Tag Archives: Drone

A Game of Drones

The Gadget Show on Channel 5 is techie heaven on all levels and a firm favorite with the crew here at Epic. They recently carried out a product test feature on the ‘love em or hate em’ Camera Drone.

Once, drones were only used by governments but today, the ‘Copter Camera’ is available all over the UK from around £50.00 for the really cheap up to a couple of thousand.

We are a little divided on how we feel about them having heard from friends in the professional firing business regarding how many times a drone has impacted on a display for one reason or another from falling from the sky onto crowds, knocking a shell off course and the people on the ground taking footage or photographs which have the lights of the drones on them, these are just a few of the reasons why the great unwashed are undecided about this new technology. That said, they offer up some brilliant footage when taken in amongst the bursting fireworks. As advised by the Civil Aviation Authority, they passed the operation of the devices onto a drone specialist Chris Ayres to avoid any possibility of interfering with the competitors in this fiercely fought event.

In this short video feature, the test team put the three chosen drones through their paces in a number of situations to see how they fared including first of all at a skateboarding track and then over to a grand firework display at Catton Hall, Derbyshire for Jubilee Fireworks’ Festival of Fireworks which pits the best in the World against one another on this one night super display competition.

First up; Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite Edition (GPS) which was found to be disappointing overall and highly unstable and difficult to manouevre but it is the least expensive of the 3 at £255.00 and the images are questionable at best.

Second to fly was the Blade 350 QX AP Combo RTF in the middle of our price range at £630.00 and sadly, the performance was once again at best underwhelming and the images were grainy and unclear with out of focus and a little washed out and in the midst of fireworks and the controls proved to be difficult to use. I must be honest, for over £600 I would have expected a much better result.

Finally, the daddy of those tested was without a shadow of a doubt the SJ Phantom 2 Vision + which retails at around £800.00. The quality of the video footage and the photographs was nothing short of awesome and it captured the midst of the display with top marks for moveability, image quality and ease of use.

So, the upshot is that yes, drones are the future but there have to be massive advancements in classification, where they can and cannot fly (we all heard about the incident where an R/C drone almost hit a passenger plane at Heathrow and the one which landed on the front lawn of the Whitehouse) and some sort of collision avoidance system before we all go out and buy one.

As with any technology though, the drones will continue to improve in quality and abilities and the price will come down too.

In the meantime, check out the Gadget Show video –


If you skip along to 5 minutes 30, the fireworks start shortly after.


Drone un-manned aircraft in the midst of a firework display

The age of technology has brought a great many things into the pyrotechnic industry that are wholly beneficial and has saved many a firer from losing digits thanks to the likes of professional firing systems.

Over the last couple of years though, there has been a huge increase in the number of ‘Drones’ being flown over and sometime into firework displays.

There is no denying that there has been some pretty spectacular footage filmed from within a display but this activity still brings forth a huge number of unanswered questions about the legality and in particular the safety aspect of this practice.

The main issue is that despite advice from both the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority – UK) and the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority – US) stating that an un-manned aircraft under 7 kilos (bear in mind that is 15 pounds in old money!) cannot be flown within 50 metres of structures or persons and if the crowd is of more than 1000, they cannot be flown within 150 metres!  That is laterally not in the air so there has to be an incredible safety distance.

As far as height is concerned they are not supposed to fly above 400 feet and given that any shell above 12 inches will easily achieve that and more, it cannot really be said that they were flying within ‘safe’ guidelines either.

During firework displays, the safety distances from crowds are carefully measured by the pro firing teams to ensure the safety of the spectators.

All this is completely pointless if some nut job with a drone and a camera flies into the middle of a huge display and one of the shells takes it out and in lands firmly on some little one’s head then they will once again be trying to lay it firmly at the feet of the display team.

I for one think that something has to be done straight away before we end up with another pro team being dragged before the courts again for something completely beyond their control.


Drones and Fireworks

UAVs , Unmanned Aerial vehicle or drones have until recently been beyond the reach of the man on the street with pricing into the thousands of pounds. A few years ago, these flying and almost silent hovering crafts, were set aside for the military and government departments who used UAVs in covert surveillance missions, and for the National Grid for inspecting difficult to get to equipment and map makers. The new drones, which are now widely available to the public, can stream live video to the operator and store it on digital media such as data cards and flash drives.

Since the early days of drones, technology has moved at a fantastic pace since they entered the market place for us humble civilians. Industry competition, new cheaper raw materials and technological developments have brought down the prices to as little as £50.00.

The uses of these gadgets is rearing its head in the business world as online shopping giant Amazon is looking into the possibility of delivering orders by pre-programmed drones.

If you type “drone fireworks” into YouTube and wade as we did through some of the 37,000 videos online featuring drones hovering above fireworks displays, and you get the idea how popular they are which is one of the reasons it’s on our list of future boys toys.

As with most things in this world it is only when a product becomes increasingly popular that concerns arise. For anyone who has seen “National Treasure- Book of Secrets” one iconic moment is when Ben Gates and his colleague are using a drone to look for clues at the Eiffel Tower and are approached by a Gendarme (French policeman) asking them what they are doing, it does seem due to the nature of these devices that is possibly the usual line of questioning when spotted by the authorities.

At present there are around 130 companies and government agencies allowed to use these which must be registered with the civil aviation authority, these range from the BBC, Police Forces, missile manufactures, and the national grid to name but a few.

So where does the law stand for Joe Bloggs who fancies spending a bit of his hard-earned cash and filming his display from above for prosperity? At present in the UK this is being looked into as there is no legislation for aerial vehicles weighing less than 20 kilo, nor do they need an airworthiness certificate. Guidelines suggest that the operator must not fly the drone above 122 metres or 400 feet and not more than 500 meters away from the operator: this is deemed to be the pilot’s line of sight. If you plan to film members of the public attending the show you may need to apply for operating permission from the C.A.A – just to check there is nothing else in the area the use of the drone could impact. We would also recommend stating to the crowd that UAVs are in operation as is required when closed circuit TV systems are operating.

If you direct the camera at an unsuspecting member of the public who is not aware and the drone in within 50 metres of the subject, this could be deemed to be covert in nature and you could be charged under the “Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000”.

For any of our American friends I would HIGHLY recommend checking with your local Federal Aviation Authority as laws can vary from State to State. The one thing we are aware of is that use of UAVs in Washington State airspace is banned under House Bill 2178, whilst in other parts of the U.S.A, petitions are being put together to allow members of the public to shoot them out of the sky should they object to their presence.

We hope that sometime soon some clear legislation comes to power clearly defining what we can and can’t do with these useful little gadgets, in the meantime enjoy some of the best from the web.