Episode 1

Published on:

3rd May 2022

The #shotonmydrone photo competition

The CAA sponsored #shotonmydrone photo competition received over 800 entries and showcased the wide range of stunning images that can be captured with this technology.

The competition included categories for 'Countryside', 'Urban day', 'Urban night' and 'Christmas'.

You'll hear the winners share the stories behind their images, how they stay safe in the air and tips on using drones for photography!

See the winning photos at https://www.caa.co.uk/cap2338

The image shown with this episode is called 'Roundabout' and was taken by Andy Wells. The photo won the overall prize in the CAA's #shotonmydrone competition and also won the 'Urban night' category.


Jonathan Nicholson (CAA) 0:21

Hello, everybody and welcome to CAA Drone safety, the new podcast from the Civil Aviation Authority. I'm Jonathan Nicholson from the Communications team here at the CAA. We've had previous podcasts primarily around innovation and now we're introducing this one specifically for drone users, drone safety, everything to do with drones and how we look after them.

In this episode, we're covering our recent drone photography competition called 'shot on my drone'. Now we've done photo competitions for drones before, this one is slightly different, we wanted to really focus in on safe flying and particularly to make people understand some of the different rules that can apply if you're flying in towns and cities. Obviously, they're much more condensed environments, a lot more people. So some of the rules that are required are a little bit tighter around when you're doing in those particular locations. And that's what we wanted to people to understand.

So we had a number of categories. We also looked at countryside, because we know lots of people like flying their drones in those areas as well, getting some great photography. So photography in Countryside, Urban, and then we had a Christmas category as well. So it was really successful, over 800 entries. And we're really pleased and we think everybody enjoyed it who took place and entered. Now, Nathan Lovett, also from the Communications team is going to talk to the winners about how they got their photos and all about their drone usage. But first we're going to hear from our chair Sir Stephen Hillier, and he's going to introduce the competition for us at the awards event that we held for the winners at the Royal Aeronautical Society at the end of March,

Sir Stephen Hillier 1:54

We've had some 800 entries and I've been absolutely amazed by the high standards that we have seen. It shows just what can be achieved with this technology. It's also really important for the Civil Aviation Authority to sponsor competitions like this because it helps sponsor responsible drone usage. It helps ensure that drones are properly integrated in our airspace, so we can share that with everyone.

Nathan Lovett (CAA) 2:20

That was CAA chair Stephen Hillier, who was one of four judges for this competition. Another was Anna Henly, an award winning professional photographer, and drone user.

Anna Henly 2:29

There were a huge number of really, really good pictures and I thought for a lot of them 'I'd like to have taken that', which I guess is a good sign of quality pictures. A lot of pictures I didn't know where they were from. So I found myself googling some spectacular bridges in Wales springs to mind. Really lovely pictures.

Nathan Lovett (CAA) 2:29

The judges chose winners for four categories, Urban Night, Urban Day, Countryside, and Christmas with a fifth winner chosen by employees at NATS the main air traffic control provider in the UK. You can find a link to all the winning photos in the episode notes. You'll hear the winners announced by CAA Chair Sir Stephen Hillier, followed by the winners sharing the stories behind each image.

Sir Stephen Hillier 3:11

Its now the big reveal. So firstly, in the Countryside category, the winner is Glen Cairns with a picture of the Glenfinnan Viaduct

Glen Cairns 3:25

Its the Glenfinnan Viaduct otherwise known as the famous Harry Potter bridge as seen in many of the movies. It was taken on a summer's day and you can see the train going past going on the viaduct with the water in the background. It's a lovely day and you see the steam coming from the train as well. It's a lovely image, I never thought it would win a competition, but here we are now.

Nathan Lovett (CAA) 3:49

Glen Cairns says he originally just took a photo with the viaduct, but his friends encouraged him to wait for two hours so that he could capture the train crossing over.

Glen Cairns 3:56

You know what I think the worst thing is waiting. Because you only really get one shot at these sort of photos. So I'm not gonna lie, I'm getting a little bit stressed at this point because I'm thinking 'you really only have one shot at this'. So making sure the battery is fine, making sure the lens is clean. It was a DJI Mini 2, just for interest. So I was getting ready five minutes before the train was due to come on. I got it up just about five minutes before and it just happened to came four minutes early. As it was going, the funny thing is thinking back I didn't actually have a lot of time to compose the shot. So I'm really lucky the way it came out because the drone where it was was literally where I started to see the train and hear it and then I just got the photo. And it was one of those when I got the photo and I saw it going past I thought 'I can't believe I just got that photo!'. I'm really chuffed with it, considering I wouldn't class myself as a photographer as well. So yeah, there you go.

