Drone Photography from a Penthouse Balcony

Last week, first thing on Monday morning, I set off for two real estate aerial shoots in Parramatta, NSW. It’s been a rainy few weeks in Sydney and this job was postponed once already, so I hoped with bated breath that the 70% rain forecast would subside. Luckily the entire morning’s heavy overcast amounted to nothing more than beautifully diffused light, and this was what I had the pleasure of working with:

This penthouse shoot presented a unique challenge (for me), and that’s aside from the notification requirements for the nearby Westmead HLS.

I was originally planning to conduct the entire mission from the ground, and for most of the wide shots, I did. However, I realised that I wouldn’t have adequate situational awareness for some of the close-up shots that the agent was requesting on the day, but I was concerned about the risks associated with launching from the penthouse balcony. GPS has an estimated 5-metre margin of error, but the balcony depth was around 3-metres, subtracting the rooftop eve. Therefore, if I lost remote control connection to the drone and wasn’t able to reconnect upon autonomous return-to-home (RTH), or for any reason it needed to land immediately, there was potential for the drone to fall short of the take-off position or hit something and plummet.

Nonetheless, I took a calculated risk and opted to launch from the balcony. It was ultimately necessary to satisfy the job requirements, and there was no risk to any persons surrounding the apartment complex, so my drone and public liability insurance would resolve any other disaster scenarios.

As it turns out, the biggest hazards were two persistent sparrows swooping on the drone throughout the shoot!

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