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Drones and Film

I was very fortunate, last summer, to be part of a “first ever.”

In this case, it was the first New York State Fair Drone Film Festival.
And the second annual festival will be coming up again at this year’s
New York State Fair (August 26th is the date; 5 pm at the Home & Arts
Building Theater).  (www.dronefilmsfest.com)

Of all of the technologies developed in recent years, the drone is
definitely one of the more fascinating – and, like most technologies,
it can be a force for both yin and yang.

In essence, a drone is an unmanned aircraft than can be coupled with the
technology to pilot it remotely, or by programming.

Just down the Thruway “The NUAIR Alliance, a New York based not-for-profit coalition of more than 200 private and public entities and academic institutions working together to operate and oversee Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) testing in New York, Massachusetts and Michigan. Headquartered in Syracuse, NY, NUAIR supports the New York UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, one of just seven FAA-designated UAS test sites in the United States. (They) are at the forefront of public policy development, commercialization, and integration of UAS technology.” Griffis is central to a 50 mile (80km) Drone Testing Corridor, where tech and drone experts are finding the best ways to populate the skies with safe, expertly flown drones. (www.nuairalliance.org)

A very familiar drone that can be bought for personal use and promptly flown into trees before mastering how to fly it.

In downtown Syracuse, GENIUS NY has just opened the next round of competition for $2.75 million in investment funding to be shared among 6 finalists as it serves as the largest business accelerator for UAS (unmanned aircraft systems). (www.geniusny.com)

Among the many projects being funded currently is DropCopter, a project to pollinate fruit trees and plants using drone technology as scientists search for the solution to the honey bee die-off. Drones dropping pollen save time, money, and fruit crops, from New York to California.

And if you want more information about what’s new and exciting with drones, “UAS Central is “the central hub for information and news about the growing unmanned aerial systems industry in New York State.” (uascentral.com)

Which is to say: CNY is one of just a small handful of locations where drones are happening.

What’s particularly fascinating about drones, if you haven’t seen one in operation, is that they can be big, powerful, and life-saving; or they can be small, swift, even toys.

The first one I saw was, in fact, a toy. It was presented to a child several years ago as a gift – and immediately taken out, launched, and driven into a tree. Like a good toy, it was undamaged and happily launched again.

But if you didn’t see last year’s festival, you might not realize that drones can move deep into otherwise inaccessible space, can be used in search-and-rescue operations, can fly for hours —days— without fatigue and can move up and down, side to side, hover, and glide gracefully from high above a location down to a landing without a lurch or a quiver.

All of which makes them ideal for film and photography.

The NYS Fair Drone Film Festival was created to celebrate the “art” of the drone, but that, as with all things drone, can mean many things. Initially, the aim was to demonstrate what beautiful shots could be taken from a drone – which allowed a camera to go places and do things not possible using a larger, piloted aircraft.

Then the Festival decided to expand the criteria to include films that included drone footage, narrative film, and films about drones or industries that use them to aid their core mission. If a power line has a problem in a hard-to-reach location – send in the drones. If a child needs medicine deep in a jungle that would require hours if not days to traverse – send in the drones. If a real estate agent wants to show properties with least effort and best effect – send in the drones. One individual’s business stumbled upon the utility of “seeing” sports activities from above, enabling a coach or athlete to “see” performance and coordination as never before, and at a fraction of what it might have cost to accomplish the same end with an aircraft. Oh, and did I mention how quiet and non-intrusive a drone can be?

A larger government drone capable of who knows what.

There is also just the “wow” factor of drone acquired photography and film. I was enchanted with a perfectly framed photo of colorful beach umbrellas lined upon on a sunny day; the snaking path of rivers and streams when seen from high, high above; a red backpack in the corner of spectacular frames as the videographer shot himself hiking through the Scottish Highlands – from above. That is to say: imagination, and a story to tell, coupled with a drone can equal some really fantastic results!

There are nine categories for entries, from professional organizations to still photographers to students, and films can be very short, or full length. A single individual or organization can enter in multiple categories or with multiple films/photographs. There is a separate category just for drone films shot in or featuring New York State.

To enter, visit the website, or go to: https://filmfreeway.com/NYSFairDroneFilmFestival if you’re ready to go. And if you just want to enjoy the State Fair even more this year, stop by the Home & Arts Building Theater for a little idea of what drones can do.

Nancy Roberts