Sir Stephen Hillier 4:55

In the Urban Day category the winner is Andy Betts With 'Lorries, lots of lorries'

Andy Betts 5:06

It was taken just for Christmas a couple of years ago down at Manston airport when the lorries were parked up, waiting to get out of mainland Europe. There were four and a half thousand lorries parked up. And I'm a fan of symmetry and I thought this has got a chance of getting some really nice pictures. My family is originally from the area so I drove down, I actually had my kids with me at the time, and we parked up and took the opportunity to take the pictures. And it took a little bit of time just to get perfectly lined up so that everything was parallel and all the rules were there and done, but I'm very, very pleased with the picture how it came out.

Sir Stephen Hillier 5:36

In the Urban Night category the winner is Andy Wells with roundabout.

Andy Wells 5:42

It was shot over a roundabout, which is just outside the restaurant that I work in which is Miller and Carter and in Poole. It was actually shot back in '18 on a December evening at nine o'clock. I used a DJI Phantom 4 Pro, which I took off from the backyard of the restaurant, flew up to 400 feet, centralised over the middle of the roundabout and took a four, or several but this one particularly was a four second exposure at F 2.8.

Nathan Lovett (CAA) 6:17

Andy Wells says it took a few tries to capture the image that he wanted.

Andy Wells 6:21

Obviously, when you're doing a long exposure on a drone, it's not the steadiest of things. Normally you'd want to be using a tripod, but, once it settled down, I fired off a few shots and that was the best one. It was what what I was looking for. I've been into my photography I guess since about two thousand and twelve. Specifically, nighttime and long exposure photography. And having the drone just enables me to get a different take on it and see it from an angle that that you wouldn't normally see things from.

Sir Stephen Hillier 6:54

The winner in the Christmas category is Steve Banner with Christmas Express.

Steve Banner 6:58

I was really surprised. I clicked on the link for the competition. I thought "oh, here's a category 'Christmas' " I thought "what pictures have I got for Christmas" Oh! this was December yeah. And then I just popped it in and here we are now which is amazing.

Nathan Lovett (CAA) 7:15

Steve Banner says his winning photo wasn't something that he planned in advance.

Steve Banner 7:19

What the image is showing is an express train travelling through on very snowy tracks when normally the railways don't seem to be running. But this was around Christmas time and I was actually filming at a church and I heard the train coming so I spun my drone round to face the other way to catch the train disappearing. But the image actually shows the train and the viewer sees the train as though it's coming towards you. But in fact, it's the back of the train you can see but with it being a photograph, everyone interprets it in a different way. But it is a train on snowy tracks in the local village where I used to live. The drone I was using was a DJI Phantom Pro. This was my second drone that I'd had, I was still new into drones. This photograph was taken back in December '17. As I said earlier, the drone photograph wasn't planned. I was actually photographing a church and all the gravestones covered in thick snow. So it wasn't until I heard the train coming and I spun my drone around in the air. And it was literally a quick grab shot, no chance to change settings. It was just a grab shot. And it worked really well. And to be honest with my church photographs weren't that good. So I had a decent photograph to take home that day. I had a look at the EXIF data on the photograph and it's 11 hundredths of a second F 2.8 ISO 100. With it being a white clear day with the snow it enhanced the light so I could shoot at a faster shutter speed than I probably would have normally done without the snow being there. So it has actually froze the train in a better situation, especially with it going away from where we were actually filming.

Nathan Lovett (CAA) 8:47

So as mentioned earlier, the next category winner was selected by employees at NATS. They chose Matt Hoyland's image called 'Autumn thunder rolling in'.

Matt Hoyland 8:56

Well, my image capture is taken just above the Gwynedd shore facing southwest looking towards the Menai Bridge and the Menai Strait. It was late last September, just as the sun's going down. And it was on a day when we had thunderstorms coming in in the evening and the thunder clouds are on the horizon and there's rain falling in the far distance. The light is behind the cloud, so it's all purple and blue behind the clouds and yellow and I couldn't have timed it better really. My drone is a DJI Mavic 2 Pro. It's basically the same as it comes out of the factory apart from it's got a Polar Pro variable ND filter on the front, which I didn't use for this particular photograph because that's only useful when the sun's actually quite bright in the middle of the day and don't really take a lot of photographs during the middle of the day because, like most photographs, things look better at dusk or in the morning. So really, it's just a stock DJI Mavic 2 Pro and this was photographed at approximately, I'd say 290 feet in the air above the field looking southwest and it's a composite of 21 separate images stitched together. So it's not just one picture, the drone rotates left to right takes panoramic, and then I stitch them together afterwards and colourise it.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Matt says there wasn't much time to capture this image.

