A decade ago, the only ways to get aerial photography for any purpose were to hire a manned airplane or procure satellite footage. Fast forward to today, where commercial drones have become popular, and aerial photography is much easier.
In certain use-cases, manned aircraft are still the way to go – for example when capturing aerial data over long distances.
But in most use-cases, using a drone will suffice. Such applications include inspection of assets like oil rigs and agricultural surveys.
Normal Vs Industrial Photography
Nowadays, any professional photographer worth their salt will have a drone. Such drones are capable of resolutions of around 30 MP and are used for example in the collection of B-roll footage.
For amateur users who want to capture aerial photography – say for informational purposes only – there are drones that have lower resolution.
When it comes to industrial aerial photography, the required quality is much higher, necessitating the use of a professional aerial photography drone.
Where normal drones come pre-fitted with a camera, the industrial photography drone comes as a standalone unit and has to be equipped with a payload. The payload usually consists of a sensor with a resolution of at least 50 MP. Some drone payloads have 100 MP sensors.
Such high-quality sensors enable the capture of high-resolution imagery, which is necessary for a wide range of industrial applications like the inspection of high-value assets in the energy industry.
Qualities of a Professional Aerial Photography Drone
A professional aerial photography drone will typically be medium-format with a resolution of 50 or 100 MP. The large format camera, with a resolution of up to 280 MP, is used mostly with manned aircraft.
Usually, medium-format cameras are enough to satisfy the requirements of use-cases such as the inspection of an offshore oil rig or the collection of four-band data about a farm.
The large format camera is used when extremely high resolution is required and when the images have to be taken from a much higher altitude.
Below are the preferred attributes of the more common medium format professional photography drone.
The payload consists of the sensor system responsible for the collection of data. The sensor can be a camera sensitive to visible light or near-infrared, a thermal/infrared sensor, or a LiDAR scanner/range-finder.
Some systems contain more than one sensor.
The heavier the payload, the more high-quality the sensors are likely to be. So, a drone that can carry more weight is capable of handling more sophisticated payloads and delivering higher-quality results.
A payload can also be optimized for higher productivity if necessary.
It can have a sensor that comes with a range of interchangeable lenses to cater for applications that require different focal lengths.
It can also have a sensor that is equipped to handle low-light conditions. This means that data collection can be done early in the morning and late in the evening, which would not be possible with other sensors, thus increasing productivity.
If low-light conditions are a particular pain for you, you could consider using manned aircraft with the camera large format, especially if you are capturing the data over extended distances. The ultra-high resolution in camera large format means that it is sensitive to less light.
Ease of Use
Compatibility can be a problem because you’ll have to connect your drone to other hardware and software to effectively meet your goal.
As such, the ease of integration should be a major factor when deciding which drone to use. Consider options that are plug-and-play and ready-to-fly. They’ll be much easier to set up.
And when the components you use are readily compatible, you won’t need to keep retraining your drone pilots for every component of the aerial system.
One of the biggest advantages of using a drone to capture aerial imagery is that it gives you access to places that would otherwise be unsafe and difficult to reach.
To maximize this, ensure that the drone you use is easily maneuverable. It should be able to hover over areas of interest.
If you’ll be capturing data in areas that have many obstacles, consider an option with built-in automatic obstacle detection and avoidance. If most of your work will be indoors, there are drones specifically meant for that.
Reasonable Flight Time
It would be inconvenient to keep having to stop mid-project because your drone is out of power. However, unless you’re taking images over an extended area like a highway, this normally shouldn’t be a problem.
That said, some drones have a longer flight time than others. If this is a big issue for you, consider fixed-wing rather than multiple-rotor drones. Also keep in mind that the weight of the payload affects flight time.
To take professional aerial photography, especially in an industrial setting, you need two things: a good drone and a good payload. The payload consists of the sensor system and will determine how high-quality your data is.
The drone determines the maximum payload you can carry, how long you can fly, and how well you can maneuver to access specific areas of interest.