A Day in the Life of a Drone
A slightly jaded, coffee deprived director and impossibly bright and breezy drone pilot meet in a large, deserted car park at the Trafford Centre. Mercifully the M56 and M60 have been kind and the lemming-like rush hour traffic flows relentlessly over the Thelwall Viaduct in the distance. Armed with storyboard and a 30-odd page call sheet incorporating Insurances, CAA and site authorisations, Risk Assessments, Method Statements, location maps and schedules we prepare for the start of a long day in the air.
The first series of sequences are already in the can. In perfect conditions the faithful DJI Phantom Inspire, in pilot James’s capable hands repeatedly nails it, making the Trafford Centre look like a Renaissance Palace, all glass domes and classical pillars. In perfect sunny conditions we try out various flight tracks to capture different aspects of the sprawling Trafford City site, more than enough for our film.
A Day in the Life of a Drone video
Arrive for rendezvous at Haydock Park Racecourse now joined by our camera operator Jordi, tasked with capturing ground shots while the drone does its aerobatic stuff above a thankfully sunlit Lancashire. We are met in another extensive, largely empty car park by Peel estates manager Gavin. With Jockey Club approval no less, we are airborne again in no time flying along the home straight at twice the speed of a Derby Winner, only slightly higher up.
Safely packed up we arrive at Hulton Park near Bolton, a vast former country estate where we carefully avoid any potential altercations with cows and the local archery club, flying over lakes, fields and woodland to quickly reveal the vastness and variety of an estate which might just host the Ryder Cup one day. The work-boots prove essential, as we negotiate muddy fields to a Victorian reservoir and dam, which provides the perfect take off and landing strip.
On to Worsley New Hall, 156 acre site of the RHS’s 5th Garden and the largest gardening project in Europe. It’s astonishing and huge. We follow overgrown trails to lost lakes, studiously avoiding the Cold War underground bunkers that are a feature of the estate. The drone takes off from the walled garden; at least we can hide behind the wall in our Hi-Viz to avoid being in shot.
No lunch break for us. Next stop is Houghwood Golf Club near St Helens. A last minute choice all thanks to James’s impeccable credentials as a former bar staff member and friend of the Professional.
We are greeted warmly, given use of a couple of buggies and basically left to do our own thing. Mark Whittaker, Peel Land and Property Director and single handicap golfer meets us. We are to film him teeing off photogenically at the top of the hill, with wind turbines framing the 12th green in the distance. Mark has all his gear, but only 3 golf balls – now that’s confidence! The members are curious but understanding as we repeat the drive several times (not too many) to get the timing of swing, ball flight and drone perfectly in sync.
A couple of delays to retrieve balls and let members through to actually play the hole and the job is complete. Mark is on his way back to Trafford Centre Peel HQ and we grab a much needed bacon buttie and coffee in the club house.
Arrive MediaCityUK and check in with USwim supremo Dave Quartermayne and the supremely unflappable Head of Security Clive. He knows all about us. The fact that our filming coincides with a 5K running race and (as planned) the weekly USwim open water training session makes his calmness and slightly rueful smile all the more impressive.
Peel Land and Property Director James Whittaker has agreed to be filmed doing a lap of Dock 10. He covers it with impressive ease, but then he has swum the entire 36 mile length of the Ship Canal in 17 hours for charity.
We wait for sunset over the quays to give us perfect conditions at the end of the day. Sustained by bacon butties and more coffee James is as irrepressible as ever, taking time out to chat to curious onlookers about what the drone can do and how he operates it between 5-6 minute takes. The water in the docks lights up pink and gold in the sun’s fading rays as we make one last flight over the illuminated towers of Media City, magical.
With favourable conditions, a top pilot and all the necessary preparation and approvals it’s incredible what can be done with a drone in a day. Time for the edit next, knowing we have captured our region with beautiful 4K footage in a unique and spectacular way.