Drone Photographer Eric Cheng Talks About the Future of Drones

Cheng, director of aerial imaging at DJI, says drones will help us understand more about our environment.
33:13 | 11/18/15

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Transcript for Drone Photographer Eric Cheng Talks About the Future of Drones
I'm joined now by Eric Chang who was one of the drone pilots anatomy is being Icelandic volcano shoot. Eric you worked at DJI you've been and photography and the geography for a long time and you just published aerial photography and video I've been using drowns. When it comes to taking pictures with these with these devices. Is it about drones that make them so revolutionary. As we shoot video footage from them. Not if it's really all about the new perspectives that are possible you know everybody has dreamed about getting a camera higher than you can place at their hands. And in the past as we've mentioned before you have to give a helicopter to get up to get those shots. And now really it's accessible to everybody. And so I think most people we've talked it had some idea some some idea that they've been thinking about for a long time about their new perspective. Like on that Iceland Hughes I mean it was so extreme though the cold weather the snow the wind Johnson win not usually friends. And then you had. Just a massive volcanoes spewing out lava ash. Sheet bullet passion like. It was a little surreal I mean nobody expects to be in that situation when you're out snow and ice and wind all around you and you have this thing spewing lava out there. An article of course was to get drones as close as possible. Without losing them and we had to get the video footage which we are streaming live which is fantastic but getting the drug that was of course another priority. So it I mean it was just it was really pushing drums to the extreme and showing what they're really good app which is you know these situations in which. You you cannot put a person and you can sit and you still wanna captured enemies but it's huge unknowns when you went out how nerve racking wanted to thank you can do this live. It it was in their record ever the challenges in their plenty of challenges and the crew was amazing for in and I think they'd been made it really possible for us to be there safely. To give it our best shot hands I think he was the testament to you know the the incredible technological advances that have lined up really to make it possible to do that sort of how cold it how hot. It was cold it was it was like let's say ten degrees Fahrenheit or something. We're all bundled up their fingers are presently are flying combat of course over the volcano is extremely hot spot in as a running support 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Counselors really these drugs are going between freezing and very very hot right of. And sort of back and forth. You have a mobile hanging over years nine month old son Scranton and tell us about it yes so it's actually a melted drowning her mother looking at it it isn't though it is yet but I appreciate not you know she and incidents dies circling around it's it's the melted drone. Yes that's right. And what. Think it is the future of video down. The video out if he found drowned mean. What's interesting to me is that they can so quickly shows scale. You know so close to sell one. What's what you what do you think is the majesty and its next line alone where they can now. Yeah what I think they you are just going to become more and more popular because of what they can do in a right now some of us are doing it and in fact. It's it's possible for it for anybody to be doing and that's one of the issues that we're facing now is this huge he's huge number of drones that are going to be sold. Like over the holidays a million pounds are slated to be sold over the holiday season. Going to be huge we're gonna talk about some of the legal and safety issues later in the show. If things and asked everybody who came on the show here today what one piece of video. Speaks to them the most about arms and you had a piece of video I'm hoping we can tee it up it's tested do with this amazing poll. A shot in. An ice cave. To me a little bit about that chat we can see it right here it's so beautiful. Yeah it it's a shot especially from DD trailer for and new film from smug mug films called climbing ice. It's about ice climbers and Iceland climbing industry basses in case. And this is a shot it's perfect because. It hasn't been most amazing reveal which is that there is somebody standing in an ice skate ice tunnel but in the drone moves all the way through the tunnel backwards. And then reveals it's actually on an iceberg. I think that is so cool and I think there. The really neat thing. What are tuchman analysts on a little bit later in the show and she does these amazing drone used which you know self fees with two runs and what I think is so cool about that is that. It shows the scale of the person. In an amazing environment and you get a sense. Of how close they can get to the person and yet you see the scale of this amazing thing and that's really what traveled us. You know it gives you the sense of the wonder