Over the past few years working in real estate photography, drones have become an important part of what I do. Each time I shoot an aerial video of a home, I try to come up with interesting new flight patterns and movements to make my work more creative. Doing the same thing over and over again becomes repetitive and boring, which is one of the reasons I wanted to purchase a Mavic Air . When the Mavic Air came out, and I saw it was smaller than the Mavic Pro but with 4k video in 30 fps at 100 mb/s, I was pretty much sold. Purchasing a Mavic Air also helped me solve a unique work-related problem: taking great-quality video in cramped environments like the interior of houses.
One of the biggest influences on my drone flying is Robert McIntosh’s FPV flying style. For years, I watched this guy make drones fly through spaces I never imagined them fitting through. After watching his videos over and over and practicing on my own, I realized that taking shots like his requires an entirely different skill set. With a smaller drone like the Mavic Air, I knew I would be able to take the risks required to make shots in spaces I previously thought were impossible to fly in.
Testing the Mavic Air:
The first thing I did after purchasing the Mavic Air was attach the propeller guards and fly it inside my house. Now, that may sound like a stupid idea, but with years of flying under my belt, I can fly drones indoors with pretty good control. Forcing myself to fly in tight spaces makes me a better pilot, and I have lots of opportunities to practice, which ensures that my skill level improves over time.
For a majority of my aerial video shoots, I walk around the property looking for any sort of opening I can squeeze the drone through safely. I look closely to check whether I can get the shot, but if it is too risky, I move on and look for other opportunities. My main goal is to find spaces where I can’t fly bigger drones like my Inspire 2. I must say that I am lucky in terms of being able to shoot the type homes I do. Many of them are large and very spacious, which allows more room for creativity. In my YouTube series “Creating Space,” you can watch some of the methods I use to fly through these homes. I am still learning to fly my Mavic Air, but as time goes on and I get more practice, I’m certain that I’ll improve.
When it comes to the Mavic Air’s performance, I‘d say it really is the ideal drone for aerial real estate photography. It’s small, stable and very easy to fly. The obstacle sensors and flight modes are helpful but can sometimes get in the way when taking shots in tight spaces. When it comes to purchasing a small drone like this, it is good to know what you are buying it for. Each drone has its strengths and weaknesses, but for the sake of flying a drone that you can keep your eyes on within a reasonable range, the Mavic Air is the way to go.
Tips and Safety:
I think the most important thing I can emphasize is that I use these techniques because I am experienced and confident enough to fly a drone in this manner. I would not attempt this kind of shot if I knew I didn’t have the right skills. This is crucial because I don’t want to damage other people’s property or my own by crashing the drone. This brings me to my last point – tips and safety advice for flying in tight spaces.
When you are comfortable enough with your skill level to begin flying in challenging environments, my first bit of advice is to attach the propeller guards. The prop guards add a bit of weight and take away some performance, but they make flying the drone much safer by preventing it from damaging itself or other objects. In the case of a collision, the guards bounce off obstacles rather than the propeller blades striking them directly. Eventually, you will become comfortable enough to remove the prop guards and fly safely without them.
If you are looking to get steady footage when shooting, slow and steady wins the race. Learn to fly as slow as required to get the shots you want. The risk of crashing becomes greater the faster you fly due to decreased reaction time, and crashing at high speeds (and high altitudes) may result in damage to the drone. Subtle finger movements are also essential. Know your throttles and how much you need to move them in order to keep everything smooth.
My last bit of advice is to maintain constant awareness of the drone’s location. Always keep your eyes on the drone when flying in difficult spaces. If you can’t, bring along someone who can, and make sure they are constantly following the aircraft when you are taking shots. Also, be conscious of what you see on the screen when flying. This is a huge part of becoming self-reliant enough to capture certain shots. In terms of judging whether the drone will fit through a space, if I turn the grid on and there is clearance in the middle square, the drone is usually able to fit.
The Mavic Air has opened up a new world of opportunity for me and my business. I look for new ways to take creative shots on a daily basis, and having the ability to fit this drone in tight spaces where other models can’t fly is exactly what I needed. I am looking to continue improving my work in the near future and reach a level where I can fly safely indoors. Again, practice flying your drone as much as possible so you are comfortable and confident when the time comes to get to work.