Drone News

Many species interact in the wild but most of these interactions are as predator and prey but this amazing footage captured in the middle of the oceans reveal the playful side to interspecies interaction.

This incredible drone footage shows two humpback whales swimming playfully in the water alongside an adult dolphin and her baby.

The pair can be seen breaching and gliding around the dolphins. Whales and dolphins have always had a friendly relationship as these two species are often caught interacting with each other in a playful manner.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Western Australia, a whale appears to play with a pod of dolphins.

Each year, southern right whales travel thousands of kilometres from the chilly waters of Antarctic to the warm Australian coast but it seems that this one has a brief stop en route to have some fun with the pod of friendly dolphins

These heartwarming interactions are not common and quite rare to be caught on camera but they are certainly not impossible


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Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced drone racer, eventually you might want to take your video editing skills to the next level. Even though sometimes all you need is to cut out a fragment of your footage and add music, other times – just a few extra steps will make your video look cinematic.

For this post, we’ve partnered with VSDC, free video editing software for Windows, to demonstrate 7 ways to produce eye-catching effects including such famous ones as the “video inside text” mask and the vertigo effect. The best part about them, you won’t need much time, experience, or expensive software.

If you’re already using some advanced-level video editor, you should be able to replicate all the recommendations below. But if you’re currently looking for one, and you’re on PC, VSDC might be a smart choice not only because it’s free and capable but also because it barely uses your system resources and runs well even on low-end computers.

Idea #1. Widescreen ratio (cinematic effect)

Thanks to Hollywood, we’re so used to associate high-quality cinematography with the “black bars” on the top and the bottom of our screens, some movie makers started to imitate them just to create this illusion of a video shot with a widescreen ratio. Truth be told, however, most videos instantly start looking cinematic when letterboxed.

To achieve this effect, you don’t have to go to the ratio settings and calculate the right proportions to resize the footage. All you need to do is create a rectangle object, fill it with black, duplicate and place at the top and the bottom of your video as shown on the GIF.

Idea #2. Video inside text (Text mask)

Text mask is probably the best way to start a scene. It’s widely used by professional video editors, and you’ve surely noticed this effect hundreds of times in travel videos and even on TV. Technically, a text mask is just a video seen through letters, but to a newbie, it looks more complicated than it really is. VSDC Video Editor allows you to achieve it in less than a minute.
Once you’ve started a project, add a text object to a timeline and enlarge it accordingly. Click twice on it to open a new tab and add the video you want to play on the background. Stretch the video to cover the entire text and choose the “Source in” blending mode from the left-side menu on the timeline.

Idea #3. Contour text overlay

There is another often-overlooked technique you may want to consider for your project when adding comments or titles. Contoured text looks less distracting than a text mask, yet, much more authentic and stylish than a regular solid title. If your goal is to keep maximum attention on the image, it might be a better choice.

To create a contoured half-transparent title, add a text object and make adjustments using the built-in text editor on the top toolbar. You can choose the color of the text, its contour, and the level of opacity based on the desired look.

Idea #4. Split screen

Split screen is often used in production for showing the same object shot from different angles or creating the “before and after” effect. The easiest way to achieve it would be by placing two videos side by side. If you want to create a mosaic-looking video compiled of multiple clips, splitting the screen into more parts will do the trick.

You may want to try it for simultaneously showing various places you flew with your drone or, for example, comparing the same spot shot during the golden hour and the blue hour.
To achieve the split-screen effect in VSDC, simply add your video files to the timeline, resize them using drag’n’drop motion and place on the scene accordingly.

Idea #5. Motion Blur

You probably have heard of this one before, because applying Motion Blur is among the most recommended tips for drone video shooters. The reason being is that motion blur makes videos look more natural and filmic, meanwhile, its absence may create a “strobing effect” as Charles Yeager puts it in his tutorial on Envato.

When you fly at a comparably high speed close to the water, trees, or other uneven surfaces – especially if you’re using a more affordable drone model – the footage may lack the natural blur and look distracting. So, it’s a good practice for you to add fake motion blur in post-production. In VSDC, just go to the Video Effects dropdown menu at the top of the program, scroll to Filters and choose Motion Blur. Then go to the Properties menu on the right side of the dashboard and adjust the transparency level to have the image less blurry until you achieve the desired image.

Idea #6. Dolly zoom (Vertigo effect)

This is another mesmerizing effect that might look complicated when you see it in a video, but actually takes just a few seconds to replicate and doesn’t require any special skills. First introduced by Alfred Hitchcock, Dolly zoom has been used in many movies including Scarface and Lord of the Rings. Today, it’s one of the favorite tricks of professional drone videographers.

If you’d like to see more examples of Dolly zoom used in cinematography and drone videos, you can check this tutorial by Tom Tech’s Time.

