Drone Ownership

I wrote about my experiences with drone ownership some time back, a multi-part story about a technology that looked  promising, but eventually became a somewhat disappointing experiment for a number of reasons. It wasn’t that the drone experiment was a failure from a technical point of view, but failed from what could be called a practical or aesthetic point of view. I became reasonably competent with the very basic drone that I bought and a move to a much more capable and higher end drone would have been an easy transition. However, I’m very glad that I did buy a simple and inexpensive drone from the outset as I realised that drone ownership wasn’t what I had anticipated, nor which I would find overly useful in the long term. A $140 drone, rather than a $1500 drone was the best investment that I’ve made for a long time, even if that drone now resides in a cupboard unlikely to ever see the light of day again.

MJX Bugs 3 Drone (source: MJX RC Technic)

MJX Bugs 3 Drone (source: MJX RC Technic)

So what led me to this rather dramatic change of view? Firstly, it came about due to laws about drone operation in national parks. It’s basically illegal to fly a drone in all national and state parks in Victoria, unless you are licensed and have the requisite approvals before you venture out. Now it was specifically in national parks where I wanted to use a drone, videoing our activities and to provide a different perspective to supplement my ground based video. So when I discovered that it wasn’t legal to operate drones in national parks without meeting the those requirements, I decided that there wasn’t really much point in pursuing this activity. I could most certainly use the drone in other locations, such as Mossvale Park which was where I learned to use the drone, but there was only so much that you could do at Mossvale Park and use it to supplement other video. So that was the first reason why I decided that a drone wasn’t really going to be of much use to me.

MJX Bugs 3 Drone - Getting the hang of things

MJX Bugs 3 Drone – Getting the hang of things

Now the second thing about drone ownership and using it to video our High Country trips was that as a one man camera operator, it was nigh on impossible to operate a drone as well my video gear at the same time when on tracks. The best that I could have done is use the drone to video while at our nightly campsites, which was legally not permitted, in most cases, as I discussed. When you see ground-based video and drone footage taken in the High Country, it usually involves more than one camera/drone operator. Yes, I could have always chosen one or the other, but then you’d invariably wish you’d have used the other option once set up. Also, in many situations on the tracks, you couldn’t use a drone all that effectively because of the nature of the tracks. You’d have to be too high up and lose the effect, or be too low down and risk hitting trees or distracting the oncoming driver. The latter was my biggest concern, as flying a drone in front a vehicle and distracting the driver while they were negotiating a difficult track was the last thing I wanted to do.

Rocky Road - Green Hills Track

Rocky Road – Green Hills Track

Full Steam Ahead - Black River Track Victoria

Full Steam Ahead – Black River Track Victoria

The final reason why I put away the drone was possibly the most significant one of all. Everyone was using drones for aerial video of High Country scenes and it all looks quite ordinary after a while. Even the very best videos produced by the likes of 4WD Action, who publish some very entertaining videos, limits their drone footage to the minimum, because I think they too see it more as a filler than adding ‘action’ to their stories. And if you’ve watched video of the High Country taken by a drone, the scenery all looks the same from above, masses of green and brown forest with nothing really interesting of note. A line of 4WDs driving along a track taken from the air doesn’t look that interesting after the third or 20th time. And I don’t think you can connect with the land, viewing it top down, as you can when seeing it from an eye level perspective of a land based viewer. That’s even when comparing an aerial view to an elevated view of the same scene.

River Crossing - Buchan River Victoria

River Crossing – Buchan River Victoria

Mountain Views - Mt Selma Track Victoria

Mountain Views – Mt Selma Track Victoria

Pheasant Creek Track - High Country Victoria

Pheasant Creek Track – High Country Victoria

And this leads me to a final point, CASA is now in the process of instigating laws where all drones above 250g in weight will have to be registered. The policy is to hopefully have better control of drone operators, where a number (perhaps small, but the impact can be significant) have given all drone users a bad name due to irresponsible drone use.  Of course this has caused a flurry of condemning posts, in various forums, saying it’s all about protecting commercial operators and depriving poor drone operators the ability to enjoy their hobby. I doubt that’s the case, as commercial aerial delivery services are aimed at use over metropolitan areas, where private drone use is quite illegal anyway. The rules are quite clear, simple and very easy to understand, but all too many feel that they can ignore the rules. And when people see videos like this, they too want to do the same, whether it’s legal or not:

And it’s saddening to hear many drone owners who profess to being responsible drone operators, publicly announcing that they regularly break drone use laws and urge others to break the law as well, simply because they disagree with the laws. Some will obviously consider my views in this story as those of a Luddite, or as one poster in a forum stated:

I recommend you find yourself some laws to break. Not big ones. Not sensible ones. Find yourself a law that when you break it, you don’t hurt anyone. You can’t live your whole life sitting on the shore because you want to obey the law, watching others having a good time in the surf.

There are many reasons why flying a drone in national parks is banned, other than with a specific license, and so I won’t go into that as it will naturally raise many arguments for and against. It doesn’t mean that I agree with the rules about flying drones in national parks, but I abide by the rues, it’s what normal people do. However, while technology advances, human nature doesn’t appear to improve and, in many respects, social mores and personal responsibility seems to be going backwards. There seems to be an attitude of ‘I’ll do what I want’ and then the same people wonder why there are ever more laws enacted that affect what can and cannot be done in public places. That’s why increasingly we can’t have nice things.