Protecting Drone Footage – Preventing Crashes and Managing Data Properly
Drone crashes happen more often than you’d think, but usually, a crash won’t cause major damage to the frame. The more delicate piece of the body is the camera attached to it, which can suffer heavy damage in a crash and result in lost video footage – causing major panic for professional photographers and videographers.
Whether due to a battery dying, a lost connection, or user error resulting in a crash, David Zimmerman, CEO of the international data recovery company LC Technology, has seen hundreds of professional and amateur videographers bring in damaged footage from drone crashes in need of data recovery.
While traditional cameras are still the best choice for production-level shoots, the cameras in high-end drones are reaching very impressive quality marks. There’s a widening spread in prices and capabilities as the drone market matures, with decent models available for $100 and professional multi-camera drones that cost $6,000 or more. These tools provide professional videographers and photographers with a way to capture amazing angles and perspectives.
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Higher quality drones are built to withstand crashes, and most can survive even a significant impact with minimal frame damage. However, they’re still flying in the sky and that comes with risks. The operator might fly it into power lines or steer it into oncoming traffic. While the frame might survive, the camera attached to the drone is often a different story. The cameras are comprised of complex electronic components (not just a steel tube), and when they crash, the operator might lose photo or video footage. Advancements in drone design are preventing damages through improved casings, and flexible frames that absorb and spread out the force of impacts.
Professional photographers and videographers pay a premium for their equipment. With this premium comes an expectation that the device’s data will record and store properly. When a camera is subjected to a 20 mile-per-hour landing into a pine tree, then the expectations need to shift.
Avoiding crashes isn’t too difficult if you have training and follow guidelines:
- Make sure the compass is properly tuned.
- Check the rotors after each flight to spot any bends or small breaks.
- Be careful telling the drone to “return to home” immediately. Most drones do this in a “straight line” fashion, which might mean a collision with obstacles.
- Watch for other drones in the area (either yours or someone else’s) and give them a wide amount of operational space.
- Practice makes perfect. Before steering the drone through skyscrapers or into a canyon, get some flying time in an open field. Practice landing and maneuvering in an area with zero obstacles except for the ground.
Even with your best laid plans to avoid a crash, problems still occur. The very best drone pilots will experience crashes, but hopefully they don’t lose their film or photo data. Here are tips for professional photographers and videographers to protect and recover drone footage:
- Some data loss incidents occur on the ground. Check the drone’s battery level and avoid running it too low as this can cause errors on the camera’s drive. Operators should also use the same SD card for each drone, instead of swapping them back and forth. Each drone’s camera will format an SD card in a particular way, and moving between devices might cause glitches and data loss.
- Water landings are a big no-no for drones. Unless you have a specialized waterproof drone that’s able to land in the ocean, avoid water at all costs. Salt water is especially damaging to storage cards and drives, and might make data recovery impossible.
- Handle SD cards with care when they’re out of the drone’s camera. These cards are light and can hold an amazing amount of content, but they’re fragile. Avoid exposing the cards to extremes in temperature and humidity and of course keep them away from sand or dirt. When you’re shooting out in the field, be sure to utilize a case for your SD cards.
- If you have a bad drone crash and the camera is busted and the SD card is crooked, then you need to call an expert. Qualified data recovery services have tools for extracting data from damaged devices. You can also utilize rescue programs from reputable companies such as SanDisk, but only if the SD card isn’t physically damaged and is accessible.
- Move the data from the drone to the cloud. Don’t let your data sit on an SD card or the drone’s own internal storage. Remove it as quickly as possible and then create a backup on the cloud. Drones are flying miracles – they aren’t intended as data storage devices.
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Drones enable you to capture unbelievable shots that simply weren’t possible without a Hollywood-level budget just a few years ago. They’re a great tool for any pro videographer if used properly. Take the time to become an experienced flyer and understand the best practices for data management, and you’ll leverage the drone’s full potential.