To get this illusion, all you need is to shoot a video with a drone flying backwards (instead of towards) and then apply the Zoom in transformational effect. In order to avoid quality loss, it’s highly recommended to shoot in 4K. Once you’re done with editing, consider using H.265/HEVC codec for exporting because it keeps the highest video quality at the minimum file size. Here you’ll find a detailed tutorial on zooming a particular part of the video using VSDC.

Idea #7. Color gradient

Color grading is the most time-consuming trick on the list, but it is also the most impactful one. Not only is it capable of enhancing the footage, but it does make your movie look outstanding. The color grading feature gives you the power to change the mood of the video and create a completely different picture. So, even though it takes some effort and patience to figure out how it is applied, it’s definitely worth trying because the results are always impressive.
Unlike most professional-level video editing software (think Adobe Premiere), VSDC is slightly unconventional when it comes to color correction. Instead of working with the color wheels, you’ll need to add an additional color graded layer to the timeline and blend it with the video. There is a detailed video guide available here.


Aerial videos allow us for seeing the world from a birds-view perspective – and this is why most of them look stunning even in their original versions. Racers, however, resort to post-production techniques more often today willing to make their videos stand out and add a personal approach to storytelling. And since we’ve just established that you don’t have to be a professional shooter to produce amazing content, go ahead and try these video editing tricks on your drone footage to see how quickly it can be turned into a masterpiece.


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Verity Studios might be the only robotics company that can say it has toured with Metallica and performed with Cirque du Soleil. Since 2014, the company has produced autonomous indoor drone shows for those groups and others, including Madison Square Garden, and Princess Cruises.

In June, the company raised $18 million in Series A funding, led by Fontinalis Partners, with participation from Airbus Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund, and Kitty Hawk. The company said it would use the funding to expand its live events business, focusing on U.S. growth, as well as expanding into other commercial verticals.

The company’s founder, Raffaello D’Andrea, was one of the co-founders of Kiva Systems, a pioneer in the mobile robotics arena that was acquired by Amazon in 2012. Robotics Business Review spoke with D’Andrea about the funding, his vision for the company and his thoughts on the public perception of drones.

Q: Kiva Systems and Verity Studios seem like two totally different ventures – do you see any similiarities between the two companies or their technology?

D’Andrea: Although they operate in different markets, the complex engineering challenges faced by both companies are very similar.

At Kiva, our business model called for having more than 1,000 mobile robots loose in a warehouse, running 24/7. The challenge was that in 2003, when we started Kiva, the mean time between failure of mobile robots was on the order of 24 hours; clearly we could not have 1,000 robots breaking down in a warehouse in a day. At Kiva, we had to figure out how to make a large, multi-robot system super-reliable, using inexpensive components.

We had to overcome a similar challenge at Verity Studios. Our flying machines have logged more than 30,000 flights, most of them above people, in the extremely demanding live events environment. Ensuring that our autonomous drones perform reliably night after night was a key priority for us, as was safety. As a result, we have developed some extremely powerful, and cost-effective, failsafe technology.

I’m passionate about making things that no one has ever made before. These sorts of challenges come hand-in-hand with creating something new, and it’s something I find very exciting.

Q: When did you realize that autonomous drones flying together in swarms could be used for entertainment purposes? Was there an “aha!” moment that drove this realization?

D’Andrea: Well before founding Verity Studios in 2014, my co-founders and I had strategically identified indoor drone shows for live events as a fantastic first market for a high-tech company: High visibility, premiums for innovation, and very little competition.

Q: Do Verity Studios produce its own drones, or do you use off-the-shelf components? Do you have multiple designs depending on the effect that you want to achieve?

D’Andrea: Our Lucie micro-drones and all other components of the drone show system were designed, assembled, and quality controlled at Verity’s workshops in Zurich. All software is developed in-house as well.

Q: What’s the largest number of drones that you’ve used simultaneously in an event or show?

D’Andrea: Our largest swarm consists of 99 drones, and it’s touring around the world with Metallica. I would say that the number of drones isn’t as impressive as the way our drone show system is completely client operated and can tour the world with a band.

The fact our system is robust and reliable enough to enable this really speaks to its maturity. Although this is currently our largest swarm, the only limit to the number of drones we can fly in a swarm is the size of the space and the creative concept.

Q: What major technology developments have occurred — either by Verity Studios or from other research — has allowed these devices to be used in this way?

D’Andrea: Safety is of paramount concern when flying drones around and above people. In a live event setting, even more so.

For example, in 2016 we worked with Cirque du Soleil to bring drones to Broadway in the musical Paramour. Our Stage Flyer drones performed in front of large audiences and above actors for almost 400 performances. Having our client operate these large, 1kg drones above people’s heads, live on Broadway eight times a week was only possible because we had engineered the complete drone show system around safety and reliability, from the ground up.

