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  • Writer's pictureGerry

Mavic Mini

Previously the only way you could get aerial shots in any video was to use a helicopter or a very long pole. Now we have a dramatic change of accessibility of aerial views by using a drone. I acquired my first drone in September 2020. I have always had a romance with flying - no doubt influenced by my late father who was a Dakota pilot in the RAF during the Second World War. I have, on and off, been flying radio controlled gliders most of my life and my older son is a very competent model helicopter pilot. The drone that I possess is a Mavic Mini made by DJI. This is one of the smallest models they make, though it's now been superseded by Mavic Mini 2, which has slightly different improvements and a slightly better camera. Fortunately at the start of 2021, the Civil Aviation Authority relaxed the rules for small drones that weigh less than 250g. This means that now I can fly my drone with its camera in more built-up areas, including from my own back garden.

There are certain rules that I have to follow, made clear when I applied for and received my flyer ID and my operator ID from the CAA. This involved taking a 40 question test online, having to read through the various instructions and requirements for this qualification. Much of it was common sense but was also very informative and I was pleased to say I got 39 correct on the first attempt. Some of the restrictions are that I cannot fly over prisons, or Royal establishments, over crowds or in restricted areas around airfields. I am limited to a flying altitude of 120m or 400 feet, but apart from these restrictions, I just need to use my common sense. Heavier drones have far more restrictions on their usage. I use my mobile phone,an iPhone 13, clicking it into the drone controller. This gives me access to fly the drone using the DJI app. I also use another app called ‘Drone Assist’ which gives a clear map of the UK and the areas around airports and suchlike where there are restricted flying zones. See here the restricted zone around Coventry Airport and edge of the limit of Birmingham Airspace. I also have public liability insurance which I think is essential because in most areas where I fly there are usually dog walkers. If a dog was to jump up and try and attack my drone as it came into land or took off it would get quite a serious snap back from the eight individual plastic propellers on the four corners of the drone. The vets bills would be phenomenal. I also have a drone replacement policy with the makers DJI, so if I crash the drone, which I've only done once in 24 months, I can Retrieve it and send it back to the makers, they will replace it twice in 12 months.

I have flown my drone a few times from my garden, and following advice from YouTube on the subject, I typed out about 20 copies of my intentions to hand out to my neighbours. I pointed out that I was not snooping on anyone and would not be flying on summers’ days when most people are in their gardens. Also the view from above was really not much different from that which I could garner from Google Earth. I had a couple of texts back from my neighbours both of whom were very supportive and interested in the operation of the Drone. One spectacular incident that was very popular was the aerial shots of the trees and houses along Higham Lane, Nuneaton, when the snow fell in November 2021. The video is called ‘November Snow in Nuneaton’ and has to rank as one of my favourite videos to date. I incorporate the drone footage with regular video work using my other cameras. I have a Canon G7X which is light and small and has a tilt up screen so I can see myself as a record as I talk to the camera. My iPhone 13 is also very good and will record the audio in stereo, and of course is always very close at hand as I always have it on me. I also use footage from my dash cam in the car, so I sometimes have footage taken from four different camera sources. I edit the footage on my iMac 27” computer using Final Cut Pro, having previously fallen foul of serious problems with Premiere Pro. Final Cut Pro is quite a straightforward program but it also has extensive features which I am still learning to use to get the most from the system. YouTube is a terrific source of information and inspiration. For instruction on video techniques I have gained a lot from watching ‘Learn Online Video’ with Steve Wright, the internationally famous Canadian Peter McKinnon, and American Jeven Dovey. There are also a number of excellent YouTube channels on the use of drones. In addition to these instructional videos I also watch excellent video makers such as Athena Mellor and the Solo Summiteer both of whom cover outdoor subjects coupled with excellent self shot footage using simple cameras and drones”.


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