Flying a drone safely is about practise and preparation but on the day it's really helpful if the gods are on your side and a certain degree of planet alignment is also available. This time we've been out again filming for the BBC for a program to be aired on 11th May 2015, BBC 1, titled 'VE Day: The First Days of Peace, Rebuilding the Countryside'.
Shot in April, when the weather can be unpredictable at it's best our first location was just south of Bottisham. With Cambridge Airport only 4 miles to our west and the busy A14 only 1 mile to our East we rendevouzed in an exposed farmers field at the end of a strip of woodland. A stiff Cambridgeshire breeze was blowing as we were briefed by BBC director Paul Baker together with award winning BBC cameraman Martin Giles and presenter Ben Robinson. It was our job to capture the scale and location of this oddly located woodland in the surrounding open countryside. With thousands of motorists passing nearby every day all but a few must be oblivious to the historic role associated with this peaceful landscape. From the ground it simply appears as mature woodland where it provides shelter for breeding pheasants but old aerial images brought along by Ben reveal a more turbulent past.
As we were operating near to an Air Traffic Zone I'd been in touch with the Control Tower at Cambridge Airport to get clearance for our flights. So as light aircraft buzzed overhead on route to the nearby landing strip across the fields and chill gusts of wind caught us side on we prepped the drone. We were flying the Aeronavics X4 fitted with the Z15 gimbal and a GH3 Lumix camera, this multirotor is able to cope with winds up to 25mph and still produces super smooth video in flight, the trickiest part can be landing in gusty conditions! A quick call again to the local ATC, check the skies and the wind and the light, all clear, and we were up in the air, lining up our shots of Ben as he walked out of the woods. Then up for the reveal shot flying low over the trees as they stretch into the distance towards the traffic on the A14.
It's only from the sky you can appreciate the scale of this unusual strip of woodland set in open landscape 1,470 yards in length and fifty yards wide with concrete tracks that wind their way around this precise rectangle. The mature woodland has replaced a steel meshed Summerfield Track runway built by the American Air Force in 1943 for the 361st Fighter Group equipped with P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs and renamed AAF Station F-374. Looking down you can now imagine this long thin stretch of countryside as the departure point for many young American airmen during WWII. Setting off in their fighter planes to protect Flying Fortress bombers on raids in Europe.