More specifically, we developed drone failsafe technologies to ensure the safety and reliability of our drones in public performances. And this approach did not stop at the technology, but extended to all aspects of the system – from our internal procedures and processes to the training of the show’s automation operator and the theater stagehands who operated the drones, day in and day out. It’s really that bottom-up approach that allowed us to sleep soundly at night knowing that these “dancing lampshades” were flying over people in front of a 2,000-strong audience, night after night, without safety nets. In their one-year run, the drones performed more than 7,000 autonomous flights, without a single safety incident.

What’s great is that the technology underpinning that track record has much broader applicability, far beyond live events. Our drone failsafe technologies can be incorporated into drone manufacturers’ platforms to significantly increase the safety and reliability of today’s drones. The core technology is algorithm-based, and can be applied to any multicopter, including a quadcopter.

For example, when one of the motors of a quadcopter fails, the drone will spin to stabilize itself and perform a controlled landing. The Broadway drones pushed this technology even a step further, creating a quadcopter without any single point of failure. As more drones continue to populate the sky for photography, commercial uses, and industrial applications, safety is a key consideration. It will only grow in importance in the years to come, and we are working with leading drone manufacturers to bring this technology to the broader markets.

Q: What goes into convincing venues, whether indoors or outdoors, that Verity Studios’ system is safe to operate around large groups of people?

D’Andrea: This is changing rapidly, but currently we’re in a situation where drone technology has outpaced regulation in many parts of the world. This means it often comes down to the discretion of the venue. What helps is that, at 50g, our Lucie micro drones are very light. This means they are safe to fly above people, and we’ve had approval to fly in very restricted venues, like airports.

The micro drones also have a guard around them, protecting the drone and its propellers. This, along with the small size of the drones, makes them very safe. Once people see the size and weight of our drones, they can see that they are unlikely to pose a safety concern and we are allowed to fly in venues close to and above people without nets.

Q: How do performers such as musicians, actors, and acrobats feel about working with the drones? What kind of questions do they ask you?

D’Andrea: At first they are cautious and skeptical, but it is amazing to see how quickly they adjust to the reality of having objects flying near and above them. Human beings are very adaptable! I mean, take flying in commercial aircraft, for example. We take it completely for granted, but imagine taking someone from the 1800s — not that long ago, in the context of human history — and plopping them in a plane: they would think that it was magic! Most questions revolve around safety, which of course makes perfect sense, they are the ones that need to be performing with the drones.

Q: What has been your favorite event to produce so far?

D’Andrea: That’s a tough one to answer, simply because of the breadth of the events we have produced so far – airports, cruise ships, concerts, sports arenas, and so on. Having said that, I think that coming out of stealth mode at TED in 2016 was probably my favorite event.

Hearing thousands of people gasp when our micro-drones started to fly over the audience, knowing that we were making history doing something that had never been done before, and the standing ovation at the end of the performance, is an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Q: How would you describe the public’s comfort level with drones? Because they can be used in different applications, including surveillance and/or by the military, is there any distrust from people? Are people still concerned about safety?

D’Andrea: I have personally found it interesting to see how our reaction to the word “drone” has changed in just the last few years. When I started research in this area many years ago, I would never use the word drone, I used the word “flying machine.” The reason was that the word “drone” had strong military and aggressive connotations. This has definitely changed, and perhaps our work has contributed to this change. People no longer associate drones with military operations, but rather as mechanical wonders that allow us to overcome gravity.

But of course, commercial and consumer drone manufacturers have a big responsibility to ensure the public perception of drone technology continues to be increasingly positive. One big thing they can do is to continue working on the safety and reliability of their drones so they don’t pose a risk to people.

Q: You’ve just raised $18 million in funding – what plans do you have for the money? How big can this market/industry evolve? What’s your ultimate goal with Verity Studios?

D’Andrea: We plan to further expand into the live events market by developing new event technologies and improving existing ones. We currently hold a unique position in the live events market because we are the only company with the capability of doing indoor drone shows reliably and safely. If others in the market catch up, we may have to compete with other players for indoor drone shows.

Our work in live events has also been a great testing ground for our technology and we are exploring other commercial and creative applications of our technology. After all, if our drones can tour the world with Metallica and perform reliably night after night, they can cope with most environments.

Q: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in either the robotics and/or autonomous vehicle space?

D’Andrea: First and foremost, have a world-class team. Verity has talented electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, systems and control engineers, software engineers, computer scientists, and industrial designers on the team; all are needed to build robust, reliable, and high-performance robots.


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In this post, we’ll discuss the equipment you’ll need in the field, as well as business operations fundamentals like staffing, financial management, and customer experience.

Equipment and Tools

The following list includes the basic equipment and tools you’ll need to operate and maintain your drones.

1. Mobile Hotspot

A hotspot allows you to share your mobile network connection with other devices (i.e. a laptop) to access the internet. You’ll need a hotspot to access data on your laptop when Wi-Fi isn’t available.