in the scale in the grander the world in. Yeah absolutely I mean traveling with the drug has been one of the most wonderful things for the last few years because. You know we we concede environment around us but it's very hard to capture with the cameras specially Peters to standing on land. In us of being able to get to the joint air to be of the capture both you and the environment you're in I think it's what special. What senator things that you want to see drones be able to do that they can't do yet. Well I think the most important thing for me is is that drone should be able to understand more about their environment you know these throws are really not. Dumb flying machines the other cable. Competition in the Sunnis Smartphone. Is and can sense the world around us I think you know getting sensors into into drones is next and then using that data. To help the drones to navigate saint. We're here in San Jose where it that drone world expo is happening and there are hundreds of people here and I was struck by the list of attendees I mean obviously you've got. DJIA you've got. Treaty robotics you've got parent you've got all the big gun makers but just amaze me the little axe which is the experimental wing of Google this trying to do coolness stuff. NASA the FAA sports broadcasters fox sports and is yes can. World wildlife federation is here there's so many intersections agriculture companies. To the surprising people who are involved in a convention like this him why it's important. Well I I think the key really is bad throws art tools. And their tools you know in India and what we're talking they're here they're tools to help us capture beauty but they're also tools to help us capture data and that's what you see this diversity. Of companies at conferences like this in everybody knows that now suddenly the vertical dimension is unlocked for the capture of data. And so that's why we're seeing agriculture companies with single a lecture to do deliveries. For example and and and everybody's coming together around this dismayed the central focus which is not a law and they're. Is said just a second ago that. These are not dumb machines these are incredibly Smart machines that being said. I did have to go out and get pizza for the crew I could not order drone delivery of pizza yet. But Amazon John thrown pizza delivery. It's the highest guy Jetsons below it thinking is that really. I mean I feel like it will happen but probably not all at once you know some people think yes I'm an order pizza with a drowned this like it that there will be steps that lead up. To you being ordered pizza and drugs and having NASA here for example talking about UT campus which is there traffic management program for you eighties. In these are the steps that are going to be required for there to be. Kind of you know I don't want a safe freed that sort of you know increased use of air space aboard the camera you know commercially some truck. It's so you'll hear a Silicon Valley we're seeing autonomous driving has a huge issue as the global car. That can drive its Allison Tesla is jumping into the game in Nissan's champion in that game. And I was talking to Chris Anderson at treaty robotics and he was talking about this idea that drones will employ much of that. Autonomous. Piloting that. Autonomous driving kind of uses and the holy Grail is really. The drone you don't have to pilot but it just follows him. So we went to the Berkeley headquarters of 3-D robotics. And got to talk to their CEO Chris Anderson about this really amazing idea of drones. That followed a U. Point in faith and it's holding at. Exactly it's using GPS and a but by the censors I'm doing nothing. It is doing what's called out loiter right now avoid waiting for instructions waiting for him one Chris Andersen the CEO that you robot. And what's new in this day. And highly. This syndrome filthy is that sort of lane and turn it happens without you would. This. Island. Now let me show you how that works let's say that we want to. Haven't UAE people now a virtual cable in the sky it was gonna pick what's holiday people I'm talking and saying it was called a point 88. Finance went right back now let's go back I think another shot but pull up maybe a little higher who got that beat and now we've created a virtual cable in the sky. He would put runners learn qualifications. When he. It's got GPS Latin didn't want to suit has gotten altitude but also at the camera till positions that's 55 degrees of freedom. To for law we could use for example come back to point I get no lineup at the controls about gonna come back. Exactly where we started for the just reversing the cable if you will. A lot of trip here as you know it could keep going. Narrative if we're restarted a fifth ballot that was pretty fund balance for something different let's try orbit. An orbit would be here is wary are right now I'm African go a little higher. And pull back. Another good to have you circles around us not get orbit around us wow. That is so we'll see anything it. What we have now and here you can see it it's keeping us. In the picture so it's looking in the camera at the same time to nowhere keeping the nose in rotating