UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Aerial Photography Using UAS Soars Outside U.S.

April 6, 2015 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

Small Drones, Big Jobs.

A Coptercam unmanned mini helicopter operates with a a video camera. (Photo courtesy Coptercam via Facebook)

A Coptercam unmanned mini helicopter operates with a a video camera.
(Photo courtesy Coptercam via Facebook)

While the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration slowly opens up parts of the national airspace to unmanned aircraft for commercial use,  unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) elsewhere in the world are providing unique aerial views of migrating wildlife, bridges needing structual inspection and sprawling sporting events.

UAS operated by news organizations were used to capture images of the massive pro-democracy crowds demonstrating in Hong Kong last year. They are also used by industry to supervise remote logging and mining operations in Canada and monitor banana plantations in Costa Rica.

Your 4GWAR editor has a story in the March issue of AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems magazine. You can see it by clicking here. Some of the small UAS mentioned in the article were demonstrated at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last year at the Unmanned Systems 2014 conference sponsored by AUVSI, the robotics industry trade group. This year’s AUVSI expo is in Atlanta in May.

In Australia, Coptercam, one of the first companies Down Under to provide aerial video and still photography using a UAS, flies its custom-built unmanned mini helicopters to take video and still photos for architects, real estate agents, advertising agencies as well as television and documentary film crews.

Starting in the Western Australian city of Perth in 2011, the company has expanded operations to Sydney on Australia’s East Coast, as well as Melbourne and Adelaide. Coptercam operates a small fleet of eight-rotor octocopters with a maximum takeoff weight of 26.4 pounds (12 kilograms).  A three axis camera gimbal system can carry cameras like the Sony NEX-7, Canon 5D Mark III and Blackmagic Design’s cinema and production cameras.

Chief pilot and co-founder Hai Tran says he first strapped a Sony handycam to the bottom of his radio controlled helicopter for fun in 1999 “but it didn’t work very well.” He kept at it, however, and in 2011 he obtained an Unmanned Air Vehicle Controller Certificate and started Coptercam.

Click here to see a video shot by Coptercam of a 2014 pro surfing competition at Bell’s Beach, Australia. (Editor’s advice: if you’re wearing headphones, you might want to turn the volume down before viewing).

While Australia permits commercial operators to fly UAS, the requirements are pretty rigorous. Like many commercial operators in the States, Tran complains that hobbyists and amateurs flying radio-controlled unmanned aircraft, face fewer restrictions on where and when they can fly their UAS.

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Entry filed under: Aircraft, News Developments, Technology, Unmanned Aircraft, Unmanned Systems. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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