Gatwick Dronegate, my thoughts.


Photo Credit Rob Farmer

It has been nearly two months since I ended up woken by a call from BBC 5Live could I comment on the drones flying at Gatwick? How they have stopped for flights for nearly 10 hours?   I then ended up along with other numerous drone operators and company owners commenting, how they were doing it?  Little did we know on the morning of the 20th that the situation would roll on all day and into the 21st of December.  A big news story indeed 100’s of passengers grounded by a drone just before Christmas.  There was other news that day, for example, £85 million pounds in public health cuts was revealed and not one news outlet mentioned this.

My criticism of all news channels from where ever you are in the world, press, media, TV, Radio, and Online will focus on one big story and then other stories slip out unnoticed, unchallenged.  The need for all humans to have every minute detail is blamed on our consuming news for a 24-hour basis and via social media channels we can know what is going on instantly and this can be beneficial and can be detrimental, as always there are pros and cons of social media.

Photo Credit  Rob Farmar

On the day of the 20th Decembers briefings, discussions and reportings spoke of witnesses from Airline Pilots, airport ground staff, police and members of the public.  An industrial-sized drone, dark in colour, flying for a long period of time in the rain and windy conditions.   On this basis, the airport was closed.  Personally, I don’t believe a major UK airport would be closed if there was no drone or drones.  Then a spokesperson for Sussex police then miscommunicates that there wasn’t a drone,  then it was suggested that it was in fact, the police drone. An innocent couple was arrested and their details all over the worlds media outlets – then fortunately released.   It was outrageous that some media outlets named the individuals, again a symptom of this excessive need for detail by us all as incidents occur.  BBC then reported that all that was miscommunicated by Sussex police and that indeed there were drones at Gatwick.  

People have hooked on to the fact that there were no drones mentioned and every time I do a retweet or repost anything I am shouted down on social media. Some of which has been quite vile.  I am going with the knowledge that I have. There are many opinions that there were no drones because there are no photos or footage and because of what the spokesperson for Sussex police said. However, I go with what was my initial media briefings when I was appearing on various news outlets across TV and Radio. That there were multiple sightings by pilots and passengers.

If there is a serious crime do I need to see a photo to know it occurred? Say for example to know a murder has taken place, I don’t need to see the evidence.  As humans, we need to stop needing all the fine details of cases and crimes and let those dealing get on with investigating.  We may never know what happened at Gatwick and then the copycat incident at Heathrow on the 8th of January. 

Or just a random flight by someone but you can’t deny that the authorities dealt with that incident quickly flights resumed within 1 hour / 90 minutes.

This then lead to a statement being issued by DJI – saying that in summary that it was all false, probably feeling that their products and reputation was being affected.

I think that actually, DJI does the very best to ensure that their drone tech will not fly anywhere near airports and requested sites.  DJI did have a very fair point that drones at airports have been mistaken and then on the investigation has turned up out to be a balloon, a plastic bag and a bat amongst other things.

Photo Credit  Rob Farmar

Public perception may be down concerning drones,  an increase in drone legislation is not needed as you will never legislate for criminals and those with malicious intentions for those who have the capability beyond the drones that small commercial drone operators and hobbyists fly. You certainly won’t ever legislate for idiots either.

For I while I was saying that this will damage the UK industry, but now really I think it is mainly public perception which has been being damaged and knee jerk reactions for those in authority.  Those with real business needs are not going to stop using drones.

Coventry council planned to ban drones and announced its proposals in early January 2019,  but thank you to Kerry Blakeman of Drone Heights he put forward an alternative and spoke in positive terms and the ban was overturned including the charge that was proposed for commercial operators.   I think it is very interesting that Coventry council u-turn and positive news story that could have been,  has not been reported widely, but symptomatic on the sensationalisation of drone news stories.

The other impacts were obvious that the economic fallout for Gatwick and the flight operators.  Previously it seems that counter drone technology has not been on the top of the agenda but the threat has been very much in everyone’s minds. Dr. Catherine Ball, World Congress of Drones said in 2015 “anti-drone is the new drone”.  There are a number of companies who have developed counter drone technology and in a future post, I will be looking at what those companies offer.

What we need is for airports to be secured by using anti-drone technology, as commercial operators that will help as everyone can then breath a sigh of relief when there will be fewer air incursions.  Positive news stories on drones maybe then reported more, perhaps I can dream about that.

It doesn’t matter if you think there was a drone at Gatwick or not, the most important thing is that all those that fly drones keep positive and look for positive ways to promote their business, hobby or interest.  This was never about professional drone operators and hobbyists this was something else.  I think a cause of concern that the perpetrators were not located and where does that leave the aviation industry except reeling at not taking this particular threat seriously. It took this shocking long term grounding of planes at the busiest days of the year to start tender processes at the largest airports in the UK.  Once the technology is in place this then we can all breathe a bit easier.

