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4K Drone Videos – Bitrate Matters

Bitrate image for blog post about drone aerial video bitrate.Anyone who has put money into buying a good 4K monitor or TV knows that the quality of a 4K video depends on a number of factors. The quality of the screen it is being watched on, the speed of the internet service it is being streamed over play a part, but so does the bitrate it was captured at, and rendered out at.

Edit: To clarify the bitrates of drones. 100Mbps is Megabits per second, not Megabytes per second, so 100Mbps is actually 12.5 Megabytes per second, which is the data rate limit for sub 2kg drones like the Phantom 4 Pro for example, which only uses a SD card, or the data rate of the Inspire 2, if only the SD card is used. The Inspire 2 does 4.2Gbps though to the solid state drive, which is 4.2 Gigabits per second, which is 4200Mbps, or 4200 Megabits per second, which is 525 MBps or 525 Megabytes per second, aka approx. 1GB every 2 seconds. So thats 12.5 Megabytes per second compressed .h264 data capture maximum for say a Phantom 4 Pro, vs 525 Megabytes per second uncompressed RAW data capture maximum for the Inspire 2. Pixel Pilot will post a video showing the difference at a later date as this is an important difference that can be easily overlooked, or miscalculated due to the similarity of the short hand, Mbps vs MBps or Gbps vs GBps and is very important when considering making a high quality video with either a Phantom 4 Pro or an Inspire 2, for example.

This is important because even the cheapest of drones and cameras now boast “4K” resolution, but the video quality produced isn’t always going to be great or the same. With so much visual data being captured in 4K drone aerial recordings, the maximum speed at which the data is written to the storage device onboard the drone, usually an SD card, is limited to about 100Mbps. Sounds fast, though it isn’t nearly fast enough, especially at high frame rates. So low cost drones will compress the data on the fly, which means lower quality video, even though the resolution is 4K, it will have compression artifacts in it.

The Inspire 2, which has an onboard SSD drive captures data at 4.2Gbps, with no need for compression… that is so fast that in 10 minutes of flying and filming it can capture 120GB of raw visual data for your 4K video. That’s how you end up with crystal clear 4K videos, although the amount of time spent converting RAW data to workable video files is also important – it can take hours to convert even a short video on the highest spec computers. Rush the conversion or rendering process and lower quality 4K video results.

For many, close enough is good enough, but it is worth knowing that simply having a 4K label doesn’t mean the video or photo for that matter, will actually be high quality. The recording bitrate is really is the key when producing ultra high resolution videos, at high frame rates.

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Choppy Video Playback Issue – 4K Monitor and Windows 10

4K UHD screen resolution showing a maximum 30hz refresh rate.2LDR: Possible HDMI cable restriction causing the choppy video playback on Windows 10 when using a 4K UHD monitor to play high frame rate 4K UHD video. Check to make sure your 4K (3840 x 2160) monitor or TV is connected to your PC or device with a DisplayPort or HDMI 2 cable that can handle 4K UHD at 60hz, while making sure the refresh rate of your display is also set at 60Hz (or higher), not say, 30Hz. Alternatively, as a last resort lower the resolution of your monitor to 2560 x 1440 or something that allows for 60Hz refresh rate.

This article mentions Windows 10 because these video playback issues do not happen on Apple retina Mac Book Pros or iMac 5K systems because the refresh rate of these screens is not an issue, there is either no cable at all or people use Apples thunderbolt connection to connect to their monitors. If you are finding that your drone videos which you shot in 4K @ 60fps or higher are rendering out ok but playing back choppy or stuttering on your windows PC, then you should check the frame rate and resolution of the video, the refresh rate and resolution of your screen, and then make sure the cable and ports on your device and screen support 4K at 60hz.



Choppy video playback problem solved

Screen resolutions refresh rates shown to effect playback of drone footage.

If your 4K Screen is connected to your windows PC with a HDMI 1 cable, you may find it is limited to 30Hz when set to 3840 x 2160 resolution, and that’s why the video is choppy on playback. Changing your screens resolution down from 4K to a 2560 x 1440 resolution that will allow a 60Hz refresh rate will fix the problem of choppy playback. Of course, this also means your video won’t look as amazing as it could if you were playing it at 4K at 60Hz. The fix is to switch your cable to a display port so your monitor will have the 60Hz option available at its native 4K resolution. This will seem obvious to those that know about the limitations of HDMI 1 cables, and be a lifesaver for those that had forgotten or did not know.

