I’m not sure what sparked my interest in drones & aerial photography but I certainly remember when it happened. I was just getting to work just like any morning and stumbled upon an article on the Drudgereport that mentioned the potential use of drones by newsrooms. Maybe it was the fact that out of the five television stations I have worked for, not one had a helicopter. Aerial video was something competitors used for everyday traffic reports & breaking news. My station(s) just didn’t have that option.
Above is an aerial mosaic -- a series of 11 photos taken from a small unmanned aerial vehicle (colloquially known as a drone) that have been stitched together in a mosaiking program.
That program, Microsoft Image Composite Editor, is normally used to stitch together a series of sweeping photos taken from the ground to make a single panoramic image. However, the algorithm used to find and match the edges of a series of sweeping photos of, say, the Grand Canyon, is the same algorithm needed to fit photos together to make a map or similar map-esque image from aerial photos.
Despite JournoDrone 2 still being in the shop after its maiden flight, drone development is continuing onward and upward. Above is an aerial photo taken from my latest drone project, which has caused that previous drone to collect dust in the basement.
However, this new drone is superior in at least a couple of ways. One, it's much more stable in flight, thanks to its 68.5" wingspan. Its size also means it can loft a larger payload. The photo above was taken using an 11Mpx GoPro Hero 2, which is small, but has a not insignifcant weight penalty.
Months of planning, training, re-design, and fabrication finally paid off for DroneJournalism.org developers, as we successfully launched a journalism drone for the first time on Sunday, June 3, in the small Illinois town of Tuscola.
JournoDrone One had an important mission: to be a drone journalism platfom that was "powerful, durable, transportable, affordable, upgradeable and supported by a community of experts." It became a pile of foam instead.
But that's OK. Drone development, especially at this state of technology, is a matter of trial-and-error. That's why myself and fellow DroneJournalism.org developer Acton Gorton are giving it another shot. We are taking all of the experience, knowledge, and goals from the JournoDrone One project and starting again with JournoDrone 2.
Lessons that DroneJournalism.org developers learned from designing, building, testing, and re-designing JD-01.
When JournoDrone One met its end last month, taking one final dive into the grass and shattering into foamy bits, it dashed the hopes of DroneJournalism.org developers of an easy solution to drone journalism. However, we were well aware that this enterprise had a learning curve. And we did have some measure of success, and learned some valuable lessons that will help us and other drone journalists in the future.
JournoDrone One began life as a foam glider called the "AXN CloudsFly," sometimes marketed as "Floater Jet." This powered glider has a 1.29-meter wingspan and a length of 0.86 meters. It shipped with a 2100kV motor already installed, which I complemented with a 20A Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) and a 2200mAh 3S LiPoly battery. Additionally four servos (one each for the elevator and rudder, and one for each wing's aileron) and a radio receiver and transmitter were required for operation.
Developers at DroneJournalism.org are launching a project to build a low-cost aerial photo platform for journalists, using a combination of off-the-shelf radio-control components and open source electronics. Their goal is to develop a small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) for journalists that is powerful, durable, transportable, affordable, upgradeable and supported by a community of experts.