term, drones, has entered common parlance as the generic term that describes all remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles whether they are used by hobbyists, professional photographers, or the military. This is due in part to the use of the term by the designers and manufacturers, and the quick adoption of it by the world’s media.
Aerial Thermal Imagery
Drones that can carry a video camera can also carry other payloads and one of the most useful alternatives is a thermal camera. Thermal cameras can be used for a variety of purposes;
- Inspection of solar panels, looking for hotspots where components may have failed
- Household and factory roof inspection, looking for warm or hotspots that could be better insulated
- Industrial complex inspections, looking for steam or other hot vapour leaks
- Livestock counting on farms
- Searching for lost livestock, pets, or persons