around at a we want we can actually spiral up. So I'm I can hit it right now it is gonna keep doing this entitled to stop put this down just keep doing. And it's just continue. Keeping us in the shot you don't want the hologram concept is this followed. So let's say I've got my apple want John and had you robotics app on apps and I say all of this. That's possible. We are we very cigarette I want it you can do. Got to have a watch but you want to show all right so I'm I'm sure you just needs is the simple thing here is called fiscal policy. So we're gonna switch here to parliament. It's getting the device it's getting it GPS for Mike don't hear it now has the ring out and look at me notes as we walk around. It all just it'll stay where it is predicted the camera focused on simply just blocks sort of as applicable to walk down that's way. OK you can't see moving particularly and I did you think okay and then the thing that you think that's we'll have out of it orbits around us wallets follow that is not so okay. Let me think a hypothetical so no I am. Snowboard and I need to record a continent video. In order to just keep my fans said and so I've plug in points and the top of this have to worry point being is the bottom of the crime yet. I give us be. Yep and obviously you're going fast to probably start in front have you been you'll come by you'll pass that their own ability behind you for that smooth path. Part of the whole thing knowing it you are going to keep the speed so it looks good all this what like what looks good that some in the software knows what's important though is to be good on your own. You don't need professional government right now you basically you want in front of the camera not behind you way to start your story not the photographer. This is the stealthy ultimate felt they without it it it exactly if you if you if you wish I had a longer are. And a longer self respect that's what a drone is the ultimate sources say well it just the batter got loads of landing a self. So it's not you know not yes I'm medical absolutely. Well at a gas to pursue Anderson thank you so months went so much thank you. Really cool technology showing that drones will very soon be able to pilot themselves in a big way. And Eric Chang and I are joined now Biron and the sun and is an LA days. Instant grammar extraordinary drone enthusiasts travel I just covet all the places that you bin. My producer was saying how your Easter Island. Footage really inspired him you is that the queen of the droning what's the drone. So again Maroney is like us. A self scene but with and around one it starts with the drone flying just that may be about. Fight in front of you and then you send the drown either straight up are straight out. And it reveals. Like wherever you happy and in my case I'm I. And then I was an Easter Island evidence Indonesia been. Several country. Snow first off I just love your stickers on your drown might have stickers on your down. I mean this not just everybody's down it's got like shiny dolphins let's get we liked them. I'm it is it really its allies the funding you have that this obviously an artist's eyes to see a shot. Your. I mean your on the boat you're standing next them all lying in Easter Island what. This is it this is that this shot this is wearing sees what happens. When that moment when he's. Well a lot of times the Ford's trip I'll do a little bit of research and think about like where an amazing drowned out will be in that'll help me determine. Where I want to go sometimes lake. Recently as an Italy and it what it says think it's Sarah. And I knew that that would be an amazing plays disputed Roni with us. It's just it's a beautiful place and the white photos of the scene are beautiful. And I go to these places with the hopes of capturing. Throw any. And sometimes they canceled that they can't but I decide try to do it many places possible. This 30000. Plus followers on ins to Graham wondered and what people what do people cat out of our. Videos that you think is unique what's the feedback yet. Well I get a lot of people saying like and so. I'm. Travel NBA get traveling BO where you're going but I don't I don't want people to feel that way I just want to inspire people to travel and I want to show people the scale of how big how small the world community. It possibly putting and I think. You know when I see. Your footage. It's almost always that you've got the the controls in your hands day. And this colon that's part of it and it's it's you know it's kind of man and it's it is what it is but. Eric Chang white. Do you think it will mean when. We lose the input output device of the controls. And if it's now just. A distance or mediated shot between the person and the Vila. You know I think it will open up a lot of a lot of possibilities obviously because I think in the piloting it we enjoyed piloting a lot and a lot of us have. Pick a little bit of a creative streak you know we we we want to control the camera in the air I think a lot of people and especially the kind of go for a generation folks who you wanna plant to camera. Do your activity. And I just haven't captured so I think that you know we see that desire from