I am personally hoping that we never see days like that again.

The Drone lass


Please, note links to all related articles are in the text above and go to external websites.  Please do take time to read further on this subject.




How to price a drone job


img_2386-1This blog post could easily have the title why drone operators are worth the fee’s they ask or how to value yourself and your business.  It seems that because there are now thousands of operators in the UK being trained for a small amount of work that everyone is undercutting and you could say ‘oh that is market forces’ but let me explain why actually once you just undercut you are undermining a whole new industry. It is important to be competitive but also don’t sell yourself to the bottom rates.

I have been in business for over 15 years, even if I haven’t been running my own company, I have always had a sideline. I have learnt so much in that time one is to value the service I provide to others and they will value you too.   I am member of BECTU and there are minimum day rates issued for camera operators, make up artists and all different grades across all different types of activities TV, Film and advertising.  What is not included is drone operator / Drone companies.

Like other businesses we need to take into account the following and this is then how you work out how much your day rate should be.    What you shouldn’t be doing is finding out how much else someone is charging and thinking ‘I will do it for half or seventy five percent of that.’   You are not Ikea, Lidl or some other budget high street offer.   Those companies use economies of scale and market forces and lost leaders to get customers through the door, also it can be highlighted about how the exploit some suppliers. You can not do that as a drone operator offering lost leaders, you can only fly for so many days of the year and you can only fly once in a day unless you are so lucky you get jobs grouped together. You have paid a significant amount for your training, you have put hours in learning about the law, you have stood for hours flying to make yourself a skilled drone pilot.  You have paid CAA fees and you have paid for insurance and the drone and all the accessories.

It isn’t possible to do for a cheap rate and then start to increase it doesn’t work like that.

Here is my formula and how work out my day rate for all my work strands.

First of all the drone how much does that cost, say you plan to fly 10 professional jobs a year.  (Yes you may not fly as much as you are being told by NQE’s. ) so divide that drone by 10 . That is how much it costs you to fly it for the day.  Alternatively you could price based on hire prices with Heliguy 

Lets take the example on Heliguy’s hire prices it’s £245 per day for an Inspire 2. That is the basic set up you may have more than the basic set up i.e more batteries

Then are you charging travel or travel time? That will tend to be something that is down to yourself.  I tended to charge mileage but now a lot of my projects now only do fuel contribution and so for me to go to Peak district to Birmingham they give me £25 fuel allowance.  That is actually probably what fuel it actually takes you can use google to calculate the proper costs for the car / van you drive.


What about planning a job? This now can take me anywhere between a couple of hours if standard flight planning and bespoke risk assessment (RA) as a new drone operator this may take you half a day. This is not the flight planning that the NQE’s teach this is more as you have to think about where you are taking off, and where you are landing in relation to your directors filming requirements.  Also you will find some production companies want a bespoke risk assessment for their insurance / H&S department. I have been writing these for years now but I did a very low risk drone job on the moors in April and I had to write documents taking a full day to complete.   You need to factor that time in. This is a difficult one as this I did not expect and it was because the company had strict H&S department it was time I had not allowed. Had I known the charge would have been higher.

Micro SD cards are you adding the price to the job, I have started to and then the client get’s to keep it.  I have had too many being stolen in the post.   For this example it would be £30 as I use very high speed cards. Unless data wrangling is taking place on set.

Insurance let’s say £1000 and divide that by 10 pro jobs you are hoping do in your first year.

Can you see how now you might be under charging?


Drone £245

Fuel £25

Micro SD card £30

Time Planning £75

Costs so far  £375   – this will vary for you may have different value drone/ drones.

The costs above for your day rate are not including any training, your skills you have learnt and need to value, drone spares, batteries and props, drone maintenance, training, website, office supplies, accountant fees, holiday fees.  Spare drone, what happens if you crash your one drone or for some reason it doesn’t fly do you have contingency as the shoot still needs to go ahead.  Unless it is due to weather or perhaps legal reasons you need to maintain your professional reputation or create a good reputation if you are starting out.

Not all drone companies are equal, there are people who have better drones who have been flying years, they fly bigger drones than you, they have different skill set and an perhaps and enhanced OSC (operating safety case).  All this is going to factor into the day rate.

Production companies do forget this about any freelancer there are costs the day rates are not plucked out of the air if you pardon the pun. Part of the responsibly of value comes down to you as well. Please don’t undervalue what you do, don’t undervalue what others are doing.

I hope this helps anyone pricing their jobs if that is a camera operator, film maker or creative.  It is very difficult when you perhaps don’t have actual physical raw materials that are then manufactured into a physical object to find the price point.

I bet if you sit and work out about your costs you will actually think my goodness I am selling my skills cheap!

