Using drones to capture the aerial views of skyscrapers

Have you get bored of having to look up at those skyscrapers to enjoy the cityscape? Looking down at the buildings from high viewing angles can be another nice experience, the views seen from high altitudes is just spectacular.

A Phantom drone flys between the buildings in the city
A Phantom drone flys between the buildings in the city

To achieve that you need to get the viewing angels at heights above the heights of buildings which you want to look down at. There are generally two ways to get it. The basic way is to go to the roofs of the highrise buildings, but since commercial observation decks are not always available in every cities, and rooftopping is not considered a good idea as there are many security and legality issues related to it, so seems this is not a perfect way. And if you are rich enough you can rent a chopper to fly over the city, but a tour of a quarter of an hour will cost hundreds of dollars. So what's the best way to capture the view of the city from above?

Thanks to the rapid development of technology, consumer drones have become a new trend in our daily life today, we can achieve the same purpose by flying a drone. Drones can do the exact same job to capture that stunning aerial views as effectively as chopper but much cheaper, since advancements in drone technology have made owning a cosumer drone more attainable than ever before.

A drone photo of Ping An International Finance Center
A drone photo of Ping An International Finance Center
A drone photo shows the peak of Ping An International Finance Center in Shenzhen
A drone photo shows the peak of Ping An International Finance Center in Shenzhen
Aerial view of Ping An International Finance Center taken be a drone
Aerial view of Ping An International Finance Center taken be a drone

Before you buy the drone you may have heard of that in some regions of the world the pilots need to be registered, so do you need register?
America's consumer drone registration rules had been in place since the late 2015, nearly all kinds of drones must be registered, luckily things changed in May 2017 after a federal court in Washington, D.C. issued a decision that makes the registration rules only apply to commercial drone pilots, since then hobbyists fly drones for fun no longer need to register after bought the drones.
In the same time, China started to require the drone owners to register with authorities using their identification, if not they will be blocked to use the cellphone apps like DJI Go, which is used to remote controll the DJI drones. So foreigners will also need to register, a local SIM card will be needed to complete the registration.
A professional drone could cost more than 1000 dollars or 2000 dollars, for beginners I don't recommend you to start off with expensive drones, why? Piloting a drone can be a bit tricky for beginners, it's not as easy as play Need For Speed, the drones may accidentally crash into some hard objects or even crash into the river, which is fatal to the drones as most drones are not waterproof.
You need to hone your piloting skills before try those high-end drones. Therefore only purchase the drones under 500 dollars before you can pilot a drone skillfully.
But as our purpose is to capture the aerial views of cities. The drones priced under the range of 200 dollars are mostly known as the toy drones, these drones can only be controlled within a few hundred meters and are mainly used for some basic utilities such as taking selfies, and are small in size, the battery life is generally low, typically no more than 10 minutes. For these they are not suitable for capturing the aerial views of buildings, but they can be good choice if you plan to train your pilot skills.
For capturing the bird view of the buildings don't buy those micro drones, which can fit in the palm of your hand, some examples are Gopro Karma, DJI Mavic and DJI Spark. Although they can also fly to very high altitudes, but you'd better to keep a close watch on the drone on both the drone itself and the screen of the cellphone when flying, another reason is that they don't handle the wind well due to their light weight.
The model that I suggest to use is Phantom 3, Phantom is the flagship product of DJI, the largest drone manufacturer in the world, it accounts for over 70 percent of the global consumer drone market.

DJI Phantom drone
DJI Phantom 3 drone

The price of a Phantom 3 standard is 499 dollars, almost only a half price of Phantom 4, or three-quarters the price of an iPhone. You can buy Phantom 3 at DJI's official site.
Theoretically the drone can fly up to an altitude of 6000 m(3.7 miles), however, the drone is controlled by a mobile app called DJI Go, the software set the default maximum flight altitude limited to 120m or 400 feet, this limit is catering to the legal guideline set by FAA, the max height can be adjust to a maximum of 500m or 1640 feet from take off point, enough to get the aerial view of most highrise buildings as today only a few of buildings is beyond 500m, check out our list of tallest buildings in 2017. You can go to the roofs of some buildings to make the drones fly higher if you have to do it.
Another great feature of Phantom 3 is the flight time of 25 minutes, for a drone it's pretty long as the battery life of most drones can only last no more than 15 minutes.
Before fly the drone to capture the cityscape at high altitudes, you'd better fly the drone at lower altitudes to hone your piloting skills, besides, you need carefully read the instruction manual until you can get the hang of it.
Another thing to be kept in mind to fly the drones to high altitudes in the city is to check the local legal guidelines such as the information of non fly zones and height limit. For instance in new york city, the drones are suggested to be only flown in some certain places like central park, battery park and can't go higher than 400 feet(120m). But the limit in some cities outside of America are generally more relaxed.

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