While planning a recent trip to Portugal, we imagined capturing some eye-catching aerial images. A drone would have been great to travel with. The only problem? We don’t own one. Despite their appeal, we are not getting a drone …

 

… At least not yet

We got really excited about drones (a.k.a., unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)) when creatives like ‘Goats on The Road’ and Nas Daily began sharing eye-catching aerial imagery in their travel videos. We began incorporating videos with drone-acquired footage from other content creators in our blog posts, like this stunning ‘Zanzibar From Above’ work by Mathias Arvedsen.

Before long, we were drawing up our own requirements (camera, size, weight and so on), comparing drone specifications and prices and stalking tech sales in the UK and USA.

Close to hitting the purchase button when GoPro CEO Nick Woodman announced the Karma, we hesitated and hit the brakes when shortly after their release, ‘bad karma’ (battery flaws) caused some of GoPro’s drones to begin falling out of the sky!

Not Getting a Drone

Somehow our wait for the ‘perfect drone’ has been inversely proportional to our desire to actually own one. Why? We share five reasons below.

 

#1: Bothersome regulations and changing privacy laws

We have heard many travel stories from drone owners of hairy encounters with airport security. These stories get more harrowing in countries with a general distrust of anything foreign.

In some cases where travellers have succeeded in getting their drones past tricky airport security, it is not unheard of to have their equipment confiscated while trying to exit.

Why are drone laws so problematic? Well, in many jurisdictions around the world, it is common for regulations to lag behind advancements in technology. This also applies to drones / UAVs.

Where country-specific drone usage policies exist, they are often difficult to understand, open to interpretation or constantly changing. Drone users such as Hand Luggage Only say they have encountered a lack of clarity with drone laws when arriving at certain destinations.

While policy makers struggle to catch up, some have adopted an unfortunate knee-jerk reaction by banning any technology they cannot understand, interrogate or control.

This makes travelling with drones such a bother. Travel writer Gloria Atanmo had a very short relationship with her DJI Mavic Pro. She says, “I had to turn down three trips [to countries] in Africa because I couldn’t bring my drone into their country and/or didn’t apply for a permit 3 to 6 months in advance!” She and her drone eventually parted ways in Cape Town.

HDYTI: See a (best-effort) list of country specific drone laws here and here.

Not Getting a Drone

Domestic use of private drones is also coming under increased scrutiny. In a world where almost every detail of our lives is recorded somehow, stricter privacy laws are seeking to limit what data we can capture and share.

In May 2017, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration had approached Congress with a request to ‘grant the federal government sweeping powers to track, hack and destroy any type of drone over domestic soil’ citing concerns about public safety and homeland security.

While this will no doubt raise concerns about civil liberties, the intent behind the US government’s request (i.e., to limit the use of drones) is clear.

The DJI Spark is Tempting but we are Not Getting a Drone

Drone in photo is not the DJI Spark

It is not impossible to travel with drones. However, the requirements for using them are growing while the number of public places where we can actually use them keep shrinking. Chris Stevens of BackPackerBanter has some advice:

“Make sure you’re aware of drone laws in each country before you travel. Do some research before going to make sure you don’t get caught out. I use this site as a guidance – but double check as laws are constantly being adapted.”

HDYTI: See civil aviation guidelines on non-commercial use of drones in the UKUSA and Canada.

 

#2: The story remains king

Drone footage is simply stunning…and (from a marketing perspective) effective. We are yet to meet anyone who watches a drone-shot travel video who doesn’t secretly or openly wish they were in that particular destination.

Not Getting a Drone

Videos are undoubtedly a compelling form of storytelling and drones provide enriched content. Almost everything looks pretty from 400ft. However, after watching some drone videos, we are sometimes left with the question, “But where is the story?”

Greg Brand, video geek and co-founder of travel video production company Travizeo is someone who should know a thing or two about using drones for destination marketing. While teaching a video class recently at Traverse 2017 he summarised the session in one phrase, “Focus on your storytelling and don’t get hung up on your equipment.”

As content creators, we are often try to balance the need to challenge ourselves creatively and an over-reliance on technology take the driving seat. Drones are great but, for now we will focus on telling authentic and engaging stories using the tools we have. Drones are simply one more way to support a story. The story itself is king.

 

#3: Luggage and electronics restrictions

We strive to travel as lightly as possible. Our dream is to be able to travel with only carry-on luggage someday but that is unlikely to ever happen.

Newer drone models like the DJI Spark with their compact and portable form factor make a mockery of their larger ancestors. However, they are still one more item to carry in an ever-under pressure hand baggage allowance.

Not Getting a Drone

Leading black female travel influencer, Oneika Raymond echoes our concerns about drones and luggage: “I like to travel light and already struggle with bringing my camera and lenses with me on the road,” she said. “Excess weight was one of the reasons I ditched my clunky DSLR and moved to a mirrorless camera system.”

The recent (selective) electronics ban by the UK and the US and concerns over some Lithium batteries casts further doubt on the wisdom and ease of travelling with drones.

HDYTI: Before travelling to the airport with your drone be sure to check your air carrier’s policies and requirements.

 

#4: The drone sharing economy is growing

For our recent trip to Madeira, Portugal we reached out to our network to see if we could find a local resident or company willing to rent out their drone for a few hours or a day. We were unsuccessful.

Regardless, we know that drone rental services and start-ups exist and are growing. Furthermore, it is possible to hire local pilots and production companies.

Not Getting a Drone

Although, it is still early days for the drone rental market, we predict that the continued growth of the ‘sharing economy’ will eventually make it easier to rent drones in-country without having to worry about travelling with one.

If we absolutely need aerial imaging for a travel project, we are happy to rely on stock drone footage.

 

#5: We want to be more present in the moment

If you follow any travel bloggers on or offline, you’ve probably heard the well-worn phrase about ‘collecting experiences and not things’. Well, the chickens come home to roost when it comes to drones.

Not Getting a Drone

As travel bloggers, we already spend a significant amount of time during our trips capturing experiences through a camera lens. We’ve recently begun to make a conscious effort to switch off our devices in order to truly experience our environment.

Perhaps the most significant reason why we are not getting a drone is the desire to be more present in the moment.

Travel vloggers Nick and Dariece wondered whether they were crazy when they sold their DJI drone and camera gear. In this honest article explaining their decision to simplify their travel, they point out that carrying around all that gear ‘tainted their travel experience’ and placed a heavy physical and emotional burden on them.

We agree with them when they say, “By putting travel first, we’ll be able to share more accurately what each destination feels like for travellers.”

 

The DJI Spark is tempting though…

We have just watched two of our favourite YouTubers (Casey Neistat and Marques Brownlee) do a review of the new DJI Spark drone. Compared to the wildly popular Mavic Pro, this latest member of the DJI family is super small and cute!

Are we tempted? Most definitely! However, the case for purchasing one remains unclear. Apart from the above reasons, there are other factors such as the cost of purchase and drone insurance (in case of loss, damage or harm to others) to worry about.

There are always at least two sides to every story. While we have listed five reasons for not getting a drone (yet), there are plenty of positive reasons to support purchasing them.

 

What do you think about not getting a drone?

Do you own a drone? Have you ever experienced any problems traveling with yours?

Do you have any tips for traveling with drones (for non-commercial use)?

DJI Spark is tempting but we are not getting a drone

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).

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