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Big Boys Toys

Drones are taking off in a big way. Take Stock looks at what you need to know if you’re contemplating one for your business…

WHAT IS A DRONE?
A pilotless robot that flies via remote control. Used mainly for military activities, weather reporting and search and rescue. Now, the hospitality industry is using them for aerial photos, shooting videos and to serve guests

FLYING SOLO
If you are going to fly your own drone here is what you must do

  • The drone has to weigh less than 20kg
  • Avoid flying it within 150m of a congested area without Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) permission
  • Stay at least 50m from people, vehicles, structures and buildings that aren’t under your control
  • Respect peoples privacy
  • Mustn’t fly above 400ft
  • Have visual line of sight of the drone at all times, which for larger drones the law deems to be around 500m from you
  • If you are charging guests for the use of the drone, for example at their wedding, then you need to apply for a CAA Exemption, which involves tests to ensure that you are a competent operator
  • Make sure all guests are informed of flight times and agree to being filmed
  • Keep well away from power lines and guest’s heads!

“Aerial photos and videos – especially when it comes to weddings – will make a real point of difference for your guests, making it a unique experience,” said Phil Horton of flycamera. co.uk. “There is nothing to stop anyone going out and buying a drone but getting CAA approval can be expensive and rigorous, so it’s advisable to employ an experienced company who will take care of everything for you.”

TOP FLYERS

PARROT BEBOP
The £350 Bebop, with built in camera, provides decent quality filming on a budget.

Getting going
Load Parrot’s Freeflight app onto your tablet or smartphone, use the drones own Wi-Fi to link up and then on your device choose between tilt, virtual joysticks, or tilt with independent use of the camera. Once that’s done, off you go!

Flying power
With a spare in the pack, the battery allows a c. 10 minute flying time and range is around 250m. Thanks to a three-axis digitally stabilised 14-megapixel camera with 180-degree fisheye lens, what you can capture in the 8GB of in-built storage is certainly good enough to share with friends and family. You can even use the Wi-Fi to stream live pictures to your device whilst flying.

DJI PHANTOM 3 PROFESSIONAL
The professional level drone has a top quality fully stabilised 12.4-megapixel camera that offers auto exposure, time lapse and single or multi-shot photos. It starts at £1,150.

Stream live
The video camera can stream live 720p HD from the drone direct to the controller, thanks to the DJI Lightbridge image transmission technology used by professional cinematographers, whilst at the same time storing everything on up to 64GB of SD card.

Flying platforms
The controller has been engineered specifically for flying camera platforms; everything links to your mobile devices; intelligent batteries let you know in real time how much power is left and a worry-free GPS autopilot system not only helps you fly, but can get your drone back to you at the push of a button. Range is up to 2000m and flying time over 20 minutes.

The piece de resistance
It has visual positioning technology too – meaning you can fly indoors and close to the ground, helped by visual and ultrasonic sensors that scan the ground for patterns, thereby enabling it to identify its position and move accurately!

3D ROBOTICS SOLO
Brand new and claimed to be the smartest drone ever, it makes it easy for amateurs to get professional quality aerial shots and video. Prices from £700, excluding Go Pro camera.

Getting going
On-board computers in both the controller and drone link with Wi-Fi to allow operators supreme flight control, whilst novices will appreciate the ability to use an app on their mobile devices to pre-programme flight plans that the drone will follow automatically, courtesy of the in-built GPS tracker. Press a button and away it goes!

Flying power
Solo’s video game style controller gives full access to GoPro camera controls in flight (a first) and ‘Smart Shots’ technology offers you the ability to set the camera to stay focussed on an object whilst the drone orbits or tracks an object. There’s also a ‘Selfie’ setting where with the tap of a button the drone will take off with the camera pointed at you, fly up and back to capture your surroundings and then fly back and land. Save onto your phone and share!

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