Wed | Jan 23, 2019

Drone's eye-view

Published:Sunday | March 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM
A drone’s eye view of Emancipation Park.
Another view of 550 DJI Drone mounted with gyro stabilised go-pro camera.
The creator and the creation...Zomian Thompson with 550 DJI Drone.
An AR Drone 2.0, which forms the basis of Zomian Thompson’s pursuits.
Zomian Thompson with Phantom autonomous flying wing drone.
Star Wars comes to town...550 DJI Drone mounted with gyro stabilised go-pro camera.
550 DJI drone mounted with gyro stabilised go-pro camera.
The heart and soul of the action ... console to control the drone.

There was a pinhole that evolved into monochrome, colour, and at the dusk of the 20th century capturing memories became digitalised. Photography has, over the decades, gone through a metamorphosis, with film rolls becoming extinct and millions of pixels vying to be packed in the mere space of an inch.

Now fly in the drones, no ... not the dreaded machines known to track down insurgents, but the rotary-blade remote-controlled flying machines that are giving a different perspective of life - from an elevation.

Zomian Thompson grew up making toys for himself, which meant experimenting with making toy cars to anything that would spike his interest.

"I was not brought up in a wealthy family," Thompson recalled. "I was always looking at ways to build my own devices, which included styrofoam aeroplane ... which didn't fly well."

As a youngster, he said, he was always interested in electronics and learning how things worked.


natural transition


So, it was a natural transition to be gravitated to the drone, for a youngster whose love of mechanised technology made him experiment with home appliances to mobile-enabled car-alarm systems.

The aborted flight of the first styrofoam aeroplane was always a catalyst.

"The desire to build a flying device never left, however, and my venture was made easier by the commercialisation of flight controllers," Thompson said. Complemented with that, the ease of accessing technology and equipment made life easier for this electronics enthusiast.

Armed with a spirit of innovation, with help from the World Wide Web, Thompson started building quadcopters, remote-controlled flying machines that had the ability to be static in suspension, like helicopters.

"At that time, there wasn't any one source that could give comprehensive information on how to build one," he said. "So I had to experiment, which was a costly but successful venture."

Then came Phantom, the flying camera, which changed the game for aerial photography. Technology was at the fingertips of those who wanted literally and figuratively, to 'fly high'. But this space age, science fictionesque machine has to be meticulously controlled, and with prohibitive costs to source a built-up drone, innovation again is the key.


choosing a drone


"When choosing a drone for photography, first you have to consider what kind of camera you are hoping to carry, a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera may need a large drone; which is cumbersome and will lead to very little flight time," Thompson said.

"Something with a smaller camera may be best," he advised.

The heart of the matter is in the console, with all the adrenaline-pumping controls, lifting off, guiding and navigating the drone.

"You have to be aware where you are flying the drone, if the area is populated, and if there is an event you are covering, flying with a large drone may be risky," Thompson said.

Like any flight plan, safety checks and a reconnaissance of the surroundings is necessary.

"If there are any obstacles, structures, and electrical poles, etc, on the path the drone has to fly to be checked," he said. He added, "The main prep for shooting is maintenance checks on the device to make sure it is safe to fly."


panorama view


Drone photography adds panorama to a normal view, and has use beyond recreation. "I see (drones) as an asset to different entities, for environment sustenance, law enforcement, search and rescue, etc."

But, Thompson stops short of classifying this technology as an artform by itself.

"I consider this (the drone) as a means for artists to extend their reach to areas and views previously unreachable," he said.

Already companies, internationally, are experimenting with the drones for delivering goods; maybe one day it might be a means of transportation for short distances ... who knows? Till then, we can savour the vista it provides.