2. Inverter Generator

An inverter generator will come in handy if you’re ever in an area where the utility power is unreliable. A backup generator will prepare you for any unexpected electrical emergencies.

3. Duplicate Onsite Hardware

“When it comes to hardware, two is one and one is none” according to PrecisionHawk’s Director of Flight Operations, Matt Tompkins. Bring backup drones, sensors, and batteries to avoid experiencing equipment failure during a job.

4. First Aid Kit

In the event of a minor workplace injury or ailment, have a first aid kit available to quickly respond to medical needs.

5. External SD Reader

You will need an external SD reader to store data if your laptop doesn’t come with one.  

6. Aircraft Maintenance & Repair Tools

Have the following tools readily available for hardware repairs:

Flat-blade Screwdriver

Phillips Head Screwdriver

Hex Key and Allen Wrenches

Alcohol Wipes

Wire Cutter Snips

Electrical Tape

Hiring and Staff

As a business owner, it can be difficult deciding when you need to hire additional employees. If you’re just getting started, we recommend taking time to first understand your business and the industries you serve before hiring additional employees. However, as your business and client base grows, hiring employees may be necessary to generate additional income. Expanding your staff might be the right choice if your business is experiencing some of the following operational issues:

You’re turning down business because you don’t have enough time to respond to customer requests.

You’re delivering subpar customer service because you’re overextended.

You want to expand into a new service line but you don’t have the time or skillset to do it on your own.

If you need more guidance on hiring and staffing, this article by Entrepreneur magazine walks you through how to decide when it is the right time to hire employees.

Financial Management & Record Keeping

To manage your finances and maintain accurate record keeping, we recommend using accounting software like QuickBooks or FreshBooks. You can link these applications to your bank account and credit cards, to track expenses, automate invoices, and generate reports.

Understanding Your Costs

To effectively manage your business, you need to understand how to identify and categorize your expenses. Expenses fall into two general categories: fixed cost and variable cost.

1. Fixed Costs

These are costs that are not affected by sales volume. These costs are consistent and must be paid regardless of your business’ profitability. Examples include rent, insurance, utilities, and loan payments. Finding ways to manage and reduce your fixed costs will increase your business’ profitability.

2. Variable Costs

These are costs that increase, or decrease, as sales volume changes. Examples of variable costs are supplies, labor, and sales commissions. It is important to understand your variable costs as it will affect how you price your services to ensure your sales are profitable.

Managing the Customer Experience

Providing an excellent customer experience is essential for the success of any business. You want to make every interaction with your business, from phone calls to website visits, a pleasant and worthwhile experience. Here are four ways to improve the customer experience:

1. Know Your Products and Services

Make yourself the expert on your products and services. Customers are coming to you to resolve their business issues and identify solutions. Be prepared to answer common questions and share information that adds value.

2. Engage In Active Listening

Active listening is the foundation of excellent customer service. Customers want to feel heard and understood. Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication to ensure your delivering satisfactory solutions.

3. Be Responsive

Respond quickly to your customers. You never want to lose business because you responded too slowly to a customer who was trying to purchase a solution or find out more about your offerings.

4. Ask for Feedback and Implement Change

Find out what your customers think about your business by getting their feedback. While surveys are commonly used to gather customer feedback, you can add a personal touch by reaching out to clients directly for first-hand feedback. Once you receive feedback, put the data to work by identifying areas for improvement and making strategic changes to your business.


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The Hunter Region in New South Wales, Australia is home to some of the world’s most famous wines and viticulture. The continent is no stranger to the benefits of modern drone technology, and, in addition to utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles to spot shark activity near surfers, has turned toward this practical aerial tool for agricultural purposes and infrastructure inspection. The Hunter Region’s Lake Macquarie City Council recently began aerially spraying weeds on coastal cliffs, surveying land and inspecting railways, according to The Herald

Dr. Alice Howe, the Council’s planning and sustainability manager, is convinced that drones serve as one of the most convenient methods of reaching difficult areas, completing tasks too dangerous to manually attend, and highly accurate for several agricultural applications. Specifically, tending to the rapid encroachment of a South African weed on the cliffs at Swansea Heads and Caves Beach, has proven remarkably simple with herbicide-spraying UAVs.

Dr. Howe claimed that by flying at low altitudes, at speeds below 13 mph, and using the drones’ downward air pressure resulting from their rotors, the aerial method “ensures extremely accurate application of the herbicide” on priority targets.“ These drones can provide precise, safe and effective treatment of Bitou bush, which is strangling out native species in the inaccessible coastal cliff areas we’re targeting,” said Dr. Howe.

We’ve covered effective agricultural drone use before, and have seen how significantly it has affected business owners in the industry. From South Africa to New Jersey, ranchers and farmers are increasingly waking up to the notion that affordable aerial tools can be a logical, cost-effective addition to the agricultural business model. 

