Jan. 16 - A British photographer and entrepreneur has developed drone technology for shooting documentary-quality wildlife footage at extremely low cost. Will Burrard-Lucas has sold models of his earlier invention - the ground-level BeetleCam - to other budding wildlife photographers, and hopes to do the same with his BeetleCopter. Jim Drury has more.
For wildlife photographers, the Serengetti in east Africa is a feast of visual opportunities. But to shoot documentary-style footage like this from the air has always been very expensive, requiring a helicopter and all the costs that go with it. Not any more. Entrepreneur, photographer and inventor Will Burrard-Lucas shot his Serengetti footage with this...the cut-price BeetleCopter, a drone he develop and built himself. It consists of mini-propellers, a lightweight, off-the-shelf, camera and gyroscopic gimbal to keep it steady. A live video feed helps him monitor footage from up to a kilometre away, ideal when filming nature's most dangerous animals. SOUNDBITE (English) WILL BURRARD-LUCAS, BEETLECOPTER AND BEETLECAM INVENTOR, SAYING: "I've got the video feed from the camera being transmitted back to me through this video transmitter, which means I can then see exactly what the camera sees on these virtual reality glasses, which then allows me to compose my shots and make sure the camera is filming the right thing." Having built and designed his initial fleet last year, Burrard-Lucas tried the copter out in the Serengeti region of Tanzania in December. It's capable of 15 minutes of flight before the battery needs changing. UPSOT: DRONE He hopes this footage will inspire amateur and professional videographers to buy a copter craft from his website. It's his second wildlife imagery breakthrough. Four years ago he launched BeetleCam, which has proved a huge hit with photographers. UPSOT: BEETLECAM TAKING PHOTOS The BeetleCam allows users to get within inches of its subjects. UPSOT: 'Get ready to take a photograph' SOUNDBITE (English) WILL BURRARD-LUCAS, BEETLECOPTER AND BEETLECAM INVENTOR, SAYING: "Often they're quite inquisitive. Lions, for example, they'll come right up to it, so I can be inches from their noses when I'm photographing them. With the copters they react, they don't so much react to the sight of it, but they may react to the sound of it if they hear something unfamiliar and they're not sure where it's coming from. So I've made them as quiet as possible, so I can get usually within about ten metres before the noise becomes too obtrusive." As he packs two BeetleCopters for his return visit to the Serengeti, Burrard-Lucas is already planning his next launch - a range of trap sensors for DSLR cameras. And if his Beetlecopter is as successful as the BeetleCam, he'll be able to spend more time following his dream, documenting Africa's extraordinary wild-life in all its sweeping glory. UPSOT: DRONE