Drone Filming in Caves
Drone filming in caves is an amazing use of drones and if done properly the results are amazing.
Drone pilot Stefanie Williams from Aerialworx has been flying in caves for over 5 years. With over 30 years flying experience, she has a passion for flying and has a natural skill for flying a variety of drones within caves and in unique locations. Here she talks about top tips for operating a drone within a cave.
Read Stef’s top tips for flying a drone within a cave.
The location and size of the cave are two important factors you should consider. Firstly make sure you can get to the cave. Quite often we’ve had to move our drone equipment through waterfalls and down 15 meter drops to get to the filming location. Secondly, make sure that you understand what is expected of you and that you have adequate area to fly your drone within the restricted space.
Launching and Landing
Make sure that you’ve given consideration to how you will take-off and land the drone. If there is space to land on the ground, that may be the safest option. But, if it is wet or there is a lack of space, it may be necessary to hand launch and recover or use a flat piece of wood as a platform. If you decide to hand launch your drone, firstly practice on land and don’t forget to read our Top Tips for Hand Launching a Drone.
Make sure you have good and effective communication with the film crew and that they have been briefed on drone safety and operations. Effective communication with everyone will enable you and your team to move around efficiently and effectively to capture the best shots. If you’re operating from a large cave, walkie talkies may be a good form of communication.
Make sure you have adequate lighting not only on the drone, but also lighting the operating area and a head torch to light the pilot transmitter. Different coloured lights on the front and back of the drone is a good way to orientate yourself.
Pilot and Drone DOP Safety
Make sure that you as the drone pilot and your drone DOP have plenty of space to work and that you have a comfortable and secure place to sit to operate the drone. It is imperative that no one stands in front of you and that you have a good signal to the drone and good vision at all times.
Make sure that your fail safe is set to “Hover” as opposed to “Return to Home” or “Land”. Caves are dark and wet places and you wouldn’t want your drone to even land as it is likely to have craggy rocks or water below.
Take Off, Land and Fly in ATTI
Make sure you take off, land and fly in ATTI mode as GPS mode will not be available under ground as there are no satellites. It is always a good idea to practice flying on the surface in ATTI mode before you try this under ground.
Make sure you land with plenty of power in reserve. I would always recommend landing your drone with at least 3.7v per cell of power. This gives plenty of scope for an emergency or go around if required.
Make sure your drone insurance covers you for operating within a cave. Many drone insurance companies may charge an additional premium if the flight proposes additional risk.
Above everything, be confident, calm and professional at all times and capture those amazing shots that you didn’t think were possible. Enjoy and I hope this check list has been helpful.
If you have any comments or feel I have left something out, please feel free to send me an email.
- Fingals Cave
- Alum Pot