Food for thought.  I am sure there are things that I haven’t mentioned.   I am sure you are now going to say but you can only get what the market will pay.  Yes but equally the cheaper you go the less all drone operators will be paid.

TV companies are being pushed more and more to produce more content for less money, so day rates are being squeezed in all sectors. I have a good understanding of this. I think equally people doing the hiring of freelancers need to also understand the costs involved in being a freelancer.

A production company contacted me earlier in the year they wanted a drone for the whole day in Leicester and had been given my details as a recommendation for the grand fee of £150.  Let’s put it in perspective a freelance TV runner is paid £125 to £150 per day.  I could have sent and email that explained all the above but my simple reply was “the fee you are offering is not reflecting the skills nor the equipment that I operate.” The day after I got a booking on the same day at my proper day rate.

This brings me to half day rates,  if you take that lower rate that half day what happens when a full booking comes in?  Do you commit to that cheaper booking or go for the full rate?  That is why a lot of freelancers are considered flakey and mess around production companies around.  I have a good reputation that once I commit to a day that might be as a film maker or white label drone operation for another company, I don’t let people down.

For those that say our budget is only £150 for a drone operator, I say well then you can’t afford a drone for your production then.   I would never say to a plumber I want a new bathroom can you do it for free or a very low rate it is good for your portfolio or for a good social media post.

You may choose to fly for your favourite charitable cause for free, I sometimes do things I want to, but  I tell those that are working for the charity what it would cost them so that they can value the skills you are giving them.

Please feel to write comments below on what you feel about day rates being driven lower, what I have missed out of this post.

Have a great day

The Drone Lass





Evolve Filmmakers retreat

I have known for a while that I am heading to Switzerland in November to speak at Evolve Filmmakers retreat, I will be doing an introduction to using drones section. I am very excited. The aim of the retreat is increase your story telling skills and as well as increasing your confidence and also network with a wide variety of film makers from all over Europe and the UK.  Carrying on from yesterday’s blog post I think it is really important that you don’t hold yourself back, invest in your training as a freelancer is really important.


My friend and colleague Emma Wilson has opened up two final places on her Evolve Videography Retreat in Switzerland – Two days of immersive learning and practical exercises and three nights of good food and great conversation in a five star spa hotel with like-minded female filmmakers, all expenses paid*

More reasons to book onto this FEMALE ONLY workshop, Evolve NOW:
1. BE INSPIRED and learn from an experienced and successful female wedding filmmaker and former BBC Trainer with guest appearances from Sharrone Califiore, Fiore Films and The Drone Lass (me)
2. THE CHANCE TO SHADOW Emma on a European destination wedding, expenses paid.
3. LEARN NOW, PAY LATER – payment available in instalments so you can BOOK now with a deposit and take advantage of this ‘once-a-year workshop’ and be ready for 2019
*Flights to Switzerland currently around £40.00 RTN

** this workshop is all about hands-on and fully immersive learning and only for those women ready to take their business to the next level

So feel free to share this blog post and link to Evolve Videography Training link 

I would recommend talking to Emma as she is very inspiring.

If you are thinking why female only please read this post 

Happy #filmmakerfriday and #femalefilmmakerfriday

Looking forward to meeting everyone in Switzerland.

The Drone Lass


Sister Sister: All female groups, why?

Photo by Joolze Dymond

Exciting news that I have been invited to speak at a female film makers retreat in Switzerland. Evolve Retreat  There has been a lot of discussion about why only female film makers?  Female drone pilots, female camera operators and female film makers are in a minority.

Myself and some fellow female drone pilots have started an all female drone pilot group called The UK drone collective.  If we ever post in any drone groups, we get a lot of negative reaction saying that we are segregating ourselves and that it is illegal but the equality act 2010.  The law stipulates we can as a disadvantaged group can have a group that is all female so we can access employment and training and it is called positive action.  I have seen a lot of comments on social media ‘Oh here is a woman she has no friends’ when a technical question was asked.  We have been called witches and bitches for having an all female group.  Along with lots of examples of when we could also join the #metoo loads of examples of touching and unwanted attention from men whilst we are trying to do our jobs.

I am in a number of female film maker groups and female camera operator groups and I find that most of it is down to confidence or lack of confidence from the women themselves.   My mantra only thing that is holding you back is you! Which can also be applied to your own work/ career.

I have been guilty of in the past going occasionally saying  “Oh I can’t do that”. However when I look at what I have done over the years, I think I have achieved a lot, there is still however a lot more I want to do and now I feel all that is holding be back aside from money is time. Time to fit it all in.  I used to work 15 hour days sometimes 7 days a week and realised I can’t keep up that momentum. Life has taught me,  the time we have is short why should I spend it working all the time. Yes I could earn more money but would I be happy? I was recently criticised for not being hungry enough.  I don’t see that as a bad thing. I have life balance now and I will work that 15 hour day if it’s required but I will also take time out to be with family and friends to feel inspired, motivated and most importantly rested.   How much could we achieve if we built each other and supported each other?

