The Christmas holiday this year brought the news that Amazon was experimenting with drone delivery of packages. While the big issue is bound to be safety to pedestrians, the age of the drone is coming and along with it the real possibility that you will be able to click the little “30 minute delivery” icon with your computer mouse and a half an hour later your package is delivered by one of Amazon’s “Octocopters.”
Some of the implications of this are, well, kind of chilling. Technical advantage is fleeting and there are lots of people out there with pretty nefarious motives. So how this all plays out in terms of governmental control is going to be interesting to say the least.
Still from a amateur, or even professional, photographer’s perspective here is a whole new tool for photography and a whole new perspective on the world as well. We have all seen the little helicopters being sold at the malls. They go for about $30 and are good for scaring animals and breaking fragile things around the house. One of the sights that amused me this past fall as I walked around the mall was a drone hot air balloon in the shape of a shark. Children gathered on the second floor and giggled gleefully as this misplaced predator was guided from the ground floor tauntingly close to out stretched arms.
But there are some new products out there selling for about the price of a good digital camera that enable you to fly a camera around the neighborhood, hovering over trees, or you neighbor’s swimming pool. Nude sunbathers beware! Figure 1 shows a picture of one of these taken by California photographer Don McCullough. He asked the operator to move it in position with the moon.
For those of you interested in exploring this technology further, a review of the latest version of this technology, the Phantom 2 Vision Photo Drone from DJI can be found in the NY Times. This retails for about $1200. The conclusion there is that it’s not a toy, or at least that it’s a toy for big boys and girls. Also the camera suffers from wide angle pin cushioning. But maybe that’s the effect that you’re looking for as you zoom about the landscape.
Seriously though, what we are probably witnessing is the early stages of a whole new perspective for photographers. You will no longer be limited by where you can carry your camera. The sky’s the limit!