Close Encounters of the Drone Kind

Run Time -  5:07   Release Date -  4/11/16

Create UFO-like imagery with practical lighting and a quad-copter / drone.

The drone I am using is a DJI Phantom 3 Standard.

Anyone trying to attempt these kind of shots, I strongly recommend you read your drone's manual front to back.

A few things of warning...

- Experimenting with a drone like this increases the chances of damaging / crashing, so just know that going in.  

- About half way through filming this episode I decided to remove the camera and gimbal.  That made it a lot less stressful for myself and also increased the battery life considerably.  It also gave me 9 more ounces to my payload.

- Attaching various things to your drone could mess with the navigation antennas located near the bottom of the landing gear. So be mindful of that, and try and fly in "ATTI" mode which will turn off most flight assistant.  This will make it a manual flying experience. The drone does have a hard time holding still while hovering in "ATTI" mode.  Many times I would fly with the GPS on and be ready to flip the switch to "ATTI" mode if I saw my drone start acting erratic.

- For the lighting rig where light is attaching the camera lens.  Make sure there is plenty of slack for gimbal to move freely.  If there is any tension gimbal could be damaged.

- Controlling lights via remote loses its strength in range because of the drones remote signal that is being used at the same time. 10 feet was about the max range I had with being about to control the light while attached to drone in the air.  I heard a servo switch would be ideal to have, but seems a little advanced to engineer with my limited skills as an electrician.  

- An extra set of propellers, propeller guards, and a gimbal guard are all good investments.  The propeller guards actually made drone look more like a UFO.

Please share any other ideas about cool visuals that could be done with a drone.  I think there is a world of possibilities out there!


Featuring: Bret Wilson & Tommy Wrenn

Music by: James Kaleth & Richard Thomas

Special thanks to James Gustafson for the idea of powering main light with a portable phone charger.

In Association with PBS Digital Studios