For anyone who has criticised me, you don’t know where I have been and what I have been through but having a family loss really made me evaluate everything. That brings me back to all female groups,  I can’t tell you what it is like to be another’s shoes.  I can tell you but unless you have experienced some of it then you can’t understand just empathise. Hence you will find women trying to build others up.

We need a mixed workforce for all of the male dominated professions you may find all female groups.  The idea of positive action is to increase the opportunities for a group that is under represented in that technical field.

I have always worked in predominately male environments IT, Telecoms, TV camera and now drones and I never felt the need for an all female group however recently I have felt the tide turn and I don’t know why that is?  I still find there are some very supportive groups of men but I have recently experienced bias and I will discuss that in another blog post at some point.

I feel I need to champion other women and encourage them to fly drones and operate cameras.   By providing opportunities for women to do this we can have more confident women in technical roles.   You will know from this blog, I will encourage anyone to fly a drone and get involved in the drone industry. I am supportive all those trying to break into TV but I am also not going to shy away from all female groups.

This question to all of you female and male what do you feel is holding you back?


Photo by Joolze Dymond

The Drone Lass


Mavic 2 Pro -First impressions

Photo @joolzedymond

I am not normally one to be first inline for anything, however this time I was! I have been awaiting the right time to purchase a Mavic and was going to go for the pro, then the Mavic air came out and I watched everyone posting on how great it was and nearly bought one of those!

I knew the Mavic 2 was coming – the rumours were way back in January 2018. So I decided to take the time to save for it. Then I sold 3 older drones and then sat waiting. It arrived on Friday last week after staying in all day for DHL. Who were going to deliver on Thursday but ran out of time. Ahh the frustrations, ended up working on Saturday.

First flight Sunday, I had a go on Joolze’s Mavic pro way back in February and haven’t seen her since.  That was when I decided I am going to get a smaller lighter drone for fun shoots.

So what is it like? Everything DJI said so far, I was so excited only some of the stickers came off before Joolze took photos!

No processing straight off the drone JPG still image

Setting the drone up as a bit frustrating an activating it, took an hour and a half of messing. Switching it on and off, rebooting and closing and in the end it was deleting the dji go 4 app and reinstalling.  Having just done that a week before, it means you must have the very latest. I did everything logged in to my DJI account.

Once activated I tried updating the firmware using the computer and cable and that failed but by app on the phone hooked to the wifi,  it was good and done in 7 or 8 minutes – which is quite surprising it is normally it fails via app and only will update drone firmware via the DJI assistant.

Mavic pro 2 flies really nicely and it’s light and compact and I just know I am going to take this drone out for lots of shoots not sure about pro shoots as I have never been convinced a Mavic of any type cuts it for TV jobs.  We will see the footage seems to measure up so may well be!

The colours on the stills are excellent. Is it way better than the phantom 4 pro, I am not sure.  It is a tiny bit better. I don’t think I would race to change for that reason.

The pictures I took in raw and jpg as that is how I run my work flow for all stills whatever the camera, a drone make no difference and then in photoshop or lightroom you can tweak and get a better image. I deliberately under exposed some and others under exposed. I have only posted unprocessed jpgs.  I have just run out of time!  There are currently no ND filters available, although DJI may have sold out and I always fly with filters on.

These were shot on in hazy sunshine,  after the clouds rolled in. So the real test for stills will be the bright sunshine with no ND filters.

mavic 2m
No processing on this image either 

Video – great smooth handling and I really enjoyed seeing the footage.

Slight aliasing on the stone wall in the video above but this can be remedied by the use of ND filters and other camera techniques / settings.  This not as bad as I was expecting the P3P was not good but you learn how to overcome this.  Occasionally you see drone footage on TV and I cringe when I see aliasing as it means no filters have been used and or its old tech.  The inspire1 can be really bad for it with no filters.

As always I wasn’t afraid to send the drone a long distance from me (not beyond the legal 500m) and not once were there any disconnect issues. This may be well to do with the OcuSync 2.0 digital video transmission system.

This place is one of my practice areas and there are always disconnect issues with the i1 and the P4’s old and new! But I never panic about how I can’t see the image as it tends to come back after a flicker, it is frustrating and probably need to move to a crystal sky monitor for pro work.

I do believe it can be an issue with an i-pad mini. I just carry on and trust the image will be smooth if I fly smooth, because it will be but if you panic cause you can’t see the image then you will end up with footage that isn’t smooth.  The image you see on the phone / i-pad is much clearer and so that must have been improved which to me is great as it is good to see what you are shooting.

