New Workflows for a New Year: Airborne AI Taking Over

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

It was January of 2013 when something called the Phantom was released by DJI a Chinese UAV manufacturer. The Phantom was a remotely operated platform to add a GoPro camera for capturing aerial video and photos. This was ground breaking for most filmmakers and hobbyist since it was a way to add a high budget look to their work at low costs. Since 2013 DJI among many other manufacturers have raised the bar on technology and the growth of the drone industry has sky rocketed.

The latest in the drone industry as well as many other industries is automation. The leading drone manufacturers want to make the learning curve for operating drones non-existent. A drone that takes out all of the human error, and pretty much flies itself, opens the door for anyone to jump on the bandwagon. You can already see these trends with DJI’s Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro, which feature highly intelligent flight controllers with obstacle avoidance and video automation features.

Camera manufactures have also made it easier to capture cinematic-quality images from the aerial shots. Digital film cameras like the Blackmagic Design’s Micro Cinema Camera have changed the playing field because they’re miniaturized and designed for aerial cinematography but don’t have the same issues with post that the old overly compressed footage used to.


So what does this mean for the film/TV industry? Will the rise of artificial intelligence lead to professional drone operators being obsolete? There’s still something to be said about the craft of a professional – imagine trying to automate a drone to do a highly dynamic shot while tracking a subject. We’re not there quite yet. 2017 should be an exciting year nonetheless. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that I wouldn’t be surprised if an automated drone was developed with a built-in NLE that outputs edited videos without the user having to do more than hit go.

About Nick Swartzendruber

Nick Swartzendruber has always had a passion for storytelling and cinematography. After graduating Sacramento State University, Nick pursued his passion in the action sports industry and started in sports marketing at Red Bull North America. It was there where he learned that his true calling was behind the camera, framing captivating shots that tell a beautiful story. He set out to build and pilot remotely operated aerial camera rigs, capturing footage in a way thought impossible just a few years prior. Nick’s knack of cinematography and his skills behind the camera eventually led to founding his own aerial cinematography company, Drone Cowboys. Nick also is a lead instructor at Drone University USA, where he teaches safety in the SUAS industry, as well as aerial cinematography.

Drone Cowboys is a small group of cinematographers and filmmakers that use remotely operated aircrafts to capture extraordinary, dynamic shots. Drone Cowboys has contracted with a variety of high-profile clients, such as Red Bull, Apple, Bloomberg and Outdoor Channel. Currently, Drone Cowboys is working on a recurring basis with California Outdoor Properties and Bloomberg, capturing beautiful landscapes and influential people across the country.

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