This was probably not an issue for a whole lot of people who firstly, never had any 4k footage shot at a high 60 frames per second, and secondly never had a 4K monitor or TV. Now, people have started buying 4K TV’s, and they are also filming their own or have access to drone footage, shot in for 4K at 60 frames per second. This means more people will run into the issue of choppy video footage, and wondering if their new PC hardware is failing, simply because they don’t realise they need either an HDMI 2 or display port cable running from their high-end PC to their 4K monitor.



Is it worth shooting in 4K, if nobody has a 4K TV or screen?

New option for PC connection at 60Hz 4K native resolution.Yes, it is, because although a lot of people don’t have a 4K TV or computer screen, by now, a lot of people do, and soon a whole lot of people will do. In addition, everyone that has an Apple Mac Book Pro Retina or 5K iMac already has a 4K screen, and can easily play back your 4K 60 frame per second movies, which look, stunning. Also, with more people now buying drones, better monitors, TVs and PCs, there will be more and more 4K footage available.

Hopefully this article will help someone who has had problems wondering why their drone footage is not playing well on their 4K screen.

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Safety and Privacy Laws in Australia for RPA / Drone Operators

Drone used for aerial photography in the air and controller against blue sky.
Common law torts exist which may also be
relevant to RPA use. For example the torts of trespass, nuisance or breach of confidence may be available to people.

The new drone jammers in development are interesting, and as a aerial photographer in Perth it is interesting to see recent articles in the news mention that in Australia drones are still classified as private property, and thus the only people who can legally shoot down, or use a jammer to bring down or control a drone they do not want to fly in an area, are government agency representatives. This is different to other countries where individuals can in fact use anti drone technology to bring down drones that are posing a threat to ones privacy.

With CASA playing its role in air safety, the law around privacy is not unclear for RPA’s. As an aerial photographer we may often take images of a residential block for example, and there may often be backyards that are next to a property that is being photographed for sale that are shown in the image. The Privacy Act does not provide Australians with comprehensive privacy protections, and regarding RPA’s or drones, small businesses are also not subject to some of the privacy principles.

Privacy Act does not apply to the collection and use of personal information by private citizens and does not provide overarching privacy protection for the individual. With the privacy act not covering specific use of RPA, and the laws that are in place really focusing on criminal or indecent filming of private acts, responsible, licensed and insured artists and aerial photographers can relax and not worry overly about breaking privacy laws if they fly safely and abide by the CASA RPA rules for commercial use, and stay out of no fly zones such as within proximity to airports etc. Flying a drone outside someones window, with the intention of spying on people in their homes would fall in the criminal category for example, while taking a low photograph of a block or house that is for sale for a real estate agent, is not going to be considered a criminal act, obviously. However if in the process of doing so, the potential for recording or photographing a private act of an individual in say their private backyard arises, it would not be lawful to record or photograph this, even inadvertently.

Any study into law in general (thank you first year law units), quickly reveals that the nature of laws and lawmaking revolves around fairness, and in that light, people generally know what is right and wrong, and if they don’t know, then a judge certainly will be able to decide for them if they have done wrong or not, and create laws as needed. Judge made law then it seems will become the source of many new laws that might be deemed necessary as drones grow in popularity. As more and more aerial photographers take to the skies with new drones, perhaps incidents around privacy will arise, end up as a legal dispute and then result in new judge made laws over time being made that will apply to all RPA’s / drones.

There are a number of apps that help done pilots determine if an area is safe to fly and certainly these are covered in formal RPA training. Anyone operating a drone needs to be responsible, obey the rules and laws and generally do the right thing. Police and government agency offical representatives will have the ability and technology available to remove drones that cause problems, but this is not going to be a major problem for trained, licensed and responsible aerial photographers who may be doing a wide range of legitimate activities.

