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Ben Lovejoy

February 12

Not long after the city of Cupertino gave Apple permission to move employees into five of the 12 Apple Park sections, the latest drone footage shows that they won’t have any trouble keeping fit.

Among the recently-completed work are the outdoor sports courts, and we can also see bicycles scattered around the campus to provide a convenient and healthy way for staff to move between exterior locations …

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February 6

If you’ve got any recent flagship smartphone, you’ve got a great camera – both for still photos and for video. So good, in fact, that many independent filmmakers use the iPhone in particular to shoot both shorts and full-length movies.

But such reports can give a somewhat misleading impression. Very often, the smartphone is the capture device, but it’s coupled to far more expensive supplementary kit like professional lenses, and gimbals to smooth footage.

What DJI has done with its latest gimbal, the Osmo Mobile 2, is to bring smooth mobile shooting – and more – down to a price level that makes it extremely affordable. So much so that, when you consider all the things it can do, I’d say it qualifies as the best-value iPhone accessory on the market at the moment …

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February 2

One of the downsides of living in a city is that opportunities to fly your drone tend to be limited. Where I live is well inside the massive chunk of drone-free air over London. Indeed, I’m inside both controlled airspace for my nearest airport (London City, less than five miles away) and a separate Restricted Area above central London.

So if I want to reach clear airspace, it’s either a car ride or train journey away – which means I only really do it when I have a specific reason or project in mind. That makes it hard to build on, or even maintain, my flying skills.

DJI of course has its own drone simulator built into the DJI Go app, but it’s more of a conceptual implementation than an accurate simulation of real-world physics. Which is why I decided to try Zephyr, a simulator for the Mac and Windows that claims to accurately model the actual flight characteristics of the drones it covers …

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December 19, 2017

Drones are a great tool for letting us see things that would be impossible from the ground – like the inside of the new Apple Park spaceship ring campus.

Matthew Roberts‘ latest 4K drone footage of Apple Park shows the campus starting to live up to its name, with a great many trees and grass areas now in place. It looks very much closer to the ‘building amid nature’ image seen in the early renders …

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September 28, 2017

An augmented reality drone simulator powered by Apple’s ARKit allows users to fly a virtual quadrocopter wherever they are.

“ARKit is a game-changer,” says Taylor Moore, co-founder of CircleSquare Entertainment. “We were actually working very hard on a drone racing game – but dropped everything when we realized that we could offer iOS users the kind of augmented reality no one has ever seen before. DroneTopolis AR is like having a Drone in your Pocket.”

You can fly your virtual drone in places the real thing wouldn’t be allowed, fly through virtual ‘hoops’ and record and stream your flights to share with friends …

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September 4, 2017

When I finally gave in and bought a drone, the DJI Mavic Pro sold itself to me primarily on its portability. This was the first drone on the market that combined the ability to shoot high-quality footage with a form-factor that made it sufficiently portable for handbaggage-only travel.

I used it on weekend trips to both France and Portugal, as seen in my original review video. Sadly, it didn’t get to accompany me on a holiday in Havana. Doing a little research found that the Cuban government takes a dim view of anyone flying drones anywhere around the capital of Havana, where we were staying, so I had to leave it at home.

I have, though, found a couple of unexpected uses for it which I’ll get to shortly …

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April 24, 2017

Unusually for me, there aren’t many words in this drone diary – mostly I’m going to let the video do the talking!

When I reviewed the Litchi app last time – an app that lets the drone fly completely autonomously on a pre-programmed path – I mentioned a plan I had in mind for a future project at that tumbledown castle.

The plan was to take a dancer there and shoot a dance routine from the air in a beautiful setting. This required the cooperation of the weather, but it all came together earlier this month. It was a lot of fun, and I think the result really shows the value of a video camera you’re able to position exactly where you want it – whether up high or down low …

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March 15, 2017

Flying a drone manually is fun, but there are some manoeuvres that are virtually impossible to fly smoothly. Circling an object or person, for example. You’d need to constantly change the balance of forward/backward and left/right inputs to fly the circle in the first place, then simultaneously keep rotating the camera by just the right amount to keep it pointed at the centre of the circle. Anyone who can do that perfectly is either a drone genius or has way more than the usual number of hands.

The DJI Go app offers a range of intelligent flight modes – aka autonomous flying. But a third-party app, Litchi, goes even further: it allows you to program your flight path in Google Earth before you even leave home. As soon as you arrive on site, just load the pre-programmed flight and hit Start.

I decided to give it a go with my ultraportable drone, the DJI Mavic Pro I reviewed last month

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February 23, 2017

I’ve been keeping a watching brief on drones for some time. They had immediate and obvious gadget appeal. I mean, proper drones are both radio-controlled flying vehicles and high-end cameras – what’s not to love?

But decent ones are expensive, and I feared that they might be one of those things I’d find fun for a short time before the novelty wore off. I didn’t want to spend a four-figure sum on something that would soon be relegated to a cupboard.

Then a few family members got together to buy my father a DJI Phantom for his birthday, which gave me some hands-on experience. I was starting to get the itch, but still resisting. After all, what would I actually do with it?

Travel was the only situation I could think of where I might make use of one, but small ones were poor quality and high quality ones weren’t exactly compatible with my handbaggage-only approach to travel. Then along came the DJI Mavic Pro – a folding drone whose spec was virtually identical to the Phantom 4 but with a folded size so small it was almost pocketable …

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