Matt Hoyland:

I was in my back garden because it's not too far from my house. And I could see these thunderheads above the trees. I thought 'those look interesting'. So the only challenge I had was getting up there and getting over to the field in time before the rain arrived, because obviously it's incoming and you can't fly in the rain, it's not good to and then after I got the image, the only difficulty then is actually getting them to stitch together because sometimes images can be too dark and there are technical problems. Its like a jigsaw really sometimes, but sometimes it comes together and this image came together. So once I actually had the thing in the can, it was just a question of making it look how it's supposed to look. Big shout out to everybody works for NATS for voting for me, thank you very much. I'm super honoured.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

So with the category winners now announced, it was now time to reveal the overall winner for the competition.

Sir Stephen Hillier:

From the four main categories, we have clearly chosen an overall image to be the CAA's shot on my drone winner, and I'm pleased to announce that the winner is Andy Wells with 'Roundabout'.

Andy Wells:

It feels a little bit surreal. I'd kind of forgotten that I'd entered and when I got the email to say I'd been shortlisted, I was thrilled. And then obviously to find out that I'd won it. Yeah. It kind of makes me want to go and shoot some more.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Next, we asked people to share some of the things that they do to ensure their drone flights are safe. Starting with one of the competition judges, Anna Henley.

Anna Henly:

It's really important that we stick to the rules, that we're not infringing on airspace, we might be endangering the public, endangering proper pilots whose livelihood it is to fly aircraft with lots of people on board. We have apps so that we know where we are allowed to fly, and there are local bylaws that we need to follow.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Now here's the overall competition winner Andy Wells.

Andy Wells:

I do keep up to speed with the drone code. I do have an operator ID, I do have a flyer ID, both of my drones are registered and I'm always very conscious about flying within that drone code and what is legal and what isn't. I'll always make sure follows that the drone and the remote software is up to date with the latest firmware to make sure that it's all syncing properly with each other. I'll take the drone off initially and make sure that everything is working on it. There's no issues, it's responding as I would expect to, that the signal that I'm getting back from the drone's camera is clear and not dropping out. Then obviously just make sure I'm aware of any obstacles that may be around any hazards. Obviously, don't be flying in any flight paths that would be a little silly. Other than that, making sure that there's no people around, nothing that can possibly go wrong. Making sure you do your due diligence before you take off. It's something I've always been aware of and very conscious of and when I do fly, I get the shot in mind. I get up, I get the shot and I get back down again,

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Countryside category winner Glen Cairns uses drones for his work as the videographer for Aberdeen Football Club.

Glen Cairns:

I've been flying the drone from this time last year until today, I looked at my logs and I've flown 63 hours in a year. So a lot of it is the weather, it's where you are, it's whether there's going to be people there, is it batteries, it's everything, SD cards, your propellers, and there's so much that comes into it. It's so much easier to buy a drone these days and anyone can fly it it's just know what you're doing first because I mean they're dangerous if if you don't fly it right, you know what I mean?

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Here's the winner of the Christmas category, Steve Banner,

Steve Banner:

The beauty of the drone that I've got the DJI Mavic Mini, it's got all the geofencing on there. So I feel it's a safe product for me to use. And obviously all the settings are set below 120 meters and I never fly that far anyway, mainly for the fear of losing the thing because I mean, they're only tiny things anyway aren't they? So for me it's not a thing where I fly it miles away. It's just literally just in front of me really. For me it's like a camera on a bigger tripod really.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Matt Hoyland who won the NATS category says planning is a key part of his work

Matt Hoyland:

