Inside look: how a wildlife photographer uses a drone to get stunning views of the Serengeti

A new era has arrived. It’s an era where aerial images are the norm — where the robots that fly through the sky to generate them are increasingly commonplace. It’s an era where a YouTube search for ‘drone’ generates millions of results — namely 8-minute videos of start-to-finish flights hovering over track houses.

But it’s an era inspired by visual pioneers like Will Burrard-Lucas, a UK-based wildlife photographer.

Screenshot of video by Will Burrard-Lucas

His newly released video called Serengeti is simply breathtaking, taking viewers in flight over wildebeest migrations and getting up close and personal with a hyena attacking its prey. It looks part computer-generated, part dreamland. But it’s real — and shot with a home-made drone.

They’re stunning wildlife shots, and they ‘re no longer restricted to animated scenes from The Lion King. Instead, they’re restricted to the furthest stretches of the imagination which, for Burrard-Lucas, reaches pretty far.

Burrard-Lucas is one of a new generation of “Drone Photographers.” He has built seven drones with mismatched parts to create the perfect wildlife drone. With he, he was able to gather the stunning shots generated in the above video.

“The drones I’ve been making now have different parts sort of cobbled together,” he said.

Burrard-Lucas first got into remote cameras back in 2009.

“Drones were just sort of the next logical thing,” he said. “Obviously drones have come a long way in the last year.”

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Screenshot of video by Will Burrard-Lucas

A long way is no exaggeration. In just the past few days, companies have announced drones that fly with DSLR cameras right out of the box — no tinkering required. Those fall in the likes of DJI’s newly unveiled S1000, which is rumored to go for $4000.

“They’re going to get more and more reliable,” Burrard-Lucas said. “More and more people are going to use them. They already are exploding in popularity. The only way to get these shots before was to charter a helicopter.”

So just how did Burrard-Lucas capture his magnificent Serengeti-shots sans helicopter?

All it took was just one of his drones and a GoPro to record video.

“GoPros aren’t the best cameras in all conditions, but as long as you know how to use them in the right light, they produce amazing stuff,” he said.

Live video feedback allows him to see just where his copter is going.

Burrard-Lucas spent two weeks out on the Serengeti to gather the images, partially due to technology limitations with batteries (he has four batteries).

Screenshot of video by Will Burrard-Lucas
Screenshot of video by Will Burrard-Lucas

“You only have so much flight time before you have to recharge,” he said. “I could maximum do an hour at a time, and I would do flights in both the morning and the evening.”

Burrard-Lucas estimated his four-minute video was compiled from about 10 hours of footage.

Burrard-Lucas said he believes the drones are an effective way of gathering images of wildlife.

“Typically these animals aren’t used to threats from the air, so when they see this, they typically aren’t bothered by it,” he said. “Obviously they can hear it, but I’m trying to make it as quiet as possible.”

That’s in contrast to filming from the ground, which he has experience with, particularly through his other autonomous camera contraption — the BeetleCam, a ground-roving camera mount.

“With antelope, if they see something moving in the ground and aren’t sure what it is, they’ll move; they aren’t going to take any risks.”

Burrard-Lucas is already planning to return to Africa next week for more aerial filming, this time in Botswana.

As for traveling with his drones, it’s not easy.

“The case looks like it has a Bazooka in it,” he said. “It does draw a bit of attention.”

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The 6 cutest little mini-drones you’ll ever see

6. Syma X1 4 Channel 2.4G RC Quad Copter – BumbleBee

61a9QRW7Y7L._SL1500_It’s a big kid toy, and its 3-axis flight control system allows this guy to flip, roll and more. This Bumblebee copter can fly indoors and outdoors. The cheapest drone on this list, it’ll run you $34.45 on Amazon.

5. AeroVironment Nano Hummingbird

300px-Nano_Hummingbird

This drone is aesthetically beautiful, and it also has some REALLY powerful technology. Unlike all the other drones on the list, this one is not a consumer drone, but rather a spy drone developed as a military prototype.  It looks too real — and out of this world.

4. The drone from Flubber.flubber1997m720phdtvx26

Not for sale. Not any less cute. Probably THE cutest. Continue reading The 6 cutest little mini-drones you’ll ever see

Forget the Polar Vortex with this magnificent surfing video, shot with a drone

Oh, so it’s snowing and -20 degrees with wind chill where you live right now?

Forget you were ever cold and just imagine you’re flying above the beach in Hawaii. Thanks to Eric Sterman’s video, you are!

All the shots here were taken at the North Shore of Oahu, Pipeline. Also you should check out his Instagram, and you can contact him here if you want him to make you an awesome surf video too.

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You won’t believe the video this homemade drone captures of the Serengeti’s wildlife

When it comes to drone videos, there are a lot of good ones, and then there are some really mind-blowing, fantastically STUNNING ones.

This one, by wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, is the best ever. You just need to watch it.

Burrard-Lucas is also the mastermind behind the BeetleCam, a ground-roving robot with a DSLR mounted to the top. His gear seems to be moving up, literally, with the new drone he built, called the BeetleCopter.

Check out his website here.

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FAA announces public research and test sites of drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today the six public entities that will serve as research and test sites for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

“These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical research into the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years,” an FAA news release stated.

The sites are:

  • University of Alaska. The University of Alaska proposal contained a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon. The research plan includes the development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation. Alaska also plans to work on safety standards for UAS operations.
  • State of Nevada. Nevada’s project objectives concentrate on UAS standards and operations as well as operator standards and certification requirements. The applicant’s research will also include a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen. Nevada’s selection contributes to geographic and climatic diversity.
  • New York’s Griffiss International Airport.Griffiss International plans to work on developing test and evaluation as well as verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight. The applicant also plans to focus its research on sense and avoid capabilities for UAS and its sites will aid in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace.
  • North Dakota Department of Commerce. North Dakota plans to develop UAS airworthiness essential data and validate high reliability link technology. This applicant will also conduct human factors research. North Dakota’s application was the only one to offer a test range in the Temperate (continental) climate zone and included a variety of different airspace which will benefit multiple users.
  • Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).Virginia Tech plans to conduct UAS failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risks areas. This proposal includes test site range locations in both Virginia and New Jersey.

This information follows the Nov. 7 announcement of the UAS Roadmap, which focuses on the regulations, policies and procedures necessary to UAS’ into FAA-regulated airspace.

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Merry Christmas from Drone Girl!

Thanks to you, our readers, for a great year of learning, researching and of course, drone flying!  Have a safe and happy holidays, and perhaps you can even spend this day flying your drones!

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Thanks to reader Davis Hunt for sharing this photo, taken by Instagrammer thorvath0715.

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5 drone videos that will knock your stockings off with Christmas spirit

Need to get into the Christmas spirit? Trapped indoors with nothing but your laptop? Want to show off some awesome videos at your family holiday gathering? Here are 5 Christmas videos that celebrate drones. Merry Christmas!

5. The Mistletoe Drone

Drones give mistletoe a boost this year by helping them maximize their power over Union Square in San Francisco!

4. Autonomous Christmas Lab

This one isn’t solely UAVs, but robots of all kinds!

Continue reading 5 drone videos that will knock your stockings off with Christmas spirit