Early this year, I started flying small rc quadcopters for fun. I learned on micros, then moved to minis. I spent a lot of hours in the evening (and even during breaks at the office) flying as much as a could. I bought a fleet of batteries for my favorite quad so I could spend as much time in the air as possible. I even got to rebuild a friend’s bigger quadcopter after a catastrophic crash, teaching me a lot about the parts that make up these birds. I crashed a lot too, but could very clearly see progress in my control and skills over time.
I learned a lot of what I know about RC flying the same way I learn most new things: I went to YouTube. It didn’t take much time learning on YouTube to figure out that there are several different worlds within RC quadcopters: FPV racing (small, very fast quads flown while wearing goggles that show you real time footage from an onboard camera for a first person view), Game of Drones (think Battle Bots with quadcopters), and finally aerial photography. I studied Photographic Arts in college, and though I don’t shoot nearly as much as I did then, I still have a passion for photography. It seemed like it might be time to see about combining my new hobby of flying with my old one of photography.
To shoot good photos and videos from the air, you need a quad that is big enough to lift a quality camera. For this, I was lucky enough to receive the new Phantom 3 Professional. With good flight times, GPS for added stability, and an incredible onboard camera that shoots 4K video and 12MP stills, it is a great platform for aerial imagery.
My first flight with the Phantom was all about getting my feet wet with the machine. My focus was on taking it very slow and not taking risks. There’s a wide open field not far from my house that is next to some railroad tracks. It’s relatively free of obstructions and private enough for me to focus on flying, so I decided that would be a great place for my first flight.
My biggest take-away from this flight was to take things slow. Not just flying slowly, but taking careful time to set up and take off too. The train at the beginning of the video was coming by as I was unloading the quad from my truck. I desperately wanted to get in the air and get some video of the passing train, but I constantly reminded myself that getting video of a train wasn’t worth crashing my new toy. So I took my time setting up, and the train was long enough that I still got in the air as it finished passing. I almost talked myself out of shooting it at all, but I was already there so I figured I’d hit the record button.