I love the gimbal protector – really easy to remove and attach back on. When I got back to look at footage and stills couldn’t locate what I had shot and there it was on the drone – need to work out how to record on card and drone.  Transferring the shots to computer using the cable really good very quick – as it’ s 40 Mbps but I am going to have to make sure I don’t loose the little adapter this adapter for the cable is a good idea you need the adapter for charging the controller.  So cuts down on having two cables!



The sticks on the RC are removable for storage and easy carry  you get spares but I won’t be removing them as I know I will loose them as well if I am not careful.  I am careful but sometimes you know I am just human drop them on the grass and they will be gone!



So should I sell what I have and buy new?

My advice is always the same, it is really exciting seeing new kit arrive, and if you are in the market to buy a drone or what ever piece of tech it is, buy the latest or what you can afford – if that is 2nd hand off ebay from a trusted seller then so be it.

Remember this as soon as you buy a camera, a drone, a phone, a computer it is out of date! The R&D (research and development) departments are already working on the latest and in 6 months time your shiny new thing is old. So if you have a Mavic pro, a Mavic Air or P4P don’t despair – enjoy what you have and save for what is coming in 6 months time. Unless you have a business need or you are just about to purchase a new drone. Then keep, I have only just sold my P3P and took great footage and stills with that back in May.

Have you mastered all the features on your current drone? Do you know it inside out? Is there something else you can get out of the piece of kit you already own?

I think if you are two steps behind the latest and you want to do pro work then yes you need to be thinking about moving forward.  But if you are only one step behind don’t worry about it, carry on enjoying what you have.


If you have good flying weather then do enjoy, it’s set to rain most of this weekend in the UK

mavic 2i

Thank you for reading


The Drone Lass









Q&A with Photographer Charlotte Cunningham

Time for a Q&A this one is with Scottish photographer Charlotte Cunningham, I have been following her on Instagram for a while. I suggest you do the same (link to insta below)

charlotte 2

Please tell me about how you got into the drone industry?

Up until about 4 years ago I really didn’t know drones were something the general public could buy. As soon as I saw you could buy one for photography I knew I had to have one.

What do you fly?

I’m currently flying a Mavic Pro. It’s so good for portability, I can take it away to work or into the hills with no problems for space in my bag. I would love a bit of a better camera for it but very happy with it for now.

What was your first drone?

My first drone was a Phantom 2. It was good but as I couldn’t see what the camera was doing or choose when to take photos I found it a bit limiting photography wise. It was great for learning how to fly though. Had a few crashes with it and learnt quickly.

What do you love about Drones and the drone industry?

I love all the technology that is coming through. It’s amazing to see how far things have advanced just in such a short space of time.

What do you dislike about the drone industry?

I feel a bit removed from the industry itself so I don’t really see any of the bad points.

Tell us about your current day job and how that relates to drones?

I work offshore as an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) pilot technician. It’s like an underwater drone. Its not just about the flying. It’s a very technical job and I love that part of it too. I suppose it goes hand in hand with flying drones.


Does your job give you time to go out with the drone alot?

Yes it does. I work a few weeks at a time then have a few weeks off. It gives me a lot of freedom to get out and about. I also get a chance to take my drone with me on the boats I work on and get some pictures of those.

On social media you are famed for photos of Scottish Castles by drone – what was your favorite to do?

I love this question. I have never been referred to as ‘famed’ before – not sure id put it like that but I’ll take it 😁. I never tire of seeing a castle from the air for the first time. They always look so cool and sometimes it’s unexpected to see the shape of it. They’ve all been great but I suppose my favourite might be one I did recently called Gylen Castle. It’s on a little island just off Oban. You have to get a ferry and then walk 2 miles to it. There are no cars on the island. I went over with my friends, it was a beautiful day and we were the only ones there. It was just spectacular. I feel like it is one of the those hidden gems that very few people go to.

Charlotte 1

Your favorite project so far? Or most satisfying shot?

This is a difficult one! I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve done so far. I love finding things on the map I think might be interesting. Sometimes it can be a struggle to get to them like a 2 hour bike ride or something like that – these are perhaps the most rewarding ones. Since starting to take my drone to work I’ve been able to get some quite interesting shots of the boats I work on. I think they’re my favourite at the moment.

charlotte 3

What new technology would you like drones to feature in the future..what is on your wish list if you like, your dream drone?

As, for me, it’s all about the photography I’d like to see something as small and powerful as the Mavic Pro with a much better camera.

Do you see yourself as a role model for women in the drone industry?

Not really at all. There are so many women out there doing cool things with drones. The U.K. drone collective and Amelia Dronehart Facebook groups are full of women doing great things.

If there was anywhere you could you could fly your drone with NO legal restrictions where would it be and why? Your fantasy flight if you like.

This is a great question and one I’ve put a lot of thought into and I’m pretty sure my answer has changed about 100 times since I first read it! It’s probably totally geeky but since most places on the planet have been photographed from the air and the fact it’s probably got the strictest regulations I would love to fly at a busy airport like perhaps Sydney. Sydney just so I can go to Australia but really it’s more any busy airport would be cool. Flying about amongst the planes would be fun. You could get some good photos and video.