“Aerial spraying is faster than spraying by hand and can control more than 95 percent of Bitou bush in targeted areas,” said Dr. Howe. “The precision means minimal impact on native plant species and a higher probability of eliminating the problem on our first go.”

For the Hunter Region and the city of Lake Macquarie, Dr. Howe expects the nascent drone program, of sorts, to experience a thorough expansion in the near future. “Anything from bridge and tree inspections to using underwater drones to inspect wharves and jetties” would define a reasonable use case for Dr. Howe. 

With telecom giant Nokia using the continent as a test site for its drone management system, and the University of Adelaide undergoing environmental research projects with drones at their center, Dr. Howe’s considerations are not only feasible, but extremely likely to result in action. Even Alphabet Inc.’s Project Wing has been testing aerial food delivery nearby, which is arguably a less important initiative than protecting the regional environment from topiary-infecting weeds.

Chief operating officer of Airsight Australia, Ashley Cox, is focused on the aerial inspection of local railways and medical supply deliveries via drone. “All of these things are very, very possible,” said Cox. “The advancement of that over time is going to be phenomenal and it’s way more important we work on that stuff than pizza delivery.”

“The changes that we’re seeing in drones and the level of investment companies are making in developing the technology for civilian use is, I wouldn’t say rivaling military expenditure, but it’s right up there,” he said. 

Regarding Airsight Australia’s railroad inspections, it’s proven to not only result in accurate data, but a way to maintain operations as these inspections are taking place. “We can put a drone into that space; there’s no risk to humans, it’s a very low cost piece of equipment and we can access that without shutting down the train line,” said Cox. This is a similar scenario to Pilsner Urquell’s recent drone implementation in taking care of a mandatory ceiling inspection without shutting a profitable brewery down for a month.

Ultimately, Australia is undergoing a boom in unmanned aerial systems being researched, developed, and commercially tested. There are unmanned traffic management systems being tested, drone deliveries occurring in certain suburbs, the above-mentioned railway inspections co-existing with routine operations on the ground, and the aerial protection of local plant species underway. All in all, this is just another slice of legislative and commercial life that specifically pinpoints how and why drones are becoming invaluable to our local environments. 


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Any real estate professional knows that “curb appeal” and “location, location, location” have long been twin pillars of selling a property. Today’s technologies, combined with the expectations of a new generation of buyers, are raising the bar on how to present a listing in the best possible light.

If a home already has curb appeal and prime location, savvy real estate professionals are not just focusing on a home’s interior — they’re also raising their eyes to the sky. Whether it’s an expansive waterfront home, a grand mountaintop estate or a single-family home near a quaint downtown, dronography is the listing agent's new essential tool for marketing any property consumers would want to rent (apartments), lease (vacation homes) or buy (residential or commercial properties).

The sky is the limit since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ushered in a new drone era in 2016, allowing for relaxed regulations on commercial aerial drone use. Now, there’s little barrier to entry for real estate professionals raising the bar on listing videos or photography.

Drones, or remote-controlled unmanned aircraft vehicles, offer a highly cost-effective way to elevate your marketing efforts. Aerial video and photography capture stunning, bird’s-eye views of a property and also convey a lifestyle.

For real estate professionals going the extra mile to appeal to sophisticated tastes, drones help buyers visualize their lives in that community. They can imagine stepping out from their backyard to their canoe launch or the ease in stopping in the clubhouse, trekking to the beach or commuting to work or the nearby train station.

These unique perspectives drive the emotional connection that moves and motivates buyers to act. As clients increasingly ask about using drones for their listings, real estate pros should be ready with these drone dos and don’ts.

1. Get acquainted with the roof and gutters. Most of us pay no attention to them until problems occur. Sellers should know beforehand that the roof is in great shape and the gutters are free of leaves and debris. Buyers will be deterred if your drone video reveals missing shingles or saplings growing in the gutter.

2. Clear the clutter. Just as you’d declutter a home’s interior, clear the exterior of kids’ toys, bicycles, hoses or trash bins. The rule about clutter applies whether inside or out: A property appears more spacious when it’s clutter-free.

3. Avoid outdoor maintenance work on the day of the drone appointment. Get the landscaping and the pool cleaning done ahead of time and be sure all equipment is out of sight. And be sure your drone appointment doesn’t coincide with trash pick-up day.

4. Alert the neighbors in advance. Drones have an unmistakable hum, and they are not that common in most neighborhoods. Sellers should avoid unwanted surprises by telling the neighbors the day and time the dronographer is due to arrive. The entire video shoot should take less than 30 minutes, so emphasize to clients and their neighbors that it’s a short process.

5. Notify parents of young children, too. If the neighborhood kids regularly play outside, Mom and Dad may choose to keep them inside or take them out for a ride; many parents will object to their children’s images appearing in the drone video posted on a website.

