Trains editors record first commercial drone video in 4K

Recordings to be used first in re-releases of classic Trains videos
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WAUKESHA, Wis. — Trains editors used to conservative video recordings from solid ground are now abuzz over their ability to fly drones in pursuit of better optics.

On Nov. 30, Trains associate editors David Lassen and Steve Sweeney took to the skies between Milwaukee and Fond du Lac, Wis., to record 4K video of the Canadian National main line. The video will be used in upcoming re-releases of Trains Magazine's classic "On Location" videos from the 1990s.

"I am impressed by the drone’s ability to remain stable in high winds — we were within the operational parameters for the drone, but not by much — and how it turned a spot that had nothing to recommend it for still photography into a terrific location with the drone," Lassen says.

Lassen, a Federal Aviation Administration-licensed drone pilot, serves as pilot-in-command of Trains' drone operations. The equipment includes a DJI Phantom 4 drone and Apple iPad Mini 4. Lassen also depends on drone pilot software for smartphones that enable him to find and avoid locations marked restricted or off-limits to drones by the FAA, such as near airports and sensitive infrastructure. Software glitches kept the editors grounded throughout much of the summer. They managed to address the problems in time to take advantage of unseasonably warm November weather and sunny skies to record new video.

"We’ve been eager to add drone technology to our repertoire, and we’re glad the opportunity is here," says Trains Editor Jim Wrinn. "Viewers of Trains-brand videos and publications will enjoy new and unique views from now on of favorite locations and subjects. The room to expand railroad photography in our pages, on our website, and in our videos just got tremendously bigger."

Trains' use of drones for videos and news gathering complies with rules established by the FAA for commercial drone use in the U.S. In addition to avoiding airports, commercial operations adhere to ethical and safety standards not strictly required of amateur drone operators.
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