Attack of the drones: consumer unmanned aerial vehicles are easy to use and provide high-quality footage

The gear • October 2014

Game of drones

Multi-rotor helicopters with built-in cameras are all the rage with Google, Facebook and Amazon – but they can also up the ante of your adventure holiday snaps and films, says tech writer Derek Adams

There’s something fascinating about aerial photography, be it a snap of the terrain from an aircraft window or a Google Map image of your neighbourhood. But drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are about to change how we take our own sky-high snaps.

The pilotless robotic aircraft are commonly used in war zones, but since Google, Facebook and Amazon got ‘into’ drones, the multi-rotor helicopters with built-in cameras have become a commercial craze, used by everyone from estate agents valuing properties to fashion labels sending live feeds of catwalk shows. Even BuzzFeed declared that ‘dronies’ (an aerial selfie taken with a drone) were now a thing.

Now you don’t need to be an internet giant to own one thanks to UAVs going into the mainstream market, with easy-to-use models that offer high-quality footage. They come at various price points and degrees of quality, but if you want something that’s easy to control, but far removed from a toy plane, try DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter (from €1,159). The four-bladed marvel comes ready to fly straight out of the box and is crammed with more technology than a NASA space capsule. Unlike your average model helicopter, the Vision+ is a doddle to fly as it’s equipped with GPS locking and a raft of other safety features that keep it rock-steady in flight, even in a stiff breeze.

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter

The Vision+ shoots outstanding photographs and ultra-smooth video using an integrated 14-megapixel camera that can be remotely adjusted mid-flight through a dedicated iPhone app. The same app also allows users to monitor what the camera sees, effectively turning the quadcopter into a bona fide ‘first-person view’ (FPV) aircraft.

Though there are no age restrictions to flying a drone, you need to stick to the same rules as flying model aircraft ­­– they cannot be used within 50m of a building or person, and must remain within your line of sight. But used within those parameters, a UAV will add a truly new perspective to your videos and images as you head for your next high-adrenaline adventure or scenic escape.

This article has been tagged Opinion, Technology