Sometimes our cameras need to go places we physically can’t. That was the case when DePalma Productions was tasked by Centerline Digital to take moving aerial shots of spectacular Lake George and its equally stunning surroundings for The Jefferson Project, a collaboration between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM Research, and The FUND for Lake George.
To get that all-important bird’s eye footage we hired BFD Systems, whose custom drones and skilled pilots expertly met the challenge. With BFD’s drone and our equipment, such as an ARRI ALEXA Mini and a variety of Leica Prime lenses, we were able to capture the dramatic panoramic images essential to highlighting the project’s important work.
Working with BFD was such a fascinating experience and recently our Operations Manager, Erika Rodriguez, sat down to chat with BFD’s founder, Maxwell Tubman, one of the top UAV pilots in the country.
DePalma Productions: When did your company start and what inspired you to create custom drones?
BFD: We have been in the drone manufacturing business for many years but we started BFD Systems in June 2017. We saw that there was a big gap in the drone market for heavy lifting industrial type drones. So we wanted to create something that not just met those needs but that is customizable and versatile.
DP: What makes your drones different than those in the market?
BFD: Not a large market but it’s very underserved. Our drones are 55lb or less, which is the limit allowed by law in most locations. But we also have 80lb drones, which we are able to use in areas allowed. We can customize our drones for automation to white computer and autonomous flight. Think of what Amazon is doing with their drones but instead our drones are capturing motion rather than a still image. We can use them with light art cameras for mapping. We have used our drones for scientific purposes like mineral exploration. Our drones can be used for much more than just capturing video footage.
DP: Is there any special training for your pilots?
BFD: Most of our pilots are general aviation pilots. Depending on drone and specialty of the shoot there is additional training.
DP: Why did you choose the model you did for our Lake George shoot?
BFD: This particular drone can fly a large camera for long time with our needing to be charged. It can handle inclement weather and high winds. So since we knew we would be flying over a lake we figured it would be best to prepared.
DP: Is there anything new in the works for BFD Systems?
BFD: We are in collaborations with a battery manufacturer who is creating a batter that will enable us to fly our droned for double the time. We are looking to create a drone with a gasoline hybrid system so that in can power from gas or solar. Lastly we are creating a drone with a tethered system where it can stay in the air while getting electricity from the ground through a generator. It can do this via a thin cable, which is lightweight and high voltage and the drone converts the power to use only what it needs. So it won’t fry the whole mechanism. This makes it so our drones would be able to fly for the entire length of for example a sporting event or concert.
While BFD’s drone was essential for the aerial photography, DePalma Productions capitalized on the versatile ARRI ALEXA Mini mounted on a Movi Pro 15 to capture the “on the ground shots” (we literally got our feet wet to grab the fishing images!) as well as a wide range of cutting edge equipment (see below) to ensure we had all the footage needed for the amazing final piece. <The words ‘final piece’ should link to the video.>
Gear used on this project:
Arri Alexa Mini
BFD Custom Drone
DP Lumi 1×3 and 1×1 Daylight and Bi-Color panels
Leica Prim Lenses (15,21,29,40,75,135 mm)
702 Small HD monitors
Movi Pro Kit
EasyRig Vario 5
And a ton or two of grip equipment