André Götzmann films bird’s eye view videos of Germany every day for our #DailyDrone series. DW spoke to the cameraman and drone pilot who told us why seeing the country from above is so exciting.
Every day DW travel posts a new film from a new location in Germany on its page. How did you discover filming using a drone?
As a cameraman your first priority is to find new perspectives. You want to show viewers something unusual. And I found that I couldn’t capture the beauty of a landscape from eye-level because it lacks depth – it’s something that can only be captured when seen from above. Then the first drone copters came along, these are small copters capable of carrying a camera which can be operated from the ground. They are an ideal addition to a normal camera because it opens horizons that were not usually available to cameramen. In pictures taken from above I can capture an aesthetic that just couldn’t be attained before from ground-level view.
For DW you travelled across all of Germany to film the country from above. How does Germany look to you from a bird’s eye persspective?
I am surprised how diverse our country is and how many unbelievably beautiful and exciting areas it has. Buildings too, which I might have passed by without really taking notice of before are so attractive they can compete on a global scale. Combined with their environments there is a harmony that is only really revealed when flying above it. That’s when this beauty, which is sometimes even sublime, becomes visible – something that I’d not really been aware of before in this country.
Was there anything in your German travels that surprised or amazed you when you watched the drone footage?
It was the little incidental discoveries – for example I was in the region around Lake Constance. That’s when I noticed how influenced by Christianity and early Baroque architecture this area was. Nearly every third village has a sizable abbey, which is impressive. These landmarks make imagining what life here was like in the past possible. This surprised me a lot, because I always thought I was very familiar with the region.
Which German region did you particularly like, and why?
For me it’s not the specific places but rather what surprises I experienced that was a highlight. When I hold the camera down vertically I sometimes get to see graphic structures which are reminiscent of paintings. For instance, if I fly over a cornfield that has just been cut, there are patterns left there by the mowing machines. Or on another occasion when my drone camera filmed a container, which was multi-colored; on the footage, it looked like a toy. These are the surprises that you never reckon with.
What challenges do you face when planning a drone filming flight?
The weather is the greatest challenge. When there’s no wind and the sun is shining it is easy. When there’s a strong wind you have to be good at operating the controls. The machine sometimes flies over the sea where there can be winds of 80 kilometers (50 mi) an hour. Then it can be difficult to get the copter back to shore. The machine really doesn’t like rain. But these days most drones are equipped with lots of safety systems. They automatically fly back if they lose the signal or if their batteries are depleted. It displays height, distance and flight speed. These many aids help you keep an overview, even if the copter might vanish from view behind a tree.
What exactly do you need for a flight and how do you get started?
As a professional (drone-)copter pilot you need various permits – you have to have a general take-off permit from each federal state. Then you have to ask the owner of the land for permission. And if there are people in the area you have to inform the police shortly before take off. Before flying the copter you should be aware of all local restrictions. To practice it’s best to head out to open fields where you have 500 meters in every direction. That way you don’t disturb anyone and you won’t get into trouble.
How do you think filming from a bird’s eye view will develop in future?
The technology is going to keep getting better and more affordable but most of all it’s going to get easier to operate the drones. That’s why I think it would be a good idea to introduce a German or even European drone flying license. Everything below 100 meters (328 ft.) is reserved for drones but as of 100 meters height you enter an area where for instance rescue helicopters might fly. And you need to be aware of those.
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