The summer months are ideal for commercial drone missions and recreational flights. The skies are clear, your fingers aren’t freezing and the winds have died down. You’re good to go.
But sunshine comes with a few challenges. Ironically, actually being able to see what you are doing is one of the main ones. Summer can also create tricky light conditions that you’ll need to adapt to.
Here are a few apps and accessories to help you deal with the screen glare of summer, overexposure and more.
One of the biggest challenges facing drone pilots in summer is screen glare. Most pilots fly with monitors that are actually just smartphones or tablets. Rarely do these have the image clarity and brightness to stream or playback all the detail your drone is capturing.
In the height of summer, the glare coming off your monitor screen can leave you relying on luck and guesswork when it comes to focus and camera settings. How are you supposed to control your exposure and image composition if you can’t see the screen properly?
One solution is to move on from flying with a tablet/smartphone and instead invest in a professional monitor.
A good example is DJI’s CrystalSky, a powerful monitor that attaches to the controller of your DJI drone and has been designed from the ground up to work seamlessly with the DJI GO/DJI GO 4 app.
The CrystalSky monitor comes in three models, 5.5” High Brightness, 7.85” High Brightness and 7.85” Ultra Brightness. High being 1000 cd/m² and Ultra being 2000 cd/m². Smartphones tend to peak at around 650-700 cd/m², so with a CrystalSky monitor you’ll have a view that’s far superior.
DJI’s dedicated monitor also has a Sunlight Readability Enhancement mode, which processes your images in real-time to improve your ability to view them under bright light.
DJI Smart Controller
Launched at the turn of the year, the DJI Smart Controller is another way to avoid screen glare in summer - providing you’re flying a drone that’s compatible.
The Smart Controller has a built-in 5.5-inch 1080p screen. Like the High Brightness CrystalSky, the 1000 cd/m2 display is almost twice as bright as conventional smart device screens.
The DJI Smart Controller is designed to work with DJI aircraft equipped with OcuSync 2.0: the Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Enterprise Series.
The built-in screen displays clear and bright images under challenging conditions and the controller comes with DJI GO 4 pre-installed.
A Monitor Hood
If DJI’s dedicated monitors and new controller are beyond your budget, simpler options are also available.
Depending on which drone you fly, you should be able to find a monitor hood that fits onto your controller to provide some much-needed shade when flying in direct sun.
These plastic add-ons are lightweight, relatively cheap and do the job of covering your screen even in full sunlight.
Neutral density (ND) filters are small semi-transparent second lenses that sit on top of your drone’s camera. Depending on the strength of the filter, they block out a certain amount of light from reaching the sensor.
With an ND filter attached, you can increase the exposure time and slow down shutter speed to capture shots that emphasize motion of clouds, water and more. In the summer, ND filters also allow you to crank up the aperture in bright conditions, without overexposing your shots.
More control, more creative options.
Sun Surveyor / PhotoPills
Aerial photography in the summertime is all about using the light to your advantage.
Both allow you to set a location and track how the sun will illuminate your scene as the day goes on. This means you can plan epic sunrise and sunset photos and generally get a feel for when the light and shadows are going to come together for a great composition.
PhotoPills includes an augmented reality tool that lets you visualize shots there and then, as well as a Drone View tool, which helps you plan shots while taking altitude into account.
Ready to make the most of the sunshine? Here’s some summer drone inspiration to get you started.