Drone pilot Greg Chivers from Lunar Aerial Imaging has a love of the water and an enthusiasm for water sports, especially sailing, surfing, kite surfing and all forms of diving. He is a former yacht captain who has sailed the world. It was while working on superyachts that he discovered his passion for drones and developed his skills flying a range of machines over water from the deck of a moving vessel.
Read his top tips for using a drone for aerial photography and video at sea.
1. As part of the checklist, set the drone failsafe feature to “hover” rather than “go home”. This will avoid the drone returning to the position where the motors were started up, as opposed to your current position, which could be some distance away. Make sure you do this even if you are filming at anchor – that boat just doesn’t sit still.
2. Remember to turn the “geofence” off. If under way, you may travel up to five kilometers with one battery on a fast moving boat and find yourself outside of the preset geofence.
3. When taking off and landing on a moving boat, it is essential to be in “ATTI” to avoid the drone trying to hold position in “GPS” - this would result in it attempting to fly off the back of the boat as the motors are shut down or started up.
4. Flying in “ATTI” rather than “GPS” allows for much smoother filming of the boat while underway. The drone will also fly faster in “ATTI” should this be required.
5. When filming around yachts, having a good background knowledge of sailing helps you get the most out of your shots and to operate safely while in close proximity.
6. Make sure there is effective communication between the boat captain and the drone observer so that the drone pilot can anticipate any maneuvers of the vessel. Ensure the boat crew is fully briefed on the drone operations.
7. Beware of air turbulence whether it is from the boat and its sails, mountains or coastline.
8. Consider the relative wind. If a boat is going into the wind, the drone might struggle to keep up. Keep extra battery life in reserve should you need your drone to work hard against the wind.
Being calm and confident as you fly your drone at sea will provide some unique and exciting shots that you didn’t think were possible. Above all, don’t panic.