Voluntary codes of conduct and privacy policies by commercial RPA operators

This is a commendable response to public concern about the potential for invasive RPA use. However, regulatory change may ultimately be necessary to address the issue of privacy-invasive technologies. Basically, operators are now developing their own privacy policies, in order to help protect individuals who may be worried about their privacy. Certainly Pixel Pilot is out to protect the privacy of individuals in the community which we serve and operate in, and anyone concerned about the use of our drones are encouraged to contact us via email at info@pixelpilot.com.au, and we will do what we can to ensure no breech of privacy occurs in our day to day operations. In addition, Pixel Pilot actively avoids any potential breech of privacy where possible and in the event that accident privacy breeches have any such footage or photo would be immediately destroyed as per our own privacy policy.

The privacy concerns that may me held by businesses or individuals regarding RPA really present as a small part of overall privacy concerns that are emerging as a result of technology advancements. Being able to use meta data to track a persons movements using social media and other privacy concerns emerging from digital sources also would need to be addressed with any changes to privacy laws in Australia, and indeed RPA operators themselves need to be protected and enabled to do their job without fear of be subject to punishment from laws designed to capture and prosecute actual criminals with access to modern technology.

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Latest Drone Developments

The latest drone developments including the new DJI line of products.
The latest drone developments include drone jammers, the Inspire 2 from DJI, recent military use, and even pizza delivery!

The drone industry as a whole is a lot more interesting than just aerial photography by itself, because while drones do provide an excellent platform for mounting cameras, they do so much more than that just that. Drones are now being used from everything from professional aerial photography and videography by businesses such as Pixel Pilot, to hungry backyard sausage snaggers and almost anything you can think of. This creates an almost dark side vs light side style battle in the drone world with people from all walks of industry and non commercial life having in many cases a strong opinion about the latest drone developments.

This article discusses some of the latest drone developments that Pixel Pilot has noticed, including jammers, surf life saving, military use, irresponsible usage, package delivery and new drone technology. Just from listing some of these, it is easy to see how dark or light side opinions can be formed by different people quite easily. Let’s start with perhaps the most interesting and relevant topics to Pixel Pilot, new drone technology, specifically the Inspire 2.

New Drone Technology – Inspire 2

With the new Inspire 2 shipping out there are already a number of reviews around, beyond the detailed information on the DJI website regarding the Inspire 2. As such, this article will not be detailing specs in a review style format. The reason for mentioning the Inspire 2 here, is simply because it is (in this writer’s opinion) hands down the best professional drone now available for aerial photography and videography, Pixel Pilot’s core business. Long story short, this new drone is an aerial photographers dream.

The goal is complete stability of flight and clarity of image, something the Inspire 2 / X5S combo delivers in spades. Worth mentioning, is the future of battery life, (let’s see a 10 hour plus or solar powered drone that can recharge during flight and store enough battery to stay in the air constantly, and hey, how about a 5000km or hell, global range drone. Too much to ask for? Maybe.

Wild speculations about the possibility of futuristic drone technology brings to mind new potential threats and problems, much the same way the latest drone developments are bringing about new threats and problems now. For example, if the idea of a terrorist with a drone bomb is scary now, how scary is the idea of a terrorist with 20 drone bombs on drones that have global range and can fly continuously, and autonomously. Thankfully, this is not a reality yet and interestingly this might help see the new “drone jammers” from both sides of the story.

Drone Jammer Technology

Having started this article with the idea that, drone jammers, aka futuristic looking gun type weapons that take drones out of the sky, are a bad thing, having just read the previous paragraph perhaps, continued development of anti drone technology is not a bad thing.

For Pixel Pilot, you could envision someone destroying our expensive Inspire 2 drone, just because, they don’t like drones in general. It is a potentially bad thing for us if misused. We might see overly protective council members taking the law into their own hands and crashing our drones while we are on legitimate aerial photography flights for a client, probably not, but maybe.

On the other hand, it seems clear that we can not have this amazing drone technology around without an effective way to police dangerous usage. In the same way we have multi nova technology to prevent speeding and dangerous motorists, we do in fact need anti drone technology to prevent speeding and dangerous drones. Certainly it would be a useful technology for the Australian Defence Force, who may in the future need to protect our shores from international drone attacks.