'Fail to prepare, prepare to fail', so you need to plan everything. If you're flying things in the air, you have to be aware of everything. Around our location here we've got two helicopters which operate at very low levels, can operate at any level, which are the air ambulance and the air sea rescue. There's RAF Valley which has got all kinds of aircraft flying around, high speed jets and helicopters and all kinds of stuff. So round these parts, I've only really done a few pay jobs around here and I was in the Conway Valley in October, before I did anything, I asked the lady whose property it was 'do you still have lower level flights from the RAF?' and she said, 'not really'. Now I was under, I would say I was about 110 feet above a lake that they had. And I'd only been there for about five minutes and sure enough, I heard the sound of a jet engine and it came in really low and I was nowhere near it, but I could have been higher and it was under 400 feet that but so there was no near miss there. But it's things like that you have to be careful of. So after doing my A2 C of C which thoroughly got it into my head that you've got to be so critically aware of other aircraft in the airspace. I've always, always always listening out for this, the helicopters and the jets and everything before I go anywhere, before I even take off to make sure there's no light aircraft, there's nothing in the airspace. So for me, if I'm out taking pictures, I'm limiting the amount of time I'm actually in the air because I'm not standing there flying this thing around aimlessly. I know where I want to go, I know where I need to be to take that picture and then get back and land to limit the exposure of my drone to the airspace, to limit the chances of anything happening.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Now we also asked people for their tips on how to take pictures with drones. So once again, here's competition judge Anna Henley?

Anna Henly:

To me a drone photograph is the same as any photograph, you've got to have a focal point. What is the point of your photograph? Is it nicely composed? Has it got nice color saturation? Is it printed properly? You can't just take a photograph a digital photograph these days and think you're not going to process it. Because you can always enhance any photograph like we used to do with hand printing. Just take your time over it and probably go back as well as a lot of pictures I see and I think they're nice pictures but there'd be so much better if you're local and you can go back you can choose your weather, and you can maybe choose a slightly different vantage point.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Here's Andy Betts who won the 'Urban day' category.

Andy Betts:

The first thing you need to be is a photographer, a drone is a flying camera, you need to learn how to take a photo. Once you've learned how to take a photo, learn how to fly a drone. If you've got the photo skills, you're going to take the most amazing pictures. Drones will give you a perspective that you will never get elsewhere. They'll put you in places you'll never be. And you'll get mind bendingly good stuff, but make sure you can take a picture.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

We also spoke with Mark Boyt, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Drone Safe Register,

Mark Boyt:

I think the most interesting drone shots are when someone actually takes the effort to go and take the drone shot. We can all go down the beach and just take a picture of someone on a surfboard, someone getting up golden hour, for instance, setting the alarm for 0330 and getting out to a location for 0430 and waiting for that perfect moment with the sun. That to me is what makes the perfect drone shot, someone that's taken the effort, time and trouble to even research the area, research even where the sun is, and then obviously capture the shot. So that's what is to me.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

So huge congratulations to all the winners and thank you to everyone who entered. I'm going to leave the final words to Mark Wharry, who is the RPAS Oversight and Safety Manager at the CAA.

Unknown Speaker:

It was lovely to see the level of engagement we had. To have over 800 entries for something like this was really quite spectacular and really made us smile that there was that number of people who wanted to get involved. And in terms of the quality of the entries as well, well, I was very jealous of most of them, because I don't have a creative bone in my body. But it just goes to show that drones as they are right now are just another form of aviation and it's what you do with them that counts. So to see the sort of creative things and the creative ideas that people were coming out with, it was absolutely brilliant, I was really happy to see it. If you can think of a way to use your drone and things you can do with it that doesn't cause any harm and doesn't present risk to other people, we will be all for it. And it is an emerging technology. Right now there are people out there who are thinking about things they can do with their drones that I simply wouldn't have had any chance of thinking about I'd have no idea that these things are even possible. And we want to enable those. We want people to do innovative, crazy, fun, enjoyable things that produce absolutely spectacular results. Our job is to protect the public. So we're not there to stop people, we're not there to try and put blockers in place or anything like that. And fundamentally, if I could say anything to people who are out there thinking about flying right now, just think, 'am I being safe? Can I make sure I can do this safely?' And if so, you're almost certainly on the right sort of track.

Jonathan Nicholson (CAA):

So thank you to Nathan for that report from the drone event. And everyone who was involved in our photo competition, everybody you entered, we had some really amazing entries there. And if you want to have a look at them, you can see them online on our website and check them out. Thank you for listening. Remember to look out for our podcasts in all the usual places for Apple and Android. If you'd like to feed back to us with suggestions of things you'd like to cover in the podcasts then the email for this one is dronepodcast@caa.co.uk Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.

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About the Podcast

CAA Drone safety
Drone safety brings you the latest guidance from the UK Civil Aviation Authority with information for all types of drone operators, from hobbyists and enthusiasts to commercial operators.

You’ll hear interviews with experts from across the drone industry, along with details about rule changes and the different types of approval that may be needed.

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UK Civil Aviation Authority .

The UK's aviation regulator