A major photography development over the past few years has been in the genre of ‘Drone Photography’. Resembling a remote-controlled toy, using drones are fun as well as revolutionary. Lately, the drone camera prices have reduced in sync with the demand and today getting a camera in the air is an absolutely easy job along with a first-person view.
Aerial Photography by drone camera allows images, audio, and video to be captured which might seem impossible for human photographers and videographers. This capacity of the drones is apparently determined by their flight abilities, their size, and their ability to bear harsh environments. There are various drone camera sizes and designs, which include a fixed-wing with a propeller or jet engine, along with many rotor-based designs.
Why has Drone Photography grown mainstream?
By saying that drone photography has become mainstream, it does not imply that it has become mundane. Today, the aerial photographs on social media will give us the feeling of seeing planet Earth for the first time and in a different light, such as the impact of drone photography. You might wonder, what led to the sudden development of drone photography, well, it is not sudden but definitely a predictable development.
The few predictable reasons as to why drone photography has become mainstream-
i) Flying cameras are becoming simpler to operate.
ii) The images resulting out of drone photography is absolutely unique and different from what we had seen earlier.
iii) Operating a drone camera is thrilling, addictive, and fun.
Even three years ago, drone cameras used to take, blurred, shaky images due to a poor lens, cyan overtones, props within the frame, too much digital noise and a tilted horizon. But today, drone photography has indeed come a long way.
Drones available in India & their prices
Unfortunately, flying drones in India was not legal until recent times. India’s aviation regulator has published a set of new rules which makes flying drone cameras in India legal starting December 2018.
Here is a list of some of the best drone cameras along with drone camera prices that are available in India-
i) DJI Phantom 4
The DJI Phantom 4 model is the latest and solely for a professional photographer. It comes with 12 megapixels camera which is capable of recording 4k videos at 30fps and full HD videos at 120fps. The camera comes with a sealed camera gimbal along with an aluminium casing to offer stability when shooting aerial videos. It uses dual Imus and dual compass for better reliability. Better landing is ensured by dual sonar sensors and dual optical sensors. DJI Phantom 4 is definitely not cheap, but its features totally justify the price.
DJI Phantom 4 price in India:
ii) DJI Mavic Pro
The DJI Mavic Pro model is for professional photographers as well as travel photographers. The size of this drone is comparatively smaller but it offers an excellent experience. This model is capable of shooting cinematic 4K and can capture shots at 12.7 megapixels. It has a 3-axis gimbal which keeps the camera stable and can hover for 24 minutes.
The DJI Mavic Pro model price in India:
iii) DJI Mavic Air
The DJI Mavic Air model is dedicated to travel photographers as well as beginners. This is a small drone but it is capable of 4K video recording. It is also capable of capturing 12 megapixel still shots and supports 1080p 120fps slow-motion video recording. Its 8 GB internal storage can store 32 MP Sphere Panoramas. The DJI Mavic Air comes with a joystick controller which offers intelligent flight modes and has a Robust obstacle avoidance system.
DJI Mavic Air price in India:
iv) DJI Spark
The DJI Spark model can also be used by both travel photographers as well as beginners. This model is relatively cheaper and offers smartphone control. It has 12 megapixels camera which uses mechanical stabilization, it also has features like gesture control and obstacle detection. It comes with lots of intelligent flight modes and offers excellent flight performances. But, it is not capable of 4K recording and low battery backup is another drawback. The device is capable of only 12 minutes of flight time.
DJI Spark price in India:
v) DJI Tello
The DJI Tello model is for beginners. This is a cheaper option for those who do not want to invest much. It is controlled by a smartphone and is really compact and easily transportable. It features a 5 megapixels HD camera which can record 720p videos. The device is capable of going 50 metres above sea level and can hover for around 13 minutes.
DJI Tello price in India:
vi) Survey UAV Drone
Survey UAV Drone has made a positive impact on different industries today. It has a range of 25 to 30 m. The camera resolution is around 12 MP and the maximum speed is 40 mph (65 kph) in sports mode without wind.
