Expert Interview Series: Vishnu Kadamatt of Droney Bee On Tips And Trends To How To Be The Best Drone Operator
Vishnu Kadamatt is a software professional by trade. He is enthusiastic about artificial intelligence, sUAS, RC crafts, tinkering with electronics and building DIY robots. He is also a night time philosopher, star gazer and loves physics, mathematics, economics, psychology, fantasy, Sci-Fi and futurology. He is the founder of DroneyBee.
DroneyBee is a group of drone/UAV enthusiasts, providing useful information on all matters related to the drone and RC industries. How did you first get started with operating drones? What made you passionate enough about the field to start DroneyBee?
From my teen years, I’ve loved programming and tinkering with electronics to build “DIY” robots. The first ever “robot” I built was a line following Arduino board on wheels. The completion of that project, however simple it may have been, gave me one of the most satisfactory feelings I’ve ever had in my life. It felt like giving life to something!
I’ve also loved heading out and flying all sorts of radio controlled crafts – planes, helicopters and gliders. With first person view cameras, they feel like an extension of yourself that can fly. Who hasn’t dreamed of flying like an eagle?
One day, I decided to blend both my passions and build a quadcopter. That’s how I got into drones. DroneyBee started off as a platform where I put answers for friends who wanted to get into playing around with multicopters.
DroneyBee review drones and accessories to help people make better buying decisions. What are some of the criteria you look at, when reviewing drones? What have been some of your favorite models that you’ve reviewed, and why?
In all of our reviews, we look at the design, build quality, flight characteristics, camera and gimbal stability features (if the drone comes with it). As of favorite models, it is hard to say. To date, we’ve reviewed micro-quadcopters costing less than $50 (ideal for beginners by the way), all the way up to semi-professional photography drones.
In the case of semi-professional to professional grade drones, all of us at DroneyBee love the DJI Phantom series. We don’t have a particular favorite when it comes to micro quadcopters, but you can check out the models we’ve reviewed on our website.
There’s a post on your blog, ‘Best Drone Accessories: Prioritize Your Purchases‘, where you consider ‘what are the best drone accessories you can get to improve your experience?’ What ARE some of the best drone accessories, in your opinion? For someone just starting out, how should they go about deciding which drone accessories are most important?
In my opinion, if you are just starting out, you don’t need a whole lot of accessories. I recommend getting a cheap quadcopter and playing around with it to master flying. Most (yes, even the cheaper ones) come with extra propellers, batteries and propeller guards. If not, they are the accessories you should consider getting first.
Another really important accessory is the propeller balancer. Even if your drone is shipped with perfectly balanced propellers, it is only a matter of time before wear and tear takes their toll. Having the drone wobble around is the last thing you’d want, especially if you want to capture pictures and video.
If you are an intermediate level or professional flyer, the accessory you should get will depend on what you are using the drone for. If you are a photographer for example, getting a lens protection, lens hood and ND filters are recommended. For any professional use, it is recommended to get a carrying case for your drone.
You’ve also written a post recently about the ‘Best Indoor Drones: A Definitive Buying Guide‘. What’s different about an indoor drone? And how can someone decide which indoor drone might best serve their needs?
The one thing that is different about an “indoor” drone is size. If you want to fly indoors, maneuverability is key. The smaller the drone is, the better it will fly in closed spaces, around objects and in spaces between them. Nano-sized drones (ones around the size of a coin) are the most ideal. At the same time, they’ll be quite lacking if you take them outdoors.
The decision, then, is based on trade-off. When considering what to get, it is advisable to first decide whether you want the best possible indoor flight experience or if you want to trade some of that for the ability to occasionally fly outdoors. In case of the former, it is advised to get a nano drone. Otherwise, go for a micro sized drone. Of course, all of this is invalid if you want the drone to carry payload!
In your post ‘35 Drone Aerial Photography Tips (for AMAZING shots)‘, you start off with the prediction that the drone industry will continue to grow at an annual rate of 32%. Why are drones taking off so much? And what are a few sectors you predict drones will be moving into, in the next few years?
There are two main factors that have contributed to making drones popular recently – 1.) Technological advancements and 2.) lower costs.
