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Astonishing Surfing Video Shows Power of Camera Drones

The technology cited by Filmmaker‘s Michael Murie in his 2013 Camera Tech Year-End Review is behind a beautiful surfing video by Eric Cheng that seems to be embedded on just about every site this morning. Five minutes of surfing bliss captured at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California, the video features aerial shots of surfers, singly and in formation, that previously would have required expensive helicopter shoots. According to Cheng’s Tumblr, the footage was “taken with a DJI Phantom quadcopter, GoPro HERO3 Black edition camera, Rotorpixel HERO3 gimbal (http://rotorpixel.com), ReadyMadeRC FPV transmitter, receiver, and remote monitor, and modified DJI Phantom radio.” At Skypixel he adds, “I did seven 4-minute flights with the GoPro in 1080/60p Medium, and cut the video in Final Cut Pro X.”

One factor Murie mentions in his piece as curtailing the popularization of camera drones is FAA regulation. A July, 2013 article at the Santa Cruz Sentinel on the shoot highlights just this issue. Once Cheng posted the video on Vimeo, he was contacted by surfing contests wanting him to cover their events. But, as he explains, that’s not possible. From the Sentinel:

As cool as the video is, don’t expect to see something at the Coldwater Classic or any surf competitions anywhere: The commercial use of drones is all but banned by the Federal Aviation Administration.

An FAA spokesman said as long as Cheng’s copter is kept below 400 feet and away from critical infrastructure such as airports, and the footage is noncommercial, he is well within the law. The agency has had model aircraft guidelines for more than 30 years.

But surf contests are commercial ventures, so no drones.

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