Survey UAV Drone price in India:
Rs. 15 lakh/ piece.
vii) DJI Carbon Fibre Mavic 2 Pro
Camera range: 30 to 35 m
Flight time: 31 minute
Frequency range: 2.4 to 5.8
Obstacle Sensing: Omnidirectional
SD Card: Inbuilt 8Gb.
DJI Carbon Fibre Mavic 2 Pro price in India:
Rs. 1.02 lakh/ piece.
viii) Drone Full HD Camera
Flying Time: 10 min
Control Distance: 100m
Plugs Type: USB
Charging Time: 70-80 min
Control Battery: 4 Xaa Battery
Drone Full HD Camera price in India:
Rs. 15,000/ piece.
ix) Military Drone 100 km Range ICARUS XXL
1 hour + Fly time
100 Km + Radius
Autonomous Mode Available along with Night Thermal Camera setup.
Military Drone 100 km Range ICARUS XXL price in India:
Rs. 16 lakh/ piece
x) Mi 4K Drone
Battery: 5100mah 17. 4V
Flying Time: 25 mins
With pointing flight feature, the drone can fly to any point that you touch.
Mi 4K Drone price in India:
Rs. 45,000/ set.
xi) FQ777 Wifi 2.4 G 6 Axis Gyro Drone
Frequency: 2.4 GHz
Battery Capacity: 7.4 V 500mah
FQ777 Wifi 2.4 G 6 Axis Gyro Drone price in India:
xii) JXD Tracker Drone With Camera and App
Camera technology: Digital Camera
Battery Backup: 10 mins
Frequency ranges: 100 Mtr
Camera Range: 30 to 35 M
Pixel: 2 Mp
JXD Tracker Drone With Camera and App price India:
Rs. 6,000/ piece
xiii) PATRIOT- S8
Camera Range: 25 to 30 M
SD Card: 8 Gb Sandisk Class 10
Video Resolution: 4k
PATRIOT- S8 price in India:
Rs. 1.5 lakh/ piece
xiv) Carbon Fibre Hexacopter Drone
Flips and tricks: 306 Degree
Remote Control: 2.4ghz
Flying height: 100-120 metres
Carbon Fibre Hexacopter Drone Price in India-
Rs. 65,000/ number
xv) National Geographic Quadcopter Drone Camera
Controlling range: 8 km
Pixel: 16 Mp, 4K full HD
Brand: Sky Art
National Geographic Quadcopter Drone Camera price in India:
Rs. lakh/ piece.
Drones & their classification-
There are various drones depending on the number of propellers they have, their weight, and also the features they have. According to these, we can divide the drones into three categories-
What is their weight?
i) Nano/ Mini Drones:
These are the smallest category of drones many of which would easily fit into our palms. They would weigh 250 grams or less and are the most preferred throughout the world. They carry a camera on board and are the most widely manufactured ones. The maximum height of a nano drone is 35 meters, which also depends on the brand. Many Chinese manufacturers sell nano drones in India via online shopping media.
Nano drones are not very expensive and can be bought for Rs. 1,500. One of the most famous mini-drones in the market is DJI Tello, which can be purchased online for Rs. 12,000. Flying a nano drone does not require any special permission.
Microdrones which generally weigh between 250 grams to 2 Kg are gradually growing in the market and are used for multimedia purposes. These drones can be navigated easily and can go up to 200 metres. Microdrones need to be registered and you need to inform the local police station 24 hours earlier.
iii) Small drones:
Small drones are also growing in popularity and is used by most of the professional filmmakers. It can technically reach a height of up to 400 feet in the air and can be 2 metres or bigger.
