It has been more than 10 years since surfing enthusiast Nick Woodman created a camera he could strap to his wrist and tested his early makeshift models while on a surfing trip to Australia and Indonesia. These days, Go Pro cameras and quadcopters are both things most people wouldn’t think twice about putting on their road trip packing list.
GoPro cameras have become popular among all kinds of action enthusiasts and athletes.
The latest DJI drone for travel bloggers is the DJI Mavic Pro, which is compact and easy to use for beginners.
These cameras, which are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, are the perfect tool to capture videos and photos of adventure activities. But you don’t have to be a kiteboarder or skydiver to film like a professional.
Of all the ways we’ve experimented with our GoPro, I’d have to say that the most impressive so far has been mounting our GoPro Hero 3 beneath a remote-controlled quadcopter.
The images from the air are simply stunning.
DJI Phantom 2
Technology has moved forward in leaps and bounds since our first drone, which was the DJI Phantom 2.
The video was filmed using two cameras, one with a high definition Canon Handycam operated by me standing on the beach at Point Cartwright, and the other from a GoPro Hero 3 mounted beneath a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter remotely controlled by my husband, Roger.
The DJI Phantom is an affordable quadcopter that allows professionals and enthusiasts to capture amazing footage from the sky, but it doesn’t come with all the equipment necessary to stabilize the footage or to see what you are shooting in real time.
Extra equipment is available for both these functions but it comes at an extra cost and will further reduce battery life.
Without a return vision system installed, it requires quite a lot of skill to judge where to position the quadcopter in relation to the subject.
Airy Brushless Motor Gimbal
For stabilisation, we used an Airy Brushless Motor Gimbal.
Stabilisation technology is commonly used in the television production and movie industry to ensure the camera remains level and the footage is stable. A typical example of its use is a camera person following an actor up a flight of stairs.
We filmed this footage on a gusty day, which is obvious from the way the quadcopter is being tossed around. And we were pleased with the results.
When watching the video, you’ll notice the propellers moving in and out of shot due to the gusty wind conditions. It’s amazing how stable the captured footage of the surf and surfers turned out.
One of the limitations of the equipment is the relatively short battery life. When the quadcopter is fully loaded with camera and gimbal, our experience of the battery life was seven minutes at best.
It meant that we had to return the quadcopter back to the beach to change batteries, which is disruptive and means you could miss a key shot while the quadcopter is having its battery changed back on shore. The battery can run down a lot faster in windy conditions, as the motors have to work harder.
Point Cartwright is a headland at the southern end of Mooloolaba beach, where the Mooloolah River meets the Coral Sea. Its located on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, which is about 100km north of Brisbane.
Point Cartwright is popular for its surfing point break and high cliffs with spectacular views of Mooloolaba, the Mooloolah River and Mount Coolum. On a clear day, from the coastal headland reserve, there are views south to Caloundra and north to Noosa.
The beach in the video faces the open ocean in a northeast direction. At low tide, there are picturesque rock shelves and pools.
DJI Phantom Quadcopter with Go Pro Hero 3
Why get it?
If you have a GoPro Hero 3, strapping it beneath one of these will take your filming to stratospheric heights.
It’s really easy. Steps are:
1. Charge the battery. It will probably take around 45 minutes to charge a flat battery.
2. Install the landing gear and GoPro mount with the provided screws.
3. Then install the propellers, paying attention to the directional rotation of each propeller to the rotor. It’s worth purchasing propeller guards for safety.
Once the battery is charged, you’re ready to fly!
Although DJI claims the Phantom is ready to fly out of the box, we had a rocky start. The motors on our unit failed to start. After several emails and phone calls to the distributor, the distributor arranged to replace the unit.
How to start the motor
To start the motors, the two joysticks are pulled downwards to opposite corners.
Our first test flight was a near disaster. With a new unit that had all four motors working, we took it to a local park.
On liftoff, the quadcopter gyrated wildly and wouldn’t respond to the controls, hit the ground and flipped upside down. A second try, with more elevation, saw the quadcopter flying over our heads out of the park and crashed onto the road.
So back it went to the distributor. This time, the company replaced the unit with a new one, which worked straight out of the box.
At last, we have lift off!
Watch a video of our first flight. Our Chief Phantom Pilot was happy with the result.