Atlanta-based photographer David Fisher bought his battery-powered drone — which flies using four small propellers that act like helicopter rotors — several months ago and now packs it among the photo gear he takes on visits to Jekyll Island, where Fisher and his wife have a vacation home.
Using a joystick to control the drone and a monitor that displays the view from the camera lens, Fisher has shot flyover video of the Jekyll Island Club resort that once was a private getaway for wealthy American industrialists, a secluded beach with waves lapping at driftwood on the sand and crowds gathered to watch veterinarians from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center return one of their giant reptile patients to the ocean.
As he’s done with many still photos in the past, the photographer gave the aerial footage for free to the Jekyll Island Authority, which manages the state-owned island park. Jones Hooks, the authority’s executive director, said he couldn’t ask for better images to help promote the island.
“You’re looking down on the event and you get the panorama and the full scale of, say, a sea turtle release,” Hooks said. “You see the ocean and the waves and you see the crowds. It adds a totally different dimension.”
Jekyll Island officials have displayed Fisher’s videos online and found the quality high enough, thanks in part to a gyroscope that keeps the camera steady in-flight, to pull still photos for possible use in marketing materials.
Besides having a photography business — J and D Images — with his wife in Atlanta, Fisher is also a licensed pilot who’s taken his share of photos from planes, helicopters and hang gliders. He says his love of photography and flying made it a no-brainer to invest in a quad copter, the term he prefers for his remote-controlled flying machine that measures about 2½ feet across and less than a foot tall.
“When I think of a drone, I’m thinking more of the military or police surveillance, something that’s going to stay up in the air,” Fisher said. “The stuff we use stays up for a matter of minutes and has limited range. What we’re using is basically a radio-controlled aircraft.”
Hooks said he and other Jekyll Island officials are so impressed with the aerial freebies they’ve gotten from Fisher than they’re considering hiring him for some paid work.
Shooting photos or video from the air is certainly cheaper using a drone than a helicopter, Hooks said, and the drone is capable of getting more dramatic shots because it can fly at lower altitudes just above the treetops.
“One of the only drawbacks I’ve seen with this is when it lands, if there are any kids around they suddenly think, ‘Wow, look at this neat toy!’” Hooks said. “You have to get there pretty quickly.”