the general public if they want a camera following them around capturing what they're doing. And so I think you know when we get to that point it's it's going to fundamentally change the way. We're document. CEO of go pro tell me instilled many people that's what inspired him. Is to create the camera he wanted everybody. To feel like they were the stars there count. And nothing says you're the star of your own show than having an aerial I mean I remember. I did a story for GMA about seven or eight years ago in as a consumer reporter and a tech reporter it was silly premise but. They idealists do you get from point a to point B when you're driving faster if you change lanes or not and so in order to do this. We had to get a helicopter. And follow us and and go across the bay bridge and it cost. I don't even know 101000 at 151000 I don't do not much it cost to rent a helicopter for the day for one story there's no way we're gonna do that on a regular basis. And you know you talk about democratizing. This type of video you know what does that mean an as the controls get easier and cost gets lower. Does that mean Tim. Bring its more people. But I just I think it means that you know of personal culturally there'll be there'll have to be a lot more acceptance that that might be a drone following you around. Whatever that means and so that's something I think about a lot as you know which is how our drones going to integrate into. Our culture holiday be accepted over time you know historically it's taken awhile for new technology to become ex acted but eventually it does become accepted and becomes normal. You know think of cameras on phones you know that was there was you know. But that it was like scandal when they came out it don't take them anywhere people worried. This. Area but this is this sort of not safe for work but what gets clinical commodities guest book in the Pacific. You know technology can bring out the worst of people and invested people and usually when a new technology comes out. It freaks everybody out to see the worst of it and it's somewhat novelty. In your right when I remember from when cellphone cameras first came out was. Underneath the toilet stalls oil you know we did tons of stories about skirting and down blouse saying and and you know that's his past and I think of it like. Photo copying your butt on the Xerox like in Ellis funny when Xerox's first came out people don't really do that hectic morrow we get over it sophomoric. You know hopefully it's it's it's just that you know I know drones we'll have sort of awkward adolescence but that. Renee. You just have a whole I've seen a world in a different way it could be the green hair I'm just saying I love that I love it. I'm not sure ABC would do you if I did but. Do you think will see as more people who see the world. With an artist I get ahold of guns. But some I learn. Just gonna see a lot more angles of everything out there. I don't know consult our it's so hard to say you had everybody who's got that inclination we'll find their vision. I think you'll see a lot more people setting up. Scenes to be seen from above I know that there's some there's some drone photos and videos out there where like people. They have range like themselves and treated these cool scenes like her to spell out a word or. And create an image from above and I think that we'll probably see a lot more make a stop motion whatever the drone equivalent of stop motion photography or write something really cool and badly really large scale art or paintings are insulation. And one of the things that really helps adoption of any technology is making it controls easier and so this is why we really are talking a lot about this holy Grail of the followed drawn. There was accompanied that put out a kick starter couple months ago and they were called Lilly and down. We just gotta take a look at this because the video that they need for this drone was just a jaw drop far. Yeah. Because the video of the snow boarder just. Going down can and the throne following him whether it's keyed in on him his phone his watch. It's such a cool concept inning and the other ideas that you just sort of casually tosses it now on the name you know it's like a well trained dog. Is that really possible. It's I mean the technology is is here for that to happen in a follow me it's fundamentally not a different. Difficult technology for for companies to produce and release as part of a drought I think what stiff difficult is. Making it to its safe because again we've talked about sensors and drugs knowing about the world and a drug apology that doesn't know about the world will follow you into things. So I think you know I think we we are beloved mixed in in thrown industry we're very excited that people are people are so excited about ideas like. Lilly and you know and yes it's it's possible for a pot eclectic went back to come out and I think we've we're all sort of waiting for it. It's interesting because I called a mattress on kick start and said oh my actually got at this on GMA and you know there's just such a cool concept whether you're gonna use it to snowboard. A Whittier freaked out parent who wants Lilly to walk your