The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to capture surf competitions allows the viewers to basically feel the spray from bottom turns and see the tube curling around surfers. If you watched Fuel TV’s exclusive FoxKopter coverage of the 2013 ASP Men’s final event, the 52nd Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach on March 27th, then you know the capabilities of this new technology. Drone Dudes, a small company with big credentials, has been developing and filming action sports with drone technology long before the 2013 Foxkopter exclusive.
Drone Dudes is a collaboration of filmmakers, designers and flying robots. For each live HD broadcast or photographic/video capture, two operators must work together in perfect communication as one pilots the craft and the other controls the camera. According to their site, autonomous flight plans are mapped out through Google Earth prior to each flight for precise shot
production. Each system is set up with backup components and tested to ensure safety and reliability before each flight as well. Drone Dudes currently features three customized crafts – the oktocopter, hexacopter and quadcopter. The oktocopter is the most advanced drone that holds professional cameras up to 12 pounds and uses a 3-axis gimbal–a piece of machinery under the drone that allows the tilt and pan of the camera to get shots unlike ever before. In a MAKE video, Andrew Petersen, Drone Dudes pilot and cinematographer, comments on the creation of the oktocopter:
“We custom built this oktocopter from scratch by taking a bunch of different components from different systems and compiling it all in to one. It’s been a lot of fun, but there’s been a lot of hard times. The technology is so new right now that things are changing all the time and it’s been this ever-evolving process.”
With their technology, Drone Dudes have expanded the use of unmanned aerial vehicles from military surveillance and weaponry to capturing action sports. To support their new outdoor use, Drone Dudes have created a customized Transit Connect complete with a removable bed, a sliding tray to work on the drones and an electrical system to support the operation. The Transit Connect doubles as a camper for their long outdoor trips, allowing them to pull right up to each new location and start flying out of the back of the vehicle.
In the early business stages during 2009, Drone Dudes shot the Freak Traction commercial with surfers Matt Kechele, Peter Mendia and Travis Beckmann, which was featured on Fuel TV. Later in 2012, Drone Dudes captured the Hurley Lowers Pro. Most recently, Drone Dudes produced the groundbreaking film Zero to 100, which details the rise of Lakey Peterson, ASP World Tour surfer, during the competitive era of women’s surfing. Drone Dudes also spent a week in Mexico to create a surf flick for the X Games “Real Surf” video contest with the assistance of Globe director Joe G and surfer Dion Agius. But flying over waves isn’t all that Drone Dudes cover–their client list includes various companies from music artist Akon to GQ Magazine to Spy eyewear.
This past weekend, May 31st through June 2nd at the Cine Gear Expo LA, Drone Dudes showcased their latest aerial cinematography gear at Paramount Studios. What innovative technology will they create next to enhance action sports viewing? Keep up with their work by visiting their site: http://www.dronedudes.com and their Vimeo channel.