Military Use of Modern Drone Technology

Perhaps the earliest exposure of drone technology to the general public was through learning of US drone strikes on the news. This may have lead to an anti drone mind set among many individuals. Certainly the use of drones in the military continues, highlighted in popular movies such as “Good Kill” starring Ethan Hawke. Recently drones have been mentioned in the news playing support surveillance roles, aiding the Australian and US military jet fighters in conducting aerial assaults. The RAAF was seen deploying F-18 Hornet fighters to drop bombs having received intel provided by military drones, for example.

Military use of drones will continue and we mention them here because they form part of the ongoing development and widespread use of drones in general.

Surf Life Saving Drones – The Latest Drone Developments

Recently highlighted in the media in TV and print news articles is the introduction of drones for use in saving lives. Here we have the absolute pinnacle of the light side of drone use. Pixel Pilot has long wanted to be apart of this aspect of drone use, preventing shark attacks by patrolling beaches for threats. Mainly because flying a drone at the beach is fun and the idea of getting paid to do that while offering some benefit to the public was a big draw.

Surf Life Saving WA has however not been blind to the potential benefits of drones, and have now invested in a drone program of their own. Certainly the drones they could and should use need to provide different features to those required by photographers and film makers. The life raft detachment, the loud speaker etc. Drone first responders are fast, efficient and can go where people often can not go. They also can be kept ready to deploy at a range of locations, close by where the surf rescue helicopters can not affordably be kept.

Pixel Pilot will continue to hope that Surf Life Saving WA will require the services of our drones and pilots, although at this stage it sounds like they have that aspect of drone use covered.

Irresponsible Use of Drones

Certainly on the dark side of drone use, and perhaps one of the biggest threats to Pixel Pilot and the drone aerial photography, videography and inspection industry as a whole, is irresponsible use of drones. We have seen a cutting of red tape recently regarding drone laws by CASA to better reflect modern drones. At the same time, the dramatic uptake of drones across the general population has caused some problems. Perhaps one of the most well known incidents was the guy who flew a phantom form his backyard to Bunnings to pick up a sausage. The real problem here is that everyone can think up entertaining, ultimately pointless and stupid things to do with a drone, but where most people laugh and don’t do it, some people, do.  This causes problems for Pixel Pilot and other legitimate RPA operators because it puts drone use in a negative light, something we seek to combat by promoting safe and responsible drone use for industry.

Using Drones Productively and Safely

One thing legitimate drone or RPA operators can do to negate irresponsible use of drones is to actively seek out ways to sow the benefits of responsible drone use. Pixel Pilot aims to show through our clients and our work exactly how drones can be a useful, timesaving and productive tool to enhance product and service delivery across a range of industries. Stay tuned and check our site regularly over the coming months to see some of our recent projects, new developments and our latest service offering updates.

Pizza Delivery Drones

Dominoes, perhaps Australia’s largest and most well known pizza delivery business, has looked at drone use, and from memory are looking to implement a ground based drone delivery system. Indeed, having been asked while out on a job recently if our drones can carry a pizza, I am sure they can, and the latest drone developments from businesses like dominos, raise questions as to whether drones will be used commonly for Pizza delivery in the future? We can only hope so, and dominoes has teamed up with a drone company to do just that, wit the first ever airborne pizza delivery by drone happening just a few weeks ago in New Zealand. Pizza just got cooler…maybe a lot cooler because, well, it gets pretty windy up there, but I’m sure they have a special box to counter that fact.

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Pixel Pilot Delivering Aerial Photography In West Perth

Aerial photograph of West Perth, Western Australia.
Aerial photography is now being delivered in West Perth by Pixel Pilot. High resolution, low altitude imagery at low prices.

Pixel Pilot has moved to larger new offices on Wellington Street in West Perth (pictured below). Being located in West Perth provides a strong base with fast access to sites north, south, west and east of Perth. The move to a better equipped, central office space brings renewed enthusiasm to our small aerial photography business which prides itself on its great value professional services, highly skilled RPA operators, and a high level of customer service.

Perth is an amazing city and we are proud to provide low cost aerial photography and video to individuals and businesses in our current service area. With the limitless application for drone aerial photography services, including roof inspection, corporate videos, real estate photography, aerial shark patrols for beach safety, event photography, youtube and music video production to name a few, Pixel Pilot will continue investing time and money into improving its range of services, and increasing its service area.

Pixel Pilot Drone Aerial Photography Head Office
Located on level 1, Pixel Pilot is expanding its service offerings and capability with its move to this new head office location on Wellington Street.