Thank you Charlotte for taking the time to do the Q&A, today 23rd August 2018  we may all get our wish for a better camera on a DJI mavic. 

To catch follow Charlotte and keep up with her adventures please follow on instagram @charlie_pat77 or facebook 



Flying High


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMonday 23rd of July, I flew the drone on a Live OB  Outside broadcast for BBC Breakfast. It took nearly half a day’s planning mainly because all those that had done a live feed from a drone were not available so Ian (BBC Broadcast engineer) and myself had to chat to people who had done it before.

BBC Broadcast Engineer Ian, checking everything working

I will be writing a blog post on how it was done as several of you have asked me and contacted me by social media or by email, so I promise I will do that.

I have never flown Live on air before and that needed planning and also the segment was so that you could see the the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue drone up in the air at their HQ, another first. Normally it is just me flying with an assistant!

So lots of discussion about air space separation and how it would be co-ordinated as a live segment.  BBC Breakfast was looking at 6 months after the NESTA Flying High challenge was launched.

Flying High is a project where for six of so months, five cities have been running projects to look at the uses of drones in our cities.  West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue had been using the drone for a few months before the project started and has proved invaluable in June and July with the wildfires, They are now expanding their operations with greater technical capacity and more Drone teams

It was great experience meeting everyone.

Now to this Monday’s adventure

Have a great week

The Drone Lass x




DJI Mavic Air Review – Janine Kilroe


red air

As you know I regularly welcome guest bloggers and writers to write reviews of new pieces of kit. This has taken a bit longer than I planned to post.  This post is written by Janine Kilroe she has created images for the last 30 years, initially as an Editorial Advertising Photographer commissioned by many international blue chip companies and for the past 9 years she has focused on creating a truly unique one off style of hand painted fine art photography. Her work is available in galleries throughout the UK. We are honoured to have her write her thoughts for the blog as she has also exhibited her work at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and The Saatchi Gallery, London.

Over to Janine, for her first impressions of the DJI Mavic Air.

Why does a professional PFCO photographer videographer buy a Mavic Air?

I do a far bit of travelling abroad (images shot with the Mavic Air in Southern Spain) and taking my Phantom 4 Pro isn’t easy, its bulky and also heavy with the 5 batteries. I have not had any problems flying with it as carry on but each time I have been through security on the return leg home I have either been asked questions and had bag swabbed on one occasion. I have been waiting for a drone that was small enough but had a decent quality to its images and video. Hence my Mavic Air Combo purchase.




It’s so compact and light.  The ease and speed of setting up to getting in the air. The ability to take other equipment as it takes up nowhere near as much space as the P4Pro carry on bag. Good quality 4 K images and video perfect for Vloging, Blogs and commercial jobs where the image does not have to be massively enlarged. Video Storage Bitrate 100mbps. The 3-axis gimbal is better protected tucked within its body rather than the Mavic Pro. I know I will be much more likely to take and use my Mavic Air with me tucked into a small rucksack for travel and those difficult to get to locations that needs a long walk in rather than the P4Pro.



Noisier than I expected but I’m sure DJI are on the case re quieter props.

No side sensors that nearly got me into trouble only because I’m used to having them on the P4Pro and had momentarily forgotten the Mavic Air doesn’t!

Having flown in cold weather 0 c with a wind of 15 mph I discovered flying into the wind the battery was short of power. When temperature rose the battery had plenty of power to fight the wind so be warned if trying to fly into the wind in cold temps. To be fair DJI do warn you about this but I was surprised at the actual effect it gave.

Regarding the shaking people were reporting at take off in cold conditions I personally didn’t experience this. It seems that DJI took this customer feedback on board and to my knowledge have sorted it out with the last Firmware update. So no longer a negative.

Shorter Battery life 20 mins not a deal breaker just makes you even more aware of planning your shot before take off to max the time available. I changed my default low battery warning from 20% to 30% (giving me 15 mins flight time) as the default at 20% just left 3 mins to return which in my book is simply not enough safety margin to allow for the unexpected etc.


Who is it for?

Anyone who wants a well made small light compact drone that produces a good quality image and video. Like anything the more experience you have with correct camera, video settings plus post processing the better your final images and video will be. This comes with practice and then more practice…….

My personal conclusions

As in life we cannot have everything and no the Mavic Air is not of course as good as my P4Pro I never expected it to be. The Mavic Pro has a bigger sensor but has the exposed gimbal and doesn’t have a Video Storage Bitrate of 100mbps. Plus is bigger. What I would like to see is a side-by-side comparison of the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air RAW images. Maybe a project for me to do?

So I’m I happy with the Mavic Air?

