Droning on about making digital fun!

Scott and Zac share some observations on using drones to capture video content whilst out running on Dartmoor.

In Jisc’s digital practice team we often share reflections about educational technology on this blog. These posts are often peppered with caveats about not getting seduced by the tech, making sure it is appropriate for the learners and takes into account the pedagogy – sound familiar?

This isn’t one of those posts.

Every now and then you just want to have a bit of FUN with tech by trying things out – not really knowing what the results will be or where the tech will take you!

This is one of those posts!

I’ve always been interested in running. The nature of my job takes me up and down the country. This often means a lot of stop-overs in hotels and eating out, which can disrupt any exercise routine. As a result, I often pack my running trainers on my travels with a view to getting out there for a run.

There’s a lot of coverage (and concern) about the effects of screen time and the associated health risks of spending too much time on technology at the moment. As a result, I’m always keen to explore ways technology can make us more active and bring benefits to our wellbeing too. There are many useful apps for tracking your runs that keep you socially connected with your running buddies. The one I tend to use is Strava, although many others do similar things. This makes my solitary runs a little more social as I use the app to have a bit of banter with my parkrun and running friends too.

Occasionally though, I partner up for a run with Zac from work when we are on a joint visit somewhere. One such run took us to Burrator reservoir on Dartmoor National Park. A dramatic landscape over Burrator Dam and open moorland.

What made this run different?

Well, this is what made the run really interesting. Zac had recently bought a drone and we thought it would be a great idea to track the run from an aerial perspective!

Zac with his drone on Dartmoor
Zac with his drone on Dartmoor

As a local, capturing footage of Dartmoor is something that Zac had done a lot of. Whether using a phone, hand held cameras or even wearable cameras. The scenery is so stunning that it’s a pleasure to spend time there, even in challenging conditions.

However, using a drone to capture footage brought in a whole new dimension.

The change in shot perspective when using a drone is breathtaking. The drone allows you to approach the landscape from new directions and see it in a very different way.

I’ve put together a short video of the run here using iMovie:

Initial observations on using a drone

Obviously this was a lot of fun to do, but there are some serious issues to consider when flying a drone.

Zac’s put together some key points to consider if you are thinking of getting a drone:-

  • Before heading out the door, one of the most important first checks is the airspace (Zac uses the NATS Drone Assist app). There are new laws in place (and more coming) to ensure that drones are being used responsibly. Like most areas of the UK, Plymouth has restricted space and it is your responsibility to ensure you are within the law.
  • Check the weather before heading out (especially on Dartmoor). Think about how the locations may be affected by wind and sunlight direction.  Rain is also a complete write-off for drone flying.
  • When arriving at a location, make sure that you don’t interfere with any wildlife or anybody’s safety/privacy. While a flying camera captures wonderful footage, it may upset or disturb others who may not appreciate such an intrusion.  So being respectful is a must!
  • Plan your shots before turning on the drone.  The batteries don’t last long so having a plan on how you approach a shot means you’re more likely to walk away with usable footage.

By Scott Hibberson

Subject Specialist (Online learning) at Jisc.

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