As professionals with a long and varied background, including commercial asset inspection, event photography, marketing and sound engineering, Pixel Pilot is well placed in a unique position to produce aerial photographs and videos that can quickly provide solutions to a range of problems that, before the rise of modern drone technology, where literally out of reach. Moving to a West Perth office is a big step forward, and we look forward to being an active part of the drone photography and videography industry in Perth for many years to come.

Keep an eye on this space as we will be releasing more services in the coming months, as well as uploading a showreel and gallery highlighting our aerial photography and aerial video production capability.

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Strawberry Hill – The Oldest Farm, Western Australia

Strawberry Hill Albany by Pixel PilotPixel Pilot took to the skies to get these great shots of the oldest farm in Western Australia, and are pleased to share them here. The rich history here has seen the old farm fall in and out of care, and since 1964 the task has been in the hands of the National Trust.

Heading out of Perth’s metro area to get some great drone footage and aerial photographs is always a pleasure, as there are so many amazing places in WA that have never before been photographed by a drone. It is exciting to be apart of this relatively new industry, now made possible thanks to some very exciting new technology.

Those wishing to visit can head over to 174 Middleton Rd, Albany. We were pleased to get the chance to get a bird’s eye view of this historic land mark on a recent visit, and we would like to thank Bev Chapman for giving us permission to fly and shoot at this history property.

Aerial photo of Strawberry Hill, Albany by Pixel PilotIn addition to our commercial work, which focuses mostly on real estate marketing in Perth and event photography, we aim to explore the opportunity to bring a unique view of some of WA’s most interesting landmarks, and landscapes to those who would otherwise not get a chance to see it.

Check back in at our blog often to see where we go when we get out and about in WA.

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Commercial Drone Operator Laws Western Australia

Drone Laws RelaxedA recent article (pictured) highlighted some of the coming changes to the RPA operator laws in Australia. Instead of forcing all operators to become CASA certified, at a cost of around $4000 and up, in the near future aspiring drone pilots and aerial photographers will be able to fly smaller yet (less capable, – see our blog post on bitrate matters) semi capable drones, such as the Phantom from DJI without the need for a RPA operator certificate.

The relaxed new laws offer new opportunity for new entrants to the industry, while still leaving more established operators who use larger drones for things like aerial mapping and mine surveying still well placed to hold a strong position in those markets.

Film makers who wish to work commercially will have more opportunity to get in the air and this will be a welcome change, although being limited to low bitrates of 100 megabits per second in compressed format will mean a truely professional finish is not possible. For larger jobs, (think filming for large feature films etc.) using newer drones such as the beastly Inspire 2 from DJI with its high bitrate capability is still going to require a licensed and certified pilot.

While it may appear initially that the RPA Operator certificate is now not worth the money, that simply is not the case, as anyone who has completed the course can confirm and will tell you, there is a vast amount of useful information handed over that in reality, anyone flying an aircraft of any size should know. In addition, the bitrate of sub 2kg drones is limited to 12.5 Megabytes per second MBps or 100Megabits Mbps, compressed on the fly to the SD card, which produces compression artefacts in the footage. Using a larger drone with a solid state drive in it with higher bitrates up to 4.2 Gigabits per second Gbps (525 Megabytes per second which is 4200 Megabits per second capturing RAW uncompressed data in a high quality codec is going to give the crystal clear result that makes having a license or certificate to fly the heavier drones worth while.

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Edgecombe Brothers Winery Restaurant: The spirit of the Swan Valley.

Aerial photograph of a winery.Recently we took to the skies at the picturesque Edgecombe Brothers Winery and Restaurant in the Swan Valley. The owners where happy to have us take a drone in for an hour to capture some unique footage and images they couldn’t have gotten any other way.

The drone was perfect for low and slow video flights over the vineyards which show the spirit of the Swan Valley in detail. Rich photography and high resolution video is now available to bring new life to the Edgecombe Brothers website.

Shooting these images in HDR, and the video in 4K ultra high resolution means that there is simply a ton of visual data to use in a variety of places, such as online banners, print advertisements, the company website, YouTube and social media. Our thanks to Amer for recommending us!

