When Raphael Pirker needed overhead shots for a commercial he was filming at the University of Virginia, instead of spending thousands of dollars to rent a helicopter, he attached a camera to a 5-lb. (2.3 kilograms) model airplane, creating a custom drone to capture high-flying aerial views of the campus. A year earlier, the 29-year-old photographer piloted a similar drone around the Statue of Liberty in New York, buzzing the monument’s iconic crown and recording stunning close-up views of Liberty Island and downtown Manhattan.
Drones have been used by the military for decades, but Pirker’s videos offer a glimpse of just one possible way these robotic fliers could be used in the future. As advances in technology have made drones smaller and more accessible, their potential applications are extending far beyond their use as warfighters for the military or toys for hobbyists.
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