Equipment

My aerial photography is done with a Blade 350 QX2 AP drone aircraft outfitted with a GB200 2 axis professional camera gimbal and a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver edition camera.  The Blade 350 QX2 is a quad copter and is very easy to fly, even for someone with no RC experience.  YouTube is a great resource for learning about the Blade.

What appealed to me about the Blade quad were the flight mode choices.  In mode 1, the throttle is “relative” meaning that when it’s fully down, the aircraft is at ground level and when it’s fully up, the aircraft flies to a ceiling of about 150 feet.  Anywhere in between, the aircraft finds it’s relative position between the two extremes and just sits there.  Also in mode 1, if you push the pitch control forward, the aircraft moves away from you regardless of the direction the front is pointing.  Likewise, the roll control moves the aircraft in the direction of the stick regardless of which way it is pointed.  One more neat feature of mode 1 is a safety zone.  Here’s how it works – you initialize the aircraft and then step behind it about 15 feet to launch it.  The pilot is protected because the electronics will not allow the aircraft to enter the circle of safety.  If you try to fly the drone toward you, it just stops about 10 feet away like it hit a force shield!

Mode 2, AP (aerial photography) mode, is similar except the pitch control moves the aircraft in the direction it is pointing.  That means that you must yaw the aircraft to move in the desired direction.  The roll control is likewise affected by the direction the aircraft is pointed.  The throttle is “relative” between ground and a ceiling of 150 feet.  All stick motions react slowly to obtain excellent photographs and videos.

Mode 3 removes the ceiling so the throttle is no longer relative.  If you launch full throttle, the aircraft rockets skyward and keeps going until it’s out of sight.  I believe that the FAA suggests a self imposed 400 foot ceiling for hobby drones which seems more than adequate to me for doing aerial photography.  Pitch, roll and yaw controls respond quickly and the aircraft responds immediately to input but the movements are too abrupt for decent photography.  You cannot flip the aircraft in mode 3 with the transmitter packaged with the kit, you need to purchase a 5 or 6 channel transmitter to do acrobatics.

And finally a real neat feature of the Blade 350 QX2 is the “Home” feature.  If you lose sight of your aircraft, you activate the “Home” switch and the aircraft moves to an altitude of 60 feet and returns to within 10 feet of where it was initialized!  Not only that, it self lands and the blades stop rotating.  Hows that for idiot proof!

Blade 350 QX AP

Blade 350 QX2 AP drone with a GoPro camera




GB200 Gimbal showing GoPro modification

GB200 Gimbal showing GoPro modification. The buttons are self stick drawer bumpers and the little thing on the right is a piece of door weather seal molding.




GB200 Gimbal with GoPro Camera

The GoPro camera fits snugly into the modified gimbal carrier but I put a rubber band around it for added insurance.