SWEEPING AERIAL panoramas of the anti-government protest at Democracy Monument are being featured in many newspapers and throughout the social media. These pictures are taken with the help of drones - small, remote-controlled aircraft equipped with camera
Thanks to this new technology, we now have a more complete understanding of the situation. Whether it’s through pictures or videos, the drones show exactly what is happening from an elevated vantage point, providing another source of information on the event.
For example, in rallies, it is often difficult to determine the number of protesters involved. The police will usually underplay the number while the protest leaders tend to inflate it. Now with drones, we can have a more accurate overview of the situation. This is why drones are becoming more widely used in the news industry, including by The Nation, the Bangkok Post and Thai Rath.
Drones have other advantages. Sarot Meksothawannakul, the photo editor at the Bangkok Post and a drone pilot, said these machines were the ideal solution for getting aerial views without having to rely on expensive helicopters.
Previously, to get a bird’s-eye view of a situation, photographers would have to get on a helicopter or find an elevated vantage point themselves, by going to the top of a building or even climbing a tree. So drones can reduce the inconvenience and risk involved in scrambling for a good point of view. Moreover, drones can be used anywhere, even when there are no trees or buildings around, such as at the Democracy Monument.
This new technology is not without its own limitations, however. Nanthasit Nitmetha, the photo editor at The Nation, said using drones put a greater demand on photographers. Rather than just sending one photographer to the field, the drone requires at least two people to pilot the craft and control the mounted camera.
Moreover, the machine is not the easiest to operate. Both Nanthasit and Sarot said their drones had had many visits to the repair shop, since wind can often blow them out of control. These repairs are not cheap, either; drones can range in price from Bt80,000 to Bt200,000 (including camera), depending on quality and size.
Despite its flaws, drones are currently the best choice for aerial photography. Thaweechai Jaowattana, chief executive of Thaiphotographer Co and a former photographer at The Nation, first experimented with aerial photography by using remote-controlled helicopters during the floods in 2011. He claims that helicopters cannot match drones in terms of durability, efficiency and cost.
But thinking back to the stunning images of the protests in the past few days, it looks as if this new technology is here to stay.