Words by Josh Fletcher
Drone photography has opened creative possibilities which seemed unachievable years ago. Before drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles/UAVs) were tapped for photography, capturing photographs from a bird’s eye view was unheard of.
Today, advanced drone technology has entered the arena of marketing and promotion photography, tapping the gadget’s capacity to capture stills and footage from above. Drones have been spotted in festival circuits worldwide. Several of these ubiquitous machines were seen in the skies over Coachella several years ago. Some of the hovering bots were privately-owned, while others were operated by an LA-based company contracted to capture concert stills. In the U.K., the annual Splendour festival utilized drones to capture performance and crowd shots, bringing a different perspective to the usual modes of concert photography.
There are several reasons why drone technology has become mainstream in the concert and festival circuit. In the past, obtaining panoramic footage of the event from above would require hiring a photographer and helicopter (not to mention logistical and permitting concerns). With drone technology, the device is operated from the ground by “pilots.” Moreover, with a smaller, controllable device, maneuvering for a close-up and even a swooping shot of the crowd is possible. Before the popularity of drone photography, there were limited points from where photographers could shoot.
Aerial photography generated a buzz among enthusiasts. Global festivals have been organized to acknowledge its growing potential. In New York, a festival honoring the best in drone cinematography and photography will be happening this year—proof that this technology has gained a following not only among hobbyists, but professionals and experts. Launched in 2016, the festival highlights the impressive camerawork done using drones worldwide. Last year, Dronefest was staged in the UK, an international competition focusing on “everything drones.”
Federal Aviation Administration rules and related statewide regulations have enacted policies covering the use of drones in various applications and locations. This is a serious challenge for photographers, including those in the festival circuit.
But as applications for drone technology continue to evolve, more consumers will be drawn to them, despite gray areas in regulations over public use and ownership. Drone technology is expected to grow in upcoming years. A 2013 market study by the aerospace and defense consulting company Teal Group Corporation has projected a boom in UAV spending in the future. The study projects that global expenditures for UAVs would total “just over $89 million” within a decade.
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