kids at a bus stop. We want to demo it and they decoy planes. And you I have no idea they say they just want ready and I get it but there has been an other kick starters for follow the rounds. He aired that Tex Tex something I asked this immune at this moment. He's kicks Texas raised a million dollars. And we're kind of lead meaning for the products account is this paper where I'm you know you can't really say yet but. It into technologists if possible but what do you think. I think it's a little bit of both in us I think it is possible for a small company or an individual even to produce a prototype. And even maybe even ship if you products out customers. But I think that's very different than building a business and building a business. Essentially. Doing your own start to become an entrepreneur nor you get funded in this case they're funded through things like kick starter. So what what you're doing when you find a kick starter project on a drone that is an idea that has remarkable video. Is your betting on that company as an investor. And that's and remembered eighty to 90% of startups fail. You know so the odds are not in your favorite. A dozen you missed it look how it ends there isn't you know it doesn't mean it won't happen I think you know we're hopeful that one of these companies actually does manage to get a product like that out. But it's very difficult to do. You know. One at things that I I first became aware of your work as a photographer with your underwater photography and video out of feet it is so beautiful. And it's interesting because ID maybe I'm of the Jacques Cousteau generation or something but watching. Video shot under water makes me feel like I'm flying. What are the parallels that you see between underwater photography an aerial photography. Actually right it's great they bring it up because I feel like there are a lot of parallels and one of the things that attracted me to aerial imaging was that I could move the same way that I'm I like to move underwater. No we are not constrain about a third dimension underwater and if you if you can imagine a shot. In which you say rise up over a coral reef to get that mice reveal that something that we really couldn't do on land before. If so I'd always imagine these sorts of shots happening. When I was walking around Atlanta I can only fly over that had just couldn't and suddenly we can do it so I feel like you know drones have really brought freedom that I had underwater. On two lands. One of the coolest things about drones when you're in production wanted to production wonk like I love. You when you're talking about the fact that you guys love to pilot and then having to control isn't a big deal because that's part of the experience and I feel like. This is there's this element of production and that's what we in the video business called the business of making videos in there's. All staff the guys behind this camera gate right there who are in production and I love it too is known producer in my former life. And one of the things that I lost about drone shots now is that not only can they be far. But they can be close and they can be right. I knew I mean the way a lot of your Johnny's start so close. Not there's a dark side just ask my good friend Enrique Iglesias. And I can't point fingers and I would suggest you actually don't point fingers because you don't wanna get them to close to the rotors I myself almost took my head off with a drowned. And that leads us to a little segment we call drone angels. Speaking go places we only took three months. Loans are amazing. Couch wander dangerous. Just ask Enrique Iglesias. I can't really point fingers actually keep your fingers closed your body and away from the voters. Nearly took my head off with one of these things. Upset again. Just as lettuce isn't. It's just another drunk fans. Only fails. Everywhere now assigned dart to the classic thrown failed is deep when animals attack drones sale. Yeah Byrd has drank. Back away back away. That Jolie packs a punch. Okay lesson learned if you Larry King group a pop star even tech reporter approached drones with the utmost care. I'm ducking and docking. Trust me you gotta have quick reflexes to work around these things I didn't hear what Michael Perry is the director of communications for DJ I welcome. And Randy. You're gonna live press the little bit right now enemy that. A monster thrown out. Over my back shoulder what modeling that added the DJI inspire. One professional. The helicopter parent Guinea pig. Look it didn't it is like monster and it's so faithful looking. Even in Doris how. Michael me a little bit about. How much easier it's become to actually highlands mountain let's another few part of the animation is working on absolute. The idea of being able to fly a model helicopter or model plane has been along for a long time. A lot of people when they think about this technology they immediately think back to their first time buying its way and think about crashing. Let the amazing thing that we've done and what we've seen over the last couple years is reducing the barriers making it easier said that. Platform like a little bit more autonomously by itself its senses when