I purchased a drone before embarking on our latest series of films in Colorado. Before the actual purchase, I went down the worm hole of internet shopping, research, reviews and comparisons. It’s an endless and painful process that can take days from your life. I ended up with the DJI Phantom 3. It arrived in a shiny white box at my doorstep a few days later, and it was amazing. I became a little kid again; spending hours with an arched neck, looking up into the sky and practicing for my flights in the mountains. I called my friends and family members to come over and take a crack at it.
The drone served us well for a while: It cruised over cattle ranches, through scenic valleys, along rivers and over houses. I began to think only in drone. Why take a shot from the ground if you could take it from the air? But a month into our trip, as you may recall, that drone crashed. It was completely my fault — as I had gotten a bit cocky that day, flying the drone through a patch of trees. I went online that evening, with tail between my legs, and ordered a replacement for our fallen soldier with a new upgraded version. Sadly, a few days later, the new drone flew off into the mountains with nary a “goodbye” or “so long”. I hiked through the mountains, yelling its name, trying to locate its GPS signal. But when I arrived at its noted destination — exhausted and eager to be reunited — there was no drone. DJI offered to replace that one out of error. Since it wouldn’t be able to arrive until after our Colorado trip had finished, I had the replacement shipped to Ireland, imagining the shots along the Cliffs of Moher and over castles. Sadly, that never happened. After a second drone flight in Ireland along the turf bogs of Donegal, our new friend flew off. Again I tracked it down, traipsing through the heather toward its GPS signal. Again, no drone. Since this was again, an obvious machine error (as opposed to human error) I thought DJI would replace it, but this time they decided that it was the wind’s fault. I would have to buy another drone if I wanted to film and fly.
I abstained. Perhaps it is the appearance of drone shots in every single video I watch on TV or online. Perhaps it was the money. Perhaps it was the fact that Ireland is a windy and wild place, and the locations where I wanted to film, just can’t handle a drone flight. Perhaps it was a relief to let go of some gear and focus on the filmmaking. When you have a video camera, a still camera, a gopro, an iPhone and a drone all trying to document what’s around you, sometimes you lose sight of what you are doing — capturing a real and true story. So drones: it was nice while it lasted, but at this moment in my filmmaking career, I think