Drone Pilot Gigs: DroneUp (Part 1)

I came across the DroneUp platform just a few weeks ago, again saw a mention of it in some group discussion, so I figured I would take a deeper look. As of yet, I haven’t received any indication that I have been “verified” to begin accepting work, but this platform’s gamification has been giving me mission goals to complete or attain in order to gain more badges. I have to assume that more badges equal more credibility as a pilot, and thus more credibility will lead to job opportunities.

DroneUp Pilot Badges
DroneUp Pilot Badges

There were a few badges that required information that I was just waiting on from the FAA, North Carolina DOT and insurance to provide proof of drone registration, certifications and liability coverage. Once I rounded those up, it was easy to submit my information and receive the badges. These were the fundamentals, clearly.

The next set of similar badges available all validate the skills and experience of the pilot. These are based on flight hours logged, various types of videography skills, and experience using a few pieces of software that drone pilots use to record data and plan autonomous flights. This is where I am now, but what I find helpful and kinda fun with it, is that these are left up to the pilot to fulfill, for the most part, and they are helping structure some of my flight missions and practice.

Click to open in a new screen and interact with this 360/Sphere Photo from the DJI Mini 2

Cinematic shots are what I have really been doing the most of right now, mostly since its so easy to walk out of my front door, launch the drone, and capture the scenery just above and around our home. The views are offering shot opportunities including landscape reveals, downward flyovers to capture textures, and parallax footage with the endless ridges extending in all directions. There are some challenges as well in being able to capture or even run some of the required maneuvers due to the landscape. Doing anything that uses the “active follow” function at any significant altitude is nearly impossible due to tree cover.

Colorful sunset flight over the Nantahala National Forest

Beyond pushing my skills at capturing solid footage that is properly exposed and includes the maneuvers that result in gorgeous cinematic clips, it is the hours spent in the air that is a challenge as well. I’m currently working my way to 25 flight hours logged, which if you can imagine, also includes A LOT of video and photo files. Two more DroneUp badges are available at 25 hours and they are labeled “Expert” accomplishments. Then on to 50 hours, which are labeled “Professional” and the end of those series. I could put the bird in that air and capture hyperlapse shots to string together and create some need imagery, but just like flying around in this valley over and again, the footage is getting to be a little too much of the same. I do need to test out the hyperlapse function though.

Planning missions in the area and identifying safe airspace to fly in, both recreationally and commercially, are not that difficult either. But, choosing points of interest that are conducive to flying and capturing more that just long-range views of these spectacular mountains does require a little bit of research and planning. I spent a few hours the other day exploring some trails descending off the highway into the river gorge to look for suitable take-off points, which turned up a couple of good spots. The issue then is contending with trees that cover portions of the river and what I’m trying to capture and those trees taking the drone out of the air and into the drink. That said, the shots I’ve gotten were rewarding, even if just a little sketchy and nerve-wracking to get.

I hope the “Part 2” of the DroneUp series will be laden with follow-up and content from not only the completion of the cinematic badges, but more than likely my 25 flight-hour requirements being met and initial gig offerings being available.

Published by Chris Tranchina

Aerial Photographer/Videographer, FAA Part 107 Certified Drone Pilot, and Digital Media Professional. My primary focus is capturing landscapes, waterfalls, and points of interest in nature. Its an exciting transition from photographing stills of some amazing sites to capturing their dynamic movement and context in the world.

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