Drone-Forward or Drone-Back? Degrees of Passivity with Drone Technology

Drone-Forward or Drone-Back? Degrees of Passivity with Drone Technology

I stand at another new landscape and let it overwhelm me, this is my 21st country I take my fleet of drones to, I am in Cyprus teaching, Limassol to be exact. There is a peak – far from the highest I have traversed, but by no means insubstantial. The run to the ground looks treacherous; rocks that will slip, sections with little purchase, an angle that may mean I fall and tumble for what – a metre? Two? Enough to cause harm?

The drone provides an ability to safely photograph this terrain, but is it what I want? Out here, invigorated by the majesty of nature, do I want to passively explore? Become a third-party to my own story? Or do I want to run forward, feel my pulse and send the drone before me as a second viewpoint – not, crucially, the only viewpoint.

Leaning-back or leaning-forward? Where marketing speak meets an active lifestyle

Marketing specialists talk in terms of lean-back and lean-forward media. Based on your physical position when you interact with it and coined by Helen Katz in her book “The Media Handbook” (2010), lean-back media is less interactive: you relax into your chair and let the information come to you. Lean-forward, by contrast, involves active participation – interaction and engagement.

The world of droning is finding itself divided along similar lines. Drone-forward becomes a desire to be a full part of the whole experience, providing a physical exercise component to the profession. While weight loss was never a listed component to any business plan regarding my photojournalism and drone use, through drone-forward activities there are certainly substantial gains in that department.

Drone-back, therefore, can be seen as letting the flying camera doing all of the work. You remain passive in your set-up atop a grassy hill or even at a constructed basecamp while the drone is piloted to the limits of its range. But does this really provide a fully rewarding experience?

Drone-forward – improving your health through drone piloting

I consider myself very lucky that a substantial portion of my working life is spent outdoors, albeit sometimes in treacherous locations, I still explore my environment. Walking to new locations, surveying the areas, even just walking around to find a good spot to work from – it is a lifestyle that keeps me healthy and fit.

Droning-forward also encompasses the enthusiasm with which I undertake the flights themselves. There’s a physical lean into the remote control, stretching forward as I follow the path of the UAV. Like playing a computer game, there’s that eagerness to be part of the experience that pulls you forward.

Comparatively, though, I’d argue that a computer game is more a lean-back experience than the drone-forward energy of piloting a drone in flight. Katz may argue (as might you!) that the interaction that a PlayStation or Xbox provides fulfils the very definition of a leaning-forward experience, but drone-forward takes that a whole leap further. You are actually outdoors, running, jumping and pacing the drone as it gets its incredible aerial shots from a unique perspective.

There’s no armchair involved!

Situational awareness – keeping everything active

Situational awareness is a critical part of being a good drone pilot and is very much a part of drone-forward mentality. It’s not just about playing with a remote-controlled helicopter, dancing it around in the sky and hoping it stays there long enough to get a good picture; it’s a gamut of perception, instinct and training that involves everything from awareness of the wind to an understanding of drone manoeuvrability.

Maintaining situational awareness requires good health, physically and mentally. Fatigue or stress are negative factors that have no place in a positive professional droning-forward life. Hiking through the wilderness and scrambling up rocky foothills is not just about losing weight and finding the best vista, it’s part of an overall package that improves my health and through that, my skills as a pilot.

If you want to really break through as a drone pilot, start thinking drone-forward. Leave the comfy seats and drone-back detached programmed piloting and start thinking like a professional – your work, your art and your life style will all thank you for it.

By Gail Orenstein and Crispin Rafferty- A Drone of Her Own Blog