Yes very happy actually it literally “fits” the bill. Its small compact and fits into any bag. Interestingly when going through security at the airports as hand luggage no one was interested. It does the job with providing you don’t want to be producing massive images and you know what you are doing re camera video settings and how to get the best out of your images in Post Processing stage. It’s very quick and easy to assemble and get up in the air. I have used it with my iPhone which is fine but my tip would be to always turn your phone onto Airplane mode to stop distracting phone calls, notices etc. I however want to see as much as I can so have bought a mini iPad adapter holder to use. Yes it makes it a bit heavier but the good thing is there is flexibility to which viewing method you want to use. The other Tip is get yourself a decent set of Neutral Density filters they are essential I have Polar Pro ND filters for all my drones and Osmo Pro etc. You must be able to control your shutter speed and with the fixed aperture it’s even more essential.


For: Workshops, commissions or general enquires



Hello readers, it’s been a crazy busy couple of months whilst I work on various projects some filming and some editing and also a bit of house sorting!  So this is a quick blog post about an opportunity that may interest you.  I don’t know much more than what is in the attached photo.  Please email Love productions directly . Note this is not a crewing opportunity it is contributors they are looking for.  So therefore unpaid.  I think you need to be UK based to take part

We Need Drone Pilots

Have a great Thursday


The Drone Lass



Filmconvert – finalists and winner!


I was honoured to be asked to judge the non- narrative film category for this years along some esteemed judges in autumn 2017! I know it has taken a while to post.

All the films it goes without saying but I will probably repeat all very beautiful and of a very, very high standard.

It is very daunting to be asked to judge a film competition when your work has taken you to what can be limited creatively, a lot of  the TV I am shooting is not very creative as there is a narrative and often you are shooting for the edit.   To cover cuts that will be necessary. Sport is all about the action and observational documentary shooting on a run and gun basis. I am very critical of my own work but harder, much harder when it is someone else’s creative endeavour.

On one of my best roles to date, for BBC Body Positive where I was allowed to be really creative and got nominated for lots of awards, one I won and a few I didn’t.  If you get short listed it is something to go on your CV.

I have linked the shortlisted films below and also the feedback I gave them.


  1. AUSTRALIA | Wonderland -An outback Journey 

A wonderful use of colour and a good use of music to drive the film forwards. Starting with a helicopter ride and shots to start.   I love Sydney and have been to other parts of Australia and makes me want to revisit. I felt the film had a good journey where perhaps some of the other shortlisted films didn’t have that, being non- narrative they didn’t need that but this one did have a feel of a narrative starting but then just to add to that some shots of the journey to the outback, perhaps someone not knowing Australia may have thought that the outback is very close to the city. The duration long enough but not too long. Loved the wildlife shots.  What was missing as a bit of criticism was a bit of foley or actual atmos sounds – the birds making sounds – won’t detract from a track if sound mixed don’t be afraid to experiment.   A brilliant shortlisted film from an amazing location.

2. Beyond Imagination

This was a really really surprising entry and what I mean by that is that the editing techniques the shots and the way it was brought together was mind blowing.  Again the use of the colour was very very well executed. This one has sound effects. I am normally not a fan of quirky editing techniques but this really works, really is beyond imagination.  The films main aim is for a tourist board film to entice people to visit.  I am not sure it does that but then again it says in your mind and has an epic quality to it.  I was left wondering if I would see some of these places in my life time. Great use of lots of filming techniques.

3. Erindi Private Game Reserve

THIS FILM IS NO LONGER ON YOUTUBE – may be search youtube the film I found was not the one I judged. 

If there were ever drone goals, this has it for me. All that wildlife in Africa a place I may never visit.  I thought very clever not to make the film just about the stunning landscape, wildlife and drone shots but about the local people and for me that makes this charming as it is beautiful.  I thought it was great as well that the film maker didn’t shy away from seeing the animals feeding on prey. I would have liked to hear some voices and some of the wildlife sounds to give it another dimension.  Felt very wildlife documentary in it’s approach. Epic skies and seeing all that makes us realise how small we are in the world.  How much we need to conserve around us.



4.  Vitamin Sea


Now this is a more simplistic film but no less epic in it’s impact.  For me I wanted to know more about the photographer that’s in a couple of the shots.  Again it’s non-narrative so can be said to be irrelevant.  This film particularly interested me as I have a GH5 and love the stunning results you can get out of the camera as film maker, this is someone getting the best out of this camera.  The shots were amazing, when I first starting working in TV a director said to me give the audience shots that they can’t get from either being there or viewing from the sofa. So this film has all of that and more.  As someone who doesn’t swim in the sea I found it enlightening to see how the surf is bringing up the sand as the waves crash in.    The music track was great however again as before with some of the other films adding foley and the sound actual waves crashing for me would have given it a another layer.  Don’t be afraid to mix a music track with sounds, the sounds of the people playing in the surf, the bubbles in the water etc. I also love to see drone shots where the gimbal is down and we get a vertical view of the surf coming in, that would have provided contrast with the other surf shots. Brilliant colours in this film, well graded.