it's off center. We'll automatically correct itself to stay stable even TP us or in this case optical sensors to say I am supposed to be here. It is inertia oh win ties to boo me all plays in this state law right here. And and it's not simple like that that's EPS in the going to be GPS hesitated premier variants. There's all kinds of different factors that this is really proprietary. Software algorithms that you are agreeing to make them more stable and easier to pilot that's really what you're selling and when it right. Exactly at the idea of reliability and play because when you get a new play something like this when your flying up in the air is thinking of it. Not just as a toy but now as a tool. You want to make sure that works every time what are the two most exciting things to you in the innovation and drunk now. Only 202. Heard so many. Now obviously there's so many exciting things happening. Some of the things that we get us excited about. Is by driving down the barriers to entry into this technology both intensive performance. And to use portability all of these different things start opening up abusing applications. What this technology can. That we never can so you know Randy has been using this for conservation. And for building you know taking architecture. We see sports teams using it protect their defensive line and make sure that they're coordinating well every week there's something new exciting and innovative that people are doing was. Was what our products. We're looking at Randy using their controls to fly this right now we're gonna attempt the mid flight a hand up that control Michael's gonna fly. But that Osgood down Miami and that's Michael altogether is heavily letting. I'm totally man whose shooting. Area out I. I I didn't huge fan of your photography for years but. And it looks like a perfect throw. Thank you you know my I have hasn't been very busy to get in to see lately an inch up the bottom might be good I'm. About drones forget we talked about drunken video lot we've talked about it on the commercial uses for farming firm ran. A lot of people right now tend to think about the potential mining and grown industry night but that's what's creeping up on us right now it's humanitarianism. Observation. He's uses. Are actually occurring right now I just got back from him. Them on it had to Tanzania both for some very good purposes tell not call for this is really interesting what you were doing now. In the fall we visited one of the villages village of Honda which was one of most destroyed villages after the April earthquake. So many 9000 people died in the fall that day. So we would. Actually after the fact and hot a group of university students how to. Use drones to pre reading maps of the city. The polyps one of the most disaster prone cities are countries in the world and so much so it's little amount. Infrastructure is there to write my. Said the building's crumbled this time next right now we're. Reading mapping the city the damage so that we can come back and we actually present at all that that I. Pound the village of Honda and. They they welcomed us with open arms we went marks England and went some very modern technology. A little bit worried about what they might think that we were with all the right people we walk softly we've showed we gave in the final product and so. We really we became very close with the people in that world. You help them in a concrete Atlantic creating a baseline at this point this is after the the fact right now. Think being lost 600 buildings in this out of the town of 8000 people 600 buildings fell. So this is sort of a baseline and want to document this and then use these very accurate reading maps to. Had to reconstruct the city in a way such that. If there ever is another disaster that you have evacuation routes planned. Fresh water locations and and emergency shelters. Planned out in advance in Tanzania quickly what do you do with elephants elephant that was very interesting most people thought we were doing something about poaching. But now. Instead we were working on this project that is about a human elephant conflict. The conflict is between. Subsistence farmers and hungry elephants in effect. At night the elephants come out of the national park in what they're doing is eating full fields of watermelon and warrant at night while the farmers are sleeping. Destroying the farmers' income the family income for full year and so what we're trying to do is use small bronze were teaching the Rangers of the national parks. How to fly small grounds to herd the elephant's back into the park because they sound like the form of these elephants do not like the sound of the and so they go you can basically heard these albums back into the national park. Well Randy is. A resident of my home state of Hawaii and it is video and be around. Old Chen in the lava flow. In the contrasts of green black and live. Just some of my favorite things in the world I hope people will go and take a look at all of that and what DJIA has to offer there is some amazing technology unit thank you found my. The fight game plan B you here at the show.

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