Some high-end drones like DJI Phantom 4 Pro, DJI Mavic Pro can even cost over Rs. 1 lakh in India. There are many brands like Parrot Bebop 2 or Xiaomi Mi which is available under Rs. 50,000.
iv) Medium drones:
Medium size drones weigh between 25 Kg to 150 Kg and can easily go over 6,000 feet in the air but are difficult to operate. They are usually used by the government for defence and the entertainment industry.
v) Large drones:
Anything weighing more than 150 Kg falls under this category and mostly have fixed winged and devoid of rotors. Large drones are neither portable nor easy to operate so it is useless to buy one. These are mainly used by the defence forces.
How many propellers they have?
Propellers and rotors are the most important part of any drone. They help in giving the machine a flight and help in its navigation and keep it moving in the air until the battery dies up. Drones are classified on the basis of multiple rotors-
i) Single rotor/ Helicopter-
ii) Three rotor/ Tricopter-
iii) Four rotor/ Quadcopter-
iv) Six rotor/ Hexacopter-
v) Eight rotor/ Octocopter-
How high can they go?
Drones can be categorised on the distance they cover-
i) Very close range: 500 metres or 20 minutes in the air.
ii) Close range: Up to 6 kilometres or 6 hours in the air.
iii) Short range: Up to 50 kilometres or 12 hours in the air.
iv) Mid-range: Up to 650 kilometres or 12 hours in the air.
Drone Laws in India
Flying a drone in India, according to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, India’s national aviation authority is now legal. But, it is always advisable to know the rules beforehand. The Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) of the country was first declared by India’s Director General of Civil Aviation on 27th August 2018 and came into effect 1st December 2018 onwards.
Foreigners are restricted from flying drones in India. To fulfil their commercial purposes they would have to lease their drone to an Indian who would get the Unique Identification Number (UIN) and UAOP from DGCA.
India’s rule of No Permission, No Takeoff
Whenever any pilot is about to fly a drone camera, they need to request permission to fly via a mobile app, which will automatically approve or reject the request. This system in India is known as “No Permission, No Takeoff” (NPNT). If any pilot tries to fly without permission from the Digital Sky Platform, they will simply not be able to take off.
For further information on India’s Drone Laws, view the document of rules from DGCA.
Tips for Drone photography-
No matter if you are a pro in handling drone photography or just planning to begin one, there are certain things that should take care of. Here are some of the drone photography tips that one should keep in mind while using a drone camera-
Choose a drone based on your skill and need:
Go on to Google and search “drone”, you’ll be amazed to see the number of drones actually available. But, do you need all of ‘em? There are two most common types of drone that you can choose from- with a built-in or onboard camera and the one with which you can attach a camera of your own.
Drones with a built-in camera are usually larger and do not have a very high-resolution which would lead you to compromise with your image quality. While smaller drones, such as GoPro where you can attach your own camera would help you easily manage the device, only you need to know how to fly.
Another important aspect to keep in mind is ‘how well can you fly a drone’? For beginners or amateur photographers, lighter, sturdier, and cheaper drones are available. They are not very expensive since they have fewer features. Hence, look for a drone that would match your skill.
Also, you must know, what your drone is capable of doing. For instance, some drones can only be operated indoors, some are equipped with lighting which is helpful for shooting at night, while some can fly for a long distance. You need to decide what you want to do with your drone. Check out the features carefully before choosing one.
2. Go through the instruction manual carefully:
Reading an instruction manual is not very interesting, but if you want to completely nail the drone photography techniques, you ought to understand the instructions well. While these features vary for different brand and type, some of the common features are-
i) Understand your drone- Different drones come with different features which help to optimize the features. It will make sure you shoot efficiently with your drone.
ii) Smartphone Mode- The smartphone feed is a great tool for beginners as it allows you to check exactly what the drone is capturing and where is it going, thus, increasing the chances of a marvellous shot.
iii) Smart Mode- The Smart Mode is also known as “beginner mode”. This tool helps newbies to make the most out of their shots. For instance, on a windy day, your photos would not give the feeling that they were caught up in an earthquake, the smart mode will help in stabilisation to counter this.
iv) Tracking Mode- Some of the drones have a ‘follow-me’ option. It combines with your smartphone’s GPS and helps you take the perfect photo. Also, you can have yourself in every shot with this technology. You just need to turn on the ‘follow-me’ option and put the phone in your pocket. Your drone will make sure that you are in every frame.
v) Geofence Mode- The Geofence mode will restrict the distance and height that your drone should fly in. Basically, it locks your drone in an invisible boundary and the moment you try to go beyond it, you would land into trouble.