5. PIUPAU “Half Full” Snowboard Movie

There is no doubt that this is an exciting film, but it could have been more exciting by showing a close ups of faces, hands, snow boots and equipment.  The film was similar all the way through needed more variety of shots.  Great drone shots but again very similar.  If all shots are similar it makes things feel less exciting, then the film seems long.  Don’t be afraid to cut more and tighten.  I wanted to feel the thrill more of this sport. Perhaps with some mounted action camera, in some surprising places. I would have seen what it is like to take part in this sport.  I know this is something as a viewer I will never do.  Put the audience on the edge of the seat.  Let them feel the danger and adrenalin by showing it.  If you don’t have a mounted camera or sports camera, get some close ups that are surprising in their nature.  The snowboarders are very cool and very talented.  Loved the use of slow motion and editing techniques to speed up the snowboarders and slow down again.  great shots of them moving through the screen and this is tricky to do because having the confidence to hold the shot when there is a lot of action going on is hard.   I liked the other editing techniques as the audience were introduced to each snowboarder, good use of childhood photos and old footage with a nice creative treatment. Really nice use of the sound of the boards landing on snow,  on metal.  The end shot had more of the edge of my seat feeling  that I was looking for from action films but again with the above could have really pushed the viewer.



This film is everything a travel / non narrative film should be, excellent use of visuals to tell the story. An opener sequence of the train and the music mixed with real sound recordings and really liked the journey announcements will remember that one when I next do a travel film.  Simple things like this draw the audience in.  Felt like I was walking around the cities.  One change that might have improved it was to have known which city I was in, are all the shots mixed up? Then I think is that relevant does it matter? Does the audience need to know, but then from some of the shots its really obvious where the film is located/  Loved the used of slow motion shots of people and thought it great to see a relevant quote being held up by a man in the film too.  Nice that the film shows different modes of transport as the film maker journeys around Europe, driving the film forward if you pardon the pun!

7. Rise


This is a calming, beautiful film, simple and so effective in it’s simplicity. The colour in the grading works so well with the images, the music. Giving it a dreamy quality.  Just as I thought, I knew where the film is heading, the change of music the film maker used the sounds of the action and shots changed to be in sync of the music giving me the viewer a sense of the difficulty in raising the ballon to the air and what effort that takes. The drone shots are epic, beautiful and cut together with the the other shots from a different  seamlessly tide together due to the colour grading and I normally prefer more natural use of colour but just loved the way it has been graded.


8. RYU – #BeautifulTough

This has everything a sports trail should have lots of variety of shots, lots of action, cut to a great tempo. I wanted to see more which is always a good sign of a film.  Leave them wanting more.  Great colour grading.

9. Scotland – Lochs, Mountains & Light

An accomplished film with excellent use of all manner of film making techniques.  It’s got it all time lapse, drone shots, close ups, and atmos sounds.  The colours enhanced by the colour grading Showing Scotland in all it’s glory, bringing back many childhood road trip memories.  Reminded me how epic Scotland is. Beautifully done.

10. Skate 360

Fascinating and intriguing film using new technology in a surprising way. Editing was clever too. Even though this new technology is not being used widely as the equipment isn’t producing the best results, this bucks that theory. I really enjoyed it.  I perhaps would have liked to have seen another camera used but not making the film any longer just to cut in – perhaps showing “normal” camera footage so we could see the difference and give variety of shots

11. The World in Slow Motion

I love the use of slow motion high frame rates in film making and this is a great film. Although I do like to see normal speed footage especially with something like the humming birds because thats what is remarkable about a humming bird the speed so perhaps could have shown the birds in real time as well.  I think the film maker wanted to show show us life and the world in slow motion, hence every shot.  So its a film that surprises you in that way. I Like the editing techniques in this where some of the slow motion is speeded up.

As you can see the standard was so high! I had such difficulty choosing.


Watching all several times and in the end it was…..  Rise.  It just stayed with me and found it very inspiring .


This year 2018…I am inspired not only to do some personal creative projects but also to travel more, these films made me want to do that so I will be found clutching my passport looking for cheap deals and places I can travel to, with or without my drone.

My advice is if you want to enter this competition then start thinking now about your project.  Get shooting, editing and colour grading.

Filmcovert software is so easy to use and you can download from the website a free trial and then you can see how simple and what stunning results you can come up with.   Sign up for the news letter and get creating.

Thank you to all at Filmconvert for asking me to judge last year. I really enjoyed it. Thank you to all entrants, I am sorry I couldn’t award you all the winning prizes.

The Drone Lass