A Beginner’s Guide to Drones for Travel Bloggers

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We’ve all seen amazing footage on social media captured by travel bloggers using drones. Some aerial shots over Maldives atolls that I’ve seen are eye-wateringly amazing (there’s a couple in this post too!) And it does get you thinking whether it’s something we should be adopting ourselves on our own travels. Using a drone for travel blogging isn’t just about learning how to use it … First you need to decide what drone to buy? How will you transport it, say, through an airport? Are you actually allowed to use it where you plan to? And there’s many other things to consider too before heading away with one to use. So, we’ve asked travel bloggers who regularly use drones to pass on their hints and tips …

Visit places where drones are welcome

Bradley Williams from Dream Big, Travel Far

A Beginner’s Guide to Drones for Travel Bloggers

Without a doubt, I recommend the Mavic Pro as the go-to drone for anyone serious about travel blogging. It’s certainly a higher end piece of kit, but the quality you get is unbelievable. We first took our drone when backpacking Sri Lanka and the footage we captured was out of this world. The Mavic 2 has now been released, which is sort of an upgrade to the Mavic Pro.

However, having compared the specs and seen the performance of the Mavic Pro, I’m not convinced that paying more for the Mavic 2 is worth it. My top tip would be to look at countries in the world that still have lax drone laws. In Sri Lanka, laws are unclear and very confusing, which is why our next trips include Central America and the Philippines.

By planning your travels around such locations, you can ensure that you get to capture footage of many more breathtaking sites. Also, you shouldn’t need to pay exorbitant fees in order to fly your drones in certain locations. Another place we will be visiting shortly is Iceland as they are one of the few countries that seem to actually encourage drone enthusiasts. Plus, let’s face it, the country is stunning!

Carry spare parts in case you crash!

Julianna Barnaby from The Discoveries Of

A Beginner’s Guide to Drones for Travel Bloggers

I’ve had a drone for a couple of years – the DJI Mavic Pro and the best tip that I can give to beginners is to make sure you bring spare propellers with you when you travel in case you do have a drone crash.

I’ve only crashed the drone once. I’d brought the drone with me to a few places – Bali, Oxford and Iceland – so was feeling relatively comfortable (read cocky) when I took it to Portugal. Unfortunately, the drone lost GPRS when we flew it into a cave and it crashed, chipping all of the propellers. It was only when I retrieved it that I realised that I’d left all my spare propellers at home, so wasn’t able to use the drone for the rest of the trip.

You get spare propellers if you buy one of the Fly More packages, otherwise you have to pay for them – but the official propellers aren’t expensive and you can buy them on Amazon. Either way, it’s worth the investment – much as we all hope we won’t crash our drones, crashes do happen and it absolutely pays to be prepared for them if they do.

What not to buy …

Sally Lucas from our3kidsvtheworld

A Beginner’s Guide to Drones for Travel Bloggers

We recently purchased a Parrot Bebop drone for our travels. While I am very happy with the quality of the drone and the footage that it provides, I would not recommend this drone to any travelers. We hadn’t done a huge amount of research when we purchased ours and if I had my time over again this is not the drone I would have purchased.

I don’t recommend this drone as it is large, it does not fold up to a reasonable size for travel and it is quite bulky and pretty much takes up one whole carry on case. This becomes an issue when we travel carry on only which is fairly regularly. I would now choose a drone that folds up smaller and is much easier to carry.

We also had an issue when the drone fell out of the sky over the ocean in Langkawi. It was later found 80m off shore by the team we were staying with and later replaced by Parrot. They were not forthcoming with what the issue was and now I’m careful not to use it over water in case the same thing happens.

Flying a drone using a mobile device

Kylie Newhaus from Between England and Iowa

A Beginner’s Guide to Drones for Travel Bloggers

When you first buy a DJI Spark, there are two options, you can buy just the drone, or a ‘Fly More’ package that comes with a controller and some extra accessories. The cheaper ‘drone only’ option then uses JUST a mobile device to fly the drone, either a phone or an iPod/iPad. This is a great option for travelers as it takes up less room in luggage as there’s no need to carry an actual controller as well.

Flying a drone from just a mobile device is really quick and simple to set up and there’s one less ‘connection’ to worry about losing while in flight (‘mobile device to drone’, rather than ‘mobile device to controller to drone’). The only downside is that the range from the mobile device is smaller than the range with a controller, with a top height of 50m/164ft, a little under half the legal flying height. I never found this too much of a problem and still managed to get all the shots I wanted. I also found that I was able to take smoother footage using a mobile device. Even turning the sensitivity down on the controller, the mobile device still produced the smoother footage!

I would recommend travelling with a power bank though to ensure the mobile device has plenty of battery!

Be considerate to wildlife

Christa Rolls from Expedition Wildlife

A Beginner’s Guide to Drones for Travel Bloggers
Greater Flamgingos in the Camargue France

Drone use around wildlife requires extra diligence and careful insight about the area in which you are flying. More restrictions are being placed on and around parks, preserves, and other natural spaces to reduce the impact of drone flying on wildlife, especially during critical breeding or foraging seasons. However, many places that continue to allow drone use still have wildlife that should be considered. Our rule of thumb each time we fly is to have a spotter watching how the surrounding wildlife are reacting to the drone while it is in the air. As soon as we notice wildlife changing its behavior because of the drone’s presence, such as a bird flying away from or attacking the drone, we immediately stop flying and move to a new location. If an animal has young, this ethical use practice becomes even more critical, as disruptions have the potential to cause young abandonment.

