Drone photographer Matt Satell wants to create the go-to site for aerial images of Philly

If you’ve been on our Facebook page recently, you’ll see our new banner photo is an aerial shot of University City. 


The more obvious choice for a publication about Philadelphia’s built environment might have been the Center City skyline – perhaps a shot from behind William Penn’s head looking out over Old City? – but we went with University City because 1) we work here, and 2) we wanted to show a different view of the city than the one you’re used to – kind of like our reporting, we hope.


The photo was taken by Matt Satell, owner of the new Philly By Air site, which showcases aerial images of the greater Philadelphia region that he took using a drone he bought for around $1000 – the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter.


Here are some sample images:

Satell makes this process sound alarmingly easy.


“To pilot the drone, I use a remote controller that connects to my phone,” Satell says. “I get a first person view of what the drone sees through my phone, and I’m also able to tell it to take a picture or a video through there.”

DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter Controller

In the city, he’s able to fly it about 1,500 feet away, but in a more open area with less interference, it can go further. 


“The drone locks onto GPS satellites, so if you ever lose connection, it will automatically return home to where it took off from,” he says.


Satell is hoping to also feature images from other photographers on the site, and develop it as the go-to spot for aerial footage of the city.  


You might be wondering if – and how – this is regulated.


According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a hobbyist like Satell isn’t breaking any laws – yet:

Flying model aircraft solely for hobby or recreational reasons does not require FAA approval. However, hobbyists are advised to operate their aircraft in accordance with the agency’s model aircraft guidelines (see Advisory Circular 91-57). In the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-95, Sec 336), Congress exempted model aircraft from new rules or regulations provided the aircraft are operated “in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.” 

Back in 2012, Congress directed the FAA to devise a policy for “safe integration” of “unmanned aircraft systems” by September 30, 2015, and their proposed rule for small UAS (under about 55 pounds) is due out later this year, which will probably include guidelines for commercial use of products like the Quadcopter.


In the meantime, we can think of a few aerial images we’d like to see on Philly By Air that would be useful for our site – high-rise construction sites and Center City surface parking craters, to name a few.


What kinds of images do you want to see ?

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