Winery accomodation at Edgecombe BrothersHead on over to The Edgecombe Brothers Winery and enjoy the day, and spend the night, in one of the chalets (pictured). With amazing wine, food, service and atmosphere we had a great time taking photographs and speaking with the staff. Here is a place you just feel relaxed and happy as soon as you step foot on the property.

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Responsible Drone Use

Cops swoop on drone owner.
Unlicensed members of the public making life harder for legitimate RPA operators who use drones to provide aerial photography for a range of industries.

Sadly, this kind of thing puts drones in a bad light, and makes life harder for certified operators like Pixel Pilot.

Pixel Pilot are certified RPA operators under the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and operate currently under CASA.ReOC.1071 trading as Pixel Pilot. Below we have listed the main rules that apply to commercial and non commercial drone pilots.

The biggest factor that drone operators must consider is the safety of people and property in the area on the ground. Drone pilots must also consider other aircraft in the area and depending on the type of flying, follow the following rules:

*Edit: For accurate legislation please visit the CASA website use the below as a guide only.

For commercial RPA operators, some exceptions may include:

  • Able to plan night missions
  • Fly within 30m of people not not closer than 15m if consent has been obtained
  • Use drones weighing more than 2kg for commercial gain
  • Ability to apply for permission to fly within 3nm of an airport, or fly higher than 400ft
Standard operating conditions for non commercial operations:
  • You must only fly during the day and keep your RPA within visual line-of sight (VLOS) – close enough to see, maintain orientation and achieve accurate flight and tracking. This means being able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (rather than through first-person-view (FPV)) at all times.
  • You must not fly your RPA higher than 120 metres (400ft) AGL. Referenced to a point on the ground immediately below the RPA at any time during the flight.
  • You must only fly your RPA during the daytime only (not after sunset).
  • You must keep your RPA at least 30 metres away from other people i.e. any person who is not charged with duties essential to the safe operation of a remotely piloted aircraft.
  • You must keep your RPA away from prohibited/restricted areas.
  • You must not fly your RPA over any area where, in the event of a loss of control or failure, you create an unreasonable hazard to the safety of people and property on the ground (populous area).
  • You must keep your RPA at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes – one with an operating control tower.
  • You must not fly your RPA over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway (without prior approval). This could include situations such as a traffic accident, police operations, a fire and associated firefighting efforts, and search and rescue.
  • You can only fly one RPA at a time.

Council local laws governing drone use in Perth

Currently few if any councils have created by laws that restrict the use of drones, with the exception of City of Stirling. The City of Stirling will impose infringements in the range of $125 – $350 approx. for the use of a drone on or from the local government property without a permit (that is a permit specifically from the City of Stirling rather than any CASA issued licence or certificate) and has created a local law to uphold their 2016 policy. Edit: contacting the City of Stirling revealed that they won’t issue a permit, even to licensed and certified RPA operators. This means that commercial RPA operators, licensed remote pilots with a ReOC, must only launch from private property when doing work, but once launched, are in airspace which the City of Stirling has no jurisdiction over, so just be sure to launch from private property and you are ok as long as you comply with the standard operating procedures or your operating manual.

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Obstacle Sensing Drone Technology In DJI’s Phantom 4 Drone

Drone gets stuck in a tree while taking aerial photographs in Perth.
The Phantom 3 Pro is still an excellent work horse for estate photography but the Phantom 4 prevents this type of mishap as it senses the surrounds and will not fly into anything. It even backs off if something approaches it. Pixel Pilot keeps abreast of the latest technology and currently uses the Phantom 4 and Phantom 3 Professional from DJI.

The benefit of using new drone technology such as obstacle sensors which help UAV pilots to avoid crashes into trees, is obvious to anyone thats ever, crashed their drone into a tree. There is no doubt that flying at high speed increases the likely hood a drone crash will happen, so this addition to the Phantom series of drones is very welcome. The Phantom 4 is the world’s newest and most advanced drone, and a great new tool for aerial photographers.

Mechanical Turbulence

Mechanical turbulence gets particularly bad when you crash directly into a tree. The Phantom 4 drone technology used by Pixel Pilot ensures that our drones will never crash into obstacles, as the drone will automatically avoid collisions. This saves on repair costs, and allows us to capture footage that would be otherwise impossible to capture.