6. Cloudy days are fine days for capturing aerial images and video, since a cloudy sky eliminates the harsh shadows projected on a landscape. Still, many sellers want sunshine in their drone videos and photography. Any customer-focused photography company should have the flexibility to happily reschedule the drone appointment when requested.

With these best practices in mind, you can elevate each and every property listing with dronography.


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Alcoa continues to pioneer new ways of working with digital tools and is now utilising drone technology to perform its operations across Western Australia.

The drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are now able to report back with data to allow for more accurate maintenance planning, exact scaffolding requirements, clearer work focus and better budgeting.

They overtake high-risk jobs that are usually performed by employees on ropes or scaffolds.

Now an operator can sit safely and watch a live feed on an iPad.

Andrew King, chief UAV pilot at Alcoa Alumina’s Centre for Excellence, said that drones could also be adapted for various tasks, and work that would normally take several days could now be completed in hours.

“The sky is the limit for drone application, but knowing how to best understand and use the data we can gather using drones is the real art,” King said.

“The vision for detailed inspection is one benefit but the same data can also be used to make very accurate 3D models. This is an enabler for other technologies such as augmented and virtual reality.”

Drone technology is now being used by the company to perform safety inspections, maintenance assessments, stockpile inventory monitoring and survey information gathering.

Last May, Alcoa announced a plan to expand the development of the world’s first carbon-free aluminium smelting process in partnership with Rio Tinto and tech company Apple.

Among three alumina refineries, two dedicated port facilities and three farmland in Western Australia, Alcoa runs the world’s second largest bauxite mine in the state, Huntly.

Alcoa’s operations also support approximately 4,300 direct jobs, predominantly in regional Australia.

The company produces almost 43 per cent of Australia’s alumina and approximately 20 per cent of Australia’s aluminium.


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Drones are amazing pieces of equipment for capturing aerial views of nature. But when one man named Dave used his to film a peaceful farm in Millbrook Ontario, in the end he discovered more than he ever expected.

It all took place one day when a group of cows were out in the pasture, surrounded by only the beautiful countryside. Dave had recorded the animals before and decided to come back to make a video of the farm and the cows enjoying all it had to offer.

Dave watched from nearby as he flew his drone flew over the meadow. At first it seemed like everything was just fine down below - but then he noticed something off with one of the cows that seemed pretty strange.

He quickly flew his drone closer to the cow named Linda who appeared to have a cluster of white dots on her nose. As Dave got near he realized it wasn't just a harmless patch of fur, it in fact was about a dozen or more porcupine needles painfully stuck in her snout.

The drone operator began to review his tape and was able to zoom in to confirm the dangerous discovery. Besides being painful, porcupine quills can work themselves deeper into an animal's skin and possibly lead to a fatal infection.

Knowing Linda needed immediate help, Dave informed the farmer of his discovery who then took her into a pen for immediate treatment. She was given an anesthetic so that the quills could be removed, followed by an antibiotic - and also extra treats!

Fortunately, it didn't take long before Linda was okay enough to go back to the meadow to be reunited with her calf. In fact, the next day she was reportedly back to her old self again, happily grazing the lush pasture.

However, it could have had a much different outcome if Dave had not spotted Linda's problem and alerted the farmer of it. What a lovely act of kindness!


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The world’s tropical forests lost around 39 million acres of trees in 2017, largely due to anthropogenic deforestation, but conservationists are finding hope in using drones to monitor, preserve and even regrow the Earth’s forests and wildlife populations.

In January 2011, two conservationists met for the first time and changed conservation history. Lian Pin Koh and Serge Wich envisioned an inexpensive way to improve monitoring wildlife in remote regions. One year later, they built and tested the first-ever conservation drone in North Sumatra, Indonesia, and the results were unprecedented.

Most of us have heard about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, and some of us might even own one. Although drones originated in the military, their use has expanded to include recreational and commercial purposes, and scientific research that can be used to save forests.

Surveying wildlife is what Koh and Wich had in mind when they designed a low-cost UAV equipped with cameras, sensors and an autopilot system to gather data on declining orangutan populations in Indonesia. The drone flies itself along a pre-mapped route, taking photographs and videos along the way. Alternatives such as satellites, helicopters or counting wildlife populations manually are costly and time consuming, and do not provide high-resolution images or up-to-date data.

During the test flight in Sumatra, the drone captured videos of oil palm plantations, orangutan nests, and logging and vegetation burning to clear forests for agriculture. It was clear these drones could not only be used for data collection and topography, but also for protecting forests and wildlife from deforestation and illegal activities.

“One of the people we have helped in Indonesia was able to detect loggers encroaching in a national park and also collect evidence of illegal logging within the national park at a small scale,” Koh said, “at a scale where the [drone] technology is able to perform well.”