These features again come with varying options- while to some they are useful, to some they are absolutely useless. You need to match your drone’s potential according to the features available.
Understand the rules of the venue:
You simply cannot afford to miss this one. Just because many people have got drones today, there has also been a lot of developments in the rules and regulations concerned about where, how, and who can use a drone. For instance, in the USA, drones between 0.55 and 55 lbs require to be registered under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which implies, before the aircraft is taken to the sky, the device must be known.
Also, there are restrictions as to where one can fly a drone. For obvious reasons, drones cannot be flown around other aircraft or aerial objects, so airports and nearby areas are a big no-no.
Some laws and regulations are obvious and easy while some might be difficult to understand-especially the ones regarding fines. Hence, the best thing to do is to take time and check the legality of drones before launching the camera.
You know what your drone can do, you also know where you can fly it, now it’s time to get your device in the air, right? No, wrong. It is always advisable to first go for a trial flight. It will ensure you have everything that you need before you fly. Not only that, but people around you and your drone will be safe too.
Before you begin, these are the things that you need to check:
i) Fly Zone- The place where you are going to fly the device, is it private or public?
ii) Weather- Is the weather suitable? Do you need to use anti-stabilizations because of the wind?
iii) Surroundings- How many people will be there during the decided time? Will it be safe to fly low or should you go higher? Will the people mind if a drone keeps hovering over their head?
iv) Battery- Are all the batteries fully charged? How long will you be able to stay in the air?
v) Settings- What resolutions are required? What brightness will be suitable? What should be the frame rate, shutter speed? Which ISO is best for what you want to achieve in your photos?
vi) Propellers- How are the propellers looking? Are they nice and straight, or you need to replace them?
vii) Motor- What about the motors and the mounts? Are the motors rotating freely? Are the motors making any unrecognisable sound? Check the screws.
viii) Controls- Are you using a smartphone or tablet, is it ready to go for your flight? Have you turned off other apps? Is the device fully charged? Are you using a remote control? Is it charged? Is your drone responding to the remote?
It would be a really foolish decision if you have not to test driven your drone. You cannot spend your time and money on a drone and end up losing control and watching it plunge straight to the ground. Do not forget to test drive your drone.
Every drone is different and they all fly differently. It is better to take your drone out on a field or park where there won’t be much crowd or private buildings, or vehicles. It will help you get control of your device and reduce the risk of breaking or damaging the drone.
Drone flying is just about ‘practice till perfection’.
Learn drone photography techniques:
What is the point in travelling to some amazing locations and returning home with a weirdly-framed, blurred photo? There is an art to capture beautiful photos which can be learnt only with time and testing.
A few tips that you can keep in mind are-
i) Do not forget the basics- Often we tend to forget the basic fundamentals of photography while we are advancing further, but it is still applicable in the field of drone photography. To learn the art like a pro it is very important to know the basic rules like the rule of thirds, golden ratio and leading lines.
ii) Look for symmetry & patterns- While you are up in the air, keep searching for an interesting blend of colours, shapes, and repetition. Trust me, you will get some iconic aerial photographs.
iii) Keep it simple- Simplicity is the key to some amazing composition of photographs. Thus, look for a simple and natural blend of subjects to form amazingly incredible shots.
iv) Go slow and stable- Some drones are much stable these days with long exposures, and that is why capturing the subject in motion becomes much easier.
v) Play with light- All photographers know that light plays a very important role while photographing. Similarly, the right amount of light could be a huge advantage for drone photographers. For instance, clicking a picture at a particular time during the day can create beautifully striking patterns of long shadows.