Technological advancements include better batteries (LiPos as opposed to NiMH); better motors; auto-stabilization features; better software/firmware features and other advancements that are not directly related to drones like GPS, camera features etc. Lower cost of producing such technologically superior machines have opened up a ton of new opportunities.
In the next few years, we will probably still see photography and cinematography as the leading applications for drones. However, there will certainly be a boom in various other sectors including agriculture, construction, surveillance and security, search & rescue, inspection and package delivery. I suspect there are plenty of undiscovered applications still!
In that same post, you talk about the importance of understanding the local regulations before you pilot a drone. What are the risks of NOT researching the regulations, especially is someone is trying to pilot a drone commercially?
The risks will obviously vary from country to country. In the US, if you do not register your drone, you could be fined a hefty sum. In case of criminal penalties, you could be fined an even bigger amount and/or jailed for up to 3 years.
Someone trying to pilot a drone commercially must especially be aware of the regulations and fly responsibly. In the US, it is necessary to pass a remote pilot knowledge test before you can legally operate a drone commercially.
Drones are not simple playthings. Irresponsible use can lead to fatal injuries not only to yourself, but also to others. In case things go really south, it can even cause a catastrophe.
You mention some advantages of building a DIY drone, saying ‘The ability to build and repair your own craft will make you one of the most ‘handy’ aerial photographers out there. There are plenty of resources online to help you with the process.’ What are a few instances where building or repairing a DIY drone might come in handy? How can building or repairing a drone help separate a drone operator from the competition?
Think of it this way: Consider that you have the option to hire two drivers. Both of them are great drivers, but one of them has the skill to work under the hood and fix things if something goes wrong with your car. Who would you hire? I’d personally pick the one with the extra skill!
Drones are much like vehicles in this regard. At the professional level, any number of things can go wrong to impede your project including broken or unbalanced props, broken motors, gimbal obstructions, body imbalances and many other malfunctions.
While you do not need to have the technical know how on how to engineer a drone or program a flight controller, you’ll be at a significant advantage if you know how to assemble a drone kit into a fully functional drone.
You also talk about some guidelines on picking the best accessories for drone photography. What might a drone photography starter kit look like? What does a drone photographer ABSOLUTELY NEED to get started with their first drone photography?
I recommend the following additional accessories for drone photographer beginners (some I already mentioned):
- Lens protection, lens hood and ND filters
- A decent carrying case
- Additional batteries (2 will do)
- Additional propellers
- Sunshade for your transmitter
- Additional memory cards
- Propeller balancer
- In case of late evening/dusk photography : LED lights (if your drone doesn’t already have them pre-installed)
Can you offer any advice on file storage for drone photographers? Do you prefer on-board storage or cloud-based, or a combination of the both, and why?
Like any serious photographer, drone photographers are advised to set up and follow a proper workflow depending on their needs. These include using software to mark the best photos, using appropriate naming for photos and organizing them, adding metadata and proper storage. For storage, it is usually recommended to have two separate hard drives AND a cloud-based storage platform. You could also add your best work onto a personal website.
The reason you want many backups of your photos on different platforms is obvious. If you are a professional photographer, you can’t think of your photos as something fleeting. Losing your work is the last thing you’d want but not only that, you need to be able to archive your photographs and create room for new batches of photographs. Clearing your memory card and hard drive can be achieved by transferring them onto a cloud-based storage platform.
For people serious about taking their drone photography to a professional level, why is it a good idea to always insure your drone and equipment?
Forgive me for using the vehicle analogy again, but if you insure your car, why wouldn’t you insure your drone, especially if you are a professional user? To reiterate, drones aren’t simple playthings. Any number of things can go wrong and it is not just limited to damages to the drone itself but also to third parties. Accidental invasion of someone’s privacy can also be costly. The risk of an accident is probably greater with flying a drone than with driving a car!
If you are using a drone for any professional use, most home owner’s insurance will not cover your drone and it is likely to be the case for even non-professional use in the near future. In order to get drone insurance, you must prove that you are a responsible pilot and this would include flight and maintenance logging, getting FAA certified and having a clean history of responsible flying. It may be possible to lose your drone insurance without appropriate maintenance, logging and responsible flying. Consider it a happy side effect because it is a good bench mark to keep for responsible flying on a personal level too!
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