Conservation drones are mainly used for mapping habitats, counting wildlife and patrolling protected areas. Despite the limited flight time of drones due to current battery technology, Koh asserted that conservation drones are making a difference in forests all over the world, and the technology will only continue to improve allowing drones to stay in flight for longer periods of time.

“The other way the technology has been able to address [deforestation] is to help with reforestation,” Koh said. “In places where the forest has already been felled, drones can also be used to try to assess the extent of the forest loss to help with developing plans for reforestation. Some of the more recently developed drones can even be used to shoot capsules or pellets of seedlings or seeds to directly help with the reforestation efforts.”

Wich and Koh started the nonprofit Conservation Drones in 2012 to provide information about using drones for conservation and to train conservationists, nonprofits, and national park personnel on using these drones. They co-authored the book “Conservation Drones: Mapping and Monitoring Biodiversity,” which is the first book that provides information to conservationists and engineers on how to use drones as tools in conservation activities.

“[We wanted] to raise awareness about this technology to people who are not aware of it yet,” Koh said, “and to also hopefully inspire people to think about new technology that could be adapted for conservation use.”

In the U.S., drones are being used for various conservation purposes, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and nonprofit conservation groups.

Lake McMurtry Friends, Inc. is a conservation nonprofit organization in Stillwater, Okla., that began using drones for basic video and photography purposes in the maintenance and marketing of Lake McMurtry. In 2017, a team from Lake McMurtry was asked to do an aerial survey at nearby Lake Carl Blackwell to investigate an invasive plant species called yellow floating heart. Jared Avilez, park manager and assistant director of Lake McMurtry Friends, Inc. said using the drone produced prodigious results.

“Part of the problem with this specific plant is if you drive a boat into it that’s going to basically cut the lily pad up and make it reproduce quicker,” Avilez said. “So you can’t really drive a boat into it to see how far up into a tributary the plant has spread.”

Avilez is confident that as drone technology continues to improve, conservationists will regularly be using drones in their work monitoring, mapping and sustaining ecosystems.


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Mike Mazur is a Drone Pilot Ground School alum with a huge range of experience in cinematography.

He started out working in Manhattan in post-production. From there he learned about shooting and directing, and built up his skill set to the point where he is now, as the owner of his own production company, Diario Films. Mike has worked with artists like Kesha and Steely Dan, and he’s also flown missions for non-profits in Guatemala and elsewhere around the world.

We wanted to sit down and talk to Mike both about how he built up his production business, and also about his decision to add drones to his list of tools as a cinematographer.


Tell us about your background. How did you first get into work as a photographer and cinematographer?

My career started out very differently from many drone pilots I’ve met and heard about.

I first started work in photography and videography in post production, as an editor and and after-effects artist. For a significant part of my career I was managing a green screen studio in lower Manhattan, and only did post production work.

But after a while that work became tiresome, and I realized that I didn’t really want to spend the rest of my life in a dark room, looking at other people’s adventures.

So I eventually got a job as a producer, because I had been producing some of the shoots that we had done in lower Manhattan (including one with our current president, which was a funny experience).

The agency I was working for, which was called Cross Borders, eventually merged into another agency called Rain, and that was a creative agency where I handled projects in which we were creating digital content for corporations to use in one form or another. We worked with companies like Walmart, Subway, and Hess

Although I wasn’t very enthusiastic about a lot of the more corporate work, we got to make a short documentary series about sports in America to be used in tandem with the 2012 Olympics, and I really loved that work. The goal of the series was to showcase how American society looks at sports—we did an episode on the Special Olympics, one on Jackie Robinson, things like that.

While at Rain, in addition to working in production I started picking up a camera. The first thing I really learned how to shoot well was a time lapse—I’d always be shooting time lapse photography while these bigger projects were going on. But we’d always hire a cinematographer and a director of photography to come and shoot the project for me.

And then, when I was 29, I had a sort of serendipitous occasion on a trip to Guatemala, back in January of 2013. I ended up getting a fellowship with a non-profit there, and staying for the entire year of 2013 doing work in both Central America and Southeast Asia.

To do this work, I would literally go from country to country, from town to town, with a big backpack that had a camera, a tripod, and a laptop. So I was finding stories, shooting them, directing them, editing them—I was delivering them, all by myself. And that was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

When I came back from that year I had so much experience to draw from for my work in cinematography.

I wanted to finish a documentary I’d started about a famous figure in Puerto Rico, so I teamed up with my friend Fernando, who is a brilliant cinematographer, and we raised a few thousand dollars through an Indiegogo campaign, and we spent two weeks on the island and were able to finish the project.

Around the same time, I met a producer named Matty Parker, who had just secured the life rights for the story of a man who was the first African American to play in the NBA, who is named Earl Lloyd. The NBA film premiered a little while back at the Hamptons International Film Festival, and we’ve secured international distribution, so we’re really excited about that.