Post-processing your photos:
A major part of drone photography depends on post-production to make it shine like anything. Be it colour correcting or editing some of the shots, that is exactly on what depends on the photographs. But, editing drone photos require much learning and practice. So, even if you are an editing expert, editing drone photos is an entirely new skill to be adapted. You can try different editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom to get the desired outcome.
Do not forget the essential add-ons:
Drone cameras, just like any other cameras have different add-ons that can be used to improve the quality of the photos or any other setting.
i) Batteries- This is a big limitation, drones do not have the longest battery life. An average drone would fly for about 10 minutes while a high-end drone would fly for 20-25 minutes. You cannot spend most of your time by not getting the perfect shot. Thus, keeping a spare battery becomes very very essential.
ii) Propeller guards- What could be the worst nightmare for an aspiring drone photographer? Though it is nothing uncommon, crashing your drone or getting it stuck into things would not only damage the device but also cause great damage to your dream. Thus, you should get propeller guards that would be less damaging for your drone and also for yourself.
iii) Extra propellers- Propellers could be fragile as well as removable, so they have high chances of getting lost. While you are still in the learning period, keeping propellers handy would ensure you are always on the running.
iv) Extra SD card- How can you miss on the hero of the story? Imagine all things are set and you are about to click the perfect shot when your SD card fills up. Sad, isn’t it? As it is drone shots consume a lot of memory space- a 2-minute 4k video would take up around 1 GB. No matter how much space you have in your SD card, keeping extras ready would only be beneficial.
i) Drone landing pad- A drone landing pad would make sure that your device does not land onto something that would be harmful to it.
ii) LED Lights- There can be chances that you lose your drone in the dark. LED lights will not only give your device a nice look but also you will be able to keep a constant track of your drone.
Stick to a lower ISO:
Drone cameras usually have low sensors which do not work well at high ISO settings. Some devices end up producing undesired noise if the ISO is set more than 100. While shooting at daytime ample lighting would be available and using high ISO settings would not be required.
While shooting on windy or shady places try keeping a slow shutter speed to let in more light and be able to maintain the lowest ISO for clean and sharp pictures.
Be ready to improvise:
As a photographer, you need to know how to tackle unexpected and difficult situations. The weather might go topsy-turvy, the venue you chose might be declared off-limits, for situations like this, you need to know what to do. Often you could take advantage of the situations to get an unexpected photograph, better than what you would have imagined.
Use panoramic shots to get higher resolution images:
Drone cameras have low megapixel count which makes their photo resolution low. Thus, for a wealth of image details, you can use the panorama technique. Some drones are inbuilt with Panorama Mode but if one does not have it, editing software could be used to reach the desired effect.
Experiment with both aspect ratios (16:9 or 4:3):
For any digital camera, the 3:2 aspect ratio is the most common, but because drone cameras are generally used for video making, they offer wider formats of 16:9 and 4:3. This is actually a good thing because then you could have plenty of options in post-processing. If you are uncertain about the format to use, you could use both formats to check which one gives you the desired effect.
Use camera lens filters:
For most of you, filters might not be the must-have accessories in case of drone photography, but they are actually very essential to help you achieve better photos. Remember, there are plenty of filters and each one of them has a different purpose. Before you purchase any filter you need to keep in mind the types of photos you take, time of your shoot and the environment you generally shoot in.
Take a drone ‘selfie’:
Most of the drones today are integrated with up-to-date user-friendly features that encourage users to make the most of their aircraft and capture memorable pictures. With just a couple of gestures, users can direct their drone and place them in the midst of a frame, start a countdown and click the photo.
Drone photography is undoubtedly a powerful development in the field of photography which has opened new areas of shooting from angles and locations which were never thought earlier. Having made a huge impact on photography and is not going to faze in recent times. Mastering drone photography could be tricky but with practice, you can definitely achieve perfection.