A multi-purpose drone

Eileen Cotter from Pure Wander
Learning how to operate a drone is a lot of work. Not to mention all the actual camera work, editing and other steps that go into ownership. So new drone owners will want to consider their initial investment and how to get the best bang for their buck. For these reasons, I have a Karma from GoPro. It was most important to me having a drone with a removable camera for multiple uses. Most DJI drones and other top brands have great 4K cameras but they are attached to the drone. In the package, I received the drone itself, action video camera and a stabilizer too for in-hand shots. I use the drone a couple times every trip, but always carry the action cam and stabilizer. Make sure all component of your drone are professional too – it’d be a shame to invest in a great drone and have a sub-par camera for capturing once you fly!

Practice, practice, practice

Leanne Scott from The Globetrotter GP

A Beginner’s Guide to Drones for Travel Bloggers

I’d highly recommend investing in a DJI Spark drone if you’re a beginner drone pilot. Whilst it won’t break the bank, it still performs well taking good quality 12MP photos and brilliant video footage. It makes for a great travel camera.

When I first bought the DJI Spark, I was amazed at how light it is – just 300grams. It’s also very compact and so for travelling, this drone is a dream! I usually pop it in my hand luggage and have never had a problem.

I think when I first started using my drone, I completely underestimated how tricky drones can be to operate so my advice to you would be to take it somewhere quiet away from buildings, trees and people and practice a LOT.

This drone is particularly good for beginners as it has a lot of safety features. For example, the ‘back to home’ feature which I learnt about the hard way! I lost contact with my drone and panicked believing it was lost forever, halfway up Mt Etna! But 20 seconds later after realising contact had been lost, my clever little drone flew straight back to me. It uses GPS to track its way back to its start position. Best. Feature. EVER!

My top tips for those interested in purchasing a DJI Spark would be to invest in the Fly More package – yes you can control it with your phone but if you want to fly any distance, you’ll need a remote controller. The Fly More package comes with lots of additions such as extra batteries and remote control.

Also, never take off until your drone has secured its GPS position. It’s just not worth the stress that you might lose connection and it won’t know its way home! With the GPS on, you can fly relaxed knowing your drone will come back to you if anything goes amiss!

Tips for cold-weather flying

Ania James from The Travelling Twins

A Beginner’s Guide to Drones for Travel Bloggers

I got my first proper drone – Mavic Air – just before we went to Iceland in December. Big mistake – it was a steep learning curve. After days with frozen fingers and evenings doing my homework, here is the wisdom: tried and tested.

  • The cold will get to you before it gets to the drone. Invest in magic gloves – the ones that work with a touch screen.
  • Get some hand warmers too. Cheaper to buy in bulk before you go on your cold holiday. The TSA website says they are ok to carry by air.
  • Plan the route beforehand. It will save you time and battery life.
  • Keep your batteries warm in the inner pocket of your jacket.
  • Keep an eye on the battery as it runs down faster than in warm temperature. I found flight times were about halved.
  • Have a landing pad and use it. Lovely to fly over snow but not to land in.
  • Remember that it’s colder and windier up there.   Don’t fly too far away.
  • Don’t go too high either – I had more problems with the signal than usual.
  • Don’t fly when it’s snowing.  Snow can get sucked into the workings by the downdraft.
  • After you land, wipe the rotor blades.  I found that they always had ice crystals on them.

So, with a bit of forethought, you can get great movies in the snow. Enjoy!

Travelling with your drone

Alexander Waltner from Destinavo

Mavic Pro is one of the easiest drones to travel with due to its small size. With a battery time of 27 minutes, you definitely need to carry some extra batteries. These are lithium batteries, which means that you can’t put them in your checked luggage. The pressure from the cabin could potentially cause a lipo fire, which leads to my recommendation – Always carry your lithium.polymer batteries to your Mavic Pro or other drones in a Lipo-safe bag. This will minimize potential damage and make sure a secure transportation.

Always take out your drone while going through security check. The probability of them wanting you to take it out otherwise and inspect your bag is very likely. While traveling with a drone, you also need to be aware of the regulations in each country. Not only the actual rules for flying, but also if you’re allowed to bring a drone into the country. Some countries will otherwise seize your drone at arrival, and worst case scenario destroy it. You can also be at risk to pay hefty fines if you illegally bring a drone into a country with restrictions.

I always make sure to carry it in my backpack in the Mavic Pro bag that comes with it. If your drone doesn’t have a special carry bag, I suggest getting one with cushion protection that fits your model. This will prevent it from moving while traveling, and it will protect it from being damaged.

Back up your footage every day

Christa Rolls from Expedition Wildlife

The worst case scenario for any photographer or videographer, aside from losing or damaging equipment itself, is losing footage. At the end of every flight day, we back up all of our footage onto an external hard drive. This can be done using a portable tablet or other computing device into which you can plug in your external hard drive and your memory card. For particularly special footage, we will use two external hard drives. Although you may not always fill up a memory card during your flight day, we suggest bringing a second along with you as well. If one of your memory cards has content you would be devastated to lose, switch it out with your back up memory card to keep your other footage safe in the event the drone is lost or damaged. It is also a good idea to have an extra just in case one memory card becomes corrupt.

There are some great tips here – lots to think about. Do you use a drone while traveling? If you have any tips not mentioned above, we’d love to hear about them.

Tracey

Tracey is the Travel Editor for Flea Enterprises. She also blogs at PackThePJs. Tracey writes mainly about family travel; from days out to road trips with her pet dogs, to cruises and long-haul tropicaldestinations. Her family consists of her husband Huw, a science and technology writer, Millie-Mae (12), Toby (10) and Izzy and Jack the spaniels.

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