So that’s the story of how I went from work in post-production to getting behind the camera.

What made you start using drones in your work?

It’s kind of a funny story.

At the same time DJI released the Osmo, which allows you to get incredibly smooth shots, and the X5 Handle—but the two didn’t actually work together.

They said it would, but in reality, it just didn’t. (The following spring, after releasing these two products, they released a little piece that allowed you to connect one to the other.)

The X5 handle was pretty expensive—it cost more than $2,000—but I couldn’t use it since it didn’t connect to the Osmo, so for a while I just had this really expensive paper weight sitting in my office.

At the same time, I’d been wanting to expand my repertoire and my business, and so I just compulsively bought a DJI Inspire 1 and started flying

How did you first start using drones as a commercial pilot?

The first time I flew a drone on a shoot was for a job in Guatemala, for a non-profit called the Friendship Brigade, which does loans to women in rural areas to help them start businesses. (This was on a return trip, not during my first period there where I was given the job to travel around the world.)

After that first experience, I realized that I really loved shooting with a drone, and I realized how much it improved the quality of the work that I did there.

The piece I made for the non-profit was a profile of a woman named Gilanda. She used the loans to really improve her life, and she helped all these other women in the community improve their lives.

Being able to follow her from the sky, and to shoot her house, was huge, since part of what she did with the money she borrowed was expand her home. And even at the end of the video I was able to get a great shot with my Inspire I that really helped close things out.

Have you ever crashed during a shoot?

Who hasn’t?

No, but seriously, I definitely have had to deal with a crash, and it was heart breaking.

I was in Puerto Rico working on that documentary I talked about earlier, and still fairly new to flying. I was flying near a lake, and decided to pull back a bit without turning the camera around and looking at what was behind the drone—I just impulsively went backwards, and I got the drone stuck in a tree, about a hundred feet in the air.

Before I knew it a local man was chopping down the tree to get the drone back, and he’d cut it down within less than ten minutes with his machete. And I watched in agony as the tree turned in the air, at the last minute, and completely crushed the drone.

It was definitely a learning experience. Since then I’ve been through the Drone Pilot Ground School course, and I know a lot more about how to check yourself and be careful when you’re flying, to prevent those types of scenarios from arising in the first place.

When did you start flying commercially in the U.S.?

I shot abroad quite a bit, in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, India, France, both with a drone and with other equipment

And finally, when I was back in the U.S. and ready to work I decided I wanted to pursue Part 107 certification and became a professional drone pilot here.

I made the decision for a few reasons: I wanted to know the material, I wanted to get better at flying—and I figured the certification process would push me to do that, too—and I also wanted to separate myself from other cinematographers, who either weren’t flying drones at all, or who were flying drones illegally.

This was in late 2016, shortly after the Part 107 rules had come out, and I knew a few cinematographers who would just use a drone in shoots without knowing the rules at all. They’d show me their drone footage, and some of it would just be so illegal.

Have you ever had to turn down work because it would violate the Part 107 rules?

There have been multiple times where I’ve had to turn down jobs because I didn’t have the night time waiver, which I applied for and wasn’t able to get.

I’ve also had to turn down work in New York City on a few different occasions. Even though many locations in New York look like they’re OK for flying when you’re in the AirMap app, you then learn that the reality is way more confusing. And, of course, NYC claims to have a city-wide ban on drone flights, but even that doesn’t actually seem legal, it’s just something that the city has put on their website to discourage people from figuring out where they actually can and can’t fly.

Basically, it’s so confusing that I’ve decided not to do it, since I don’t want to risk breaking the law.

How do you typically find clients?

Word of mouth is key.

Every job I get is essentially stems from an existing group of contacts that I’ve built gradually over the years, and we all support each other and give each other work. Almost everything I do is an extension of some kind of work, some kind of contact that I’ve made in the past through previous networking. Your experience just snowballs.

If a contact I have sends me any kind of opportunity, I’ll immediately stop what I’m doing and apply to it. And often, because it comes along with my contact’s recommendation, I’ll get the job.

Of course, your work has to be solid enough to get your foot in the door, and you also have to be able to deliver when you show up to do the job.

One thing I did that helped me get work, and really distinguish myself, was that when I upgraded my cinematography services and started adding drone services as well, I made sure to send out emails to my contacts and let them know, and share my aerial reel.

And actually, creating that reel was one of the most important things I did to get those new clients who were interested in aerial shots. After my first drone shoots in Guatemala, I did some aerial shoots in New York and New Jersey, just flying around my family’s home, and put a reel together to show off my new skill set.

The key is to just keep chipping away—adding on footage to your reel, making it better and more diverse as you get more jobs, and also to keep adding on skill sets.

If you make it your goal to keep growing and keep getting better at what you do, you will find work—it may not always be easy, but it will come.


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