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Seeing the world by drone

Updated: 2015-02-14 08:04
By Kenan Christiansen (The New York Times)

When Jan Hiersemenzel started TravelByDrone in March, the website had only 20 videos, all of which he had uploaded.

"The commercial drone industry has grown very quickly and there's been an increasing need to organize this data," said Hiersemenzel, 29. "Drone videos existed online, but it was difficult to find footage based on specific locations."

He organized the videos by geotags and hosted them on a map, making it easier to navigate among areas or to discover experiences in places not commonly associated with tourism.

"My favorite way to use the site is to find places where I know I'm not going to travel any time soon," he said. "We have videos of drones hovering over volcanos in Iceland and reactor sites in Chernobyl. These aren't trips many people are going to do tomorrow, but once they see it, they might want to go."

TravelByDrone now boasts a library of more than 8,000 user-uploaded videos with just as many visitors accessing the site daily.

Q: What inspired Travel By Drone?

A: The original vision was to become an alternative to Google Street View. When Street View first came out people were using it to travel through the cities and roads where they used to live or where they went on holiday. Now we see people taking these same journeys on TravelByDrone, but from a new perspective.

How are travelers using the site?

There are those who want to see locations they already know or are planning to visit. If a couple has a certain place in mind for a holiday, they might search for videos of that specific site, hoping to spot some gem, like a hiddenpath that they can try to find when they are there. Then you have the armchair travelers who go from video to video looking for inspiration.

How do pilots use the site?

Many pilots use it as a platform to display their work. We host a map, where users can find drone pilots in their area and enlist their services. Recently we've noticed that cities, countries and companies are jumping on the idea and sharing videos geared toward destination marketing.

What does your team look for in a video submission?

Our primary emphasis lies in procuring videos that allow users to discover a location. We encourage creativity, just so long as the viewer gets a clear sense of the place. We also like videos that show known locations from a new perspective. The Chateau de Versailles is a good example. It's a place that sees millions of tourists per year. In the video, the drone flies up along the roof, not even far from where visitors normally stand, but the view gives you such a different perspective that, even if you've seen it in person, it's suddenly beautiful once again.

As a special Christmas present, we recently put up a Best of 2014 video list. Many of these were the videos that attracted headlines, but we also slipped in some undiscovered ones that are just as outstanding.

What tips would you have for creating a perfect drone video?

I wouldn't suggest buying the big professional drones if you're just starting out, but if you want a video that's not shaky you'll have to buy from the midrange, which starts at $1,000.

The experts spend a lot of time on the ground planning their videos before liftoff. They decide the time of day to shoot, where the sun will come up, where the shadows are. Also, have a charged spare battery with you. You'll notice how vital that is when your battery is dead and you want to get the last shot.

The New York Times


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