Mar 19, 2015

How Do I Get a Good Aerial Shot of Solar?

Useless pole
Useless Syma Quadcopter
I'm a man of simple needs. I'd just like to get some aerial photos and videos of solar panels. I've tried a few techniques and am not satisfied.

First, I've gone into nearby buildings to get shots of installations from a distance--my first solar church is the best example. These can be nice views but it's not the same as getting up close and personal.

Second, I used an extension pole (left) to get a good video of the solar array over the FedEx Field parking lot. This got me an additional ten feet and was very shaky video. That's not going to cut it for most roofs.

Third, I bought a video-capable quadcopter (top right). It didn't take long for me to learn that the FAA doesn't take too kindly to drones in DC. $75 out the window.

What I need is something that can get good height (~40 feet), a stable shot, support my smartphone, and is legal. As I see it, here are some options:
  1. Pigeon photography
  2. Tethered balloon or mini-blimp
  3. Smartphone launcher-parachute combination
  4. Telescoping pole
Readers, do you have any recommendations?