This Air Reel Will Make You Rethink Flight

Wolfe Air Reel from 3DF.

Some of us are always stoked on flying. I'm talking 100 percent, fuck-yeah stoked to fly. That's only some of us. I'll hazard to guess that on the whole we break out in two broad camps. You either don't mind flying—it's 2013, so you just deal—or you loathe the entire experience, front to back, from the grope-y, slovenly TSA gauntlet, to the token late-guy jerk who both holds up an entire flight and is also somehow always assigned to sit right next to you, to the way even slight turbulence can have you teetering on the edge of straight hurling everywhere. 

Either way, there's good chance this thing will have you rethinking the entire notion of strapping yourself inside of an aluminum cone and bulleting across the sky at altitudes of tens of thousands of feet, sometimes for extended periods of time. The video comes by way of Wolfe Air. In fact it's the aerial photo service's updated reel, which I guess explains why its production line and sweeping score can both get a bit rich at moments. But I'm willing to forgive all that on account of a Strangelovian mid-air refuel, fighter jets in formation, shock diamonds, flares, and a very brief cameo from what looks to be Air Force One (?).

If it looks effortless, it wasn't. The team had some options when it came to picking an ideal cruiser to kit out with camera gear, and wound up settling on a Learjet. Mike Kelley has a thorough explainer over at FStoppers, writing:

They’ve custom built and installed camera pods that are affixed to the nose, belly, or wings of the plane as necessary. These house cameras on a gimbal and gyroscopic system. The gimbal allows the camera to rotate unimpeded, and can track objects as they pass in front, behind, or beside the plane. The gyros are one of the most critical components of this system...They’ll fight as hard as they can to keep the camera in the same place using a system of rapidly spinning flywheels.

You can see how this sort of thing could get insanely dangerous in mere fractions of a second. One false move here could leave two crews dead. So why not use, say, drones? Why risk the lives of two crews when, let's face it, you could halve that figure, putting the lives of only a single flight crew on the line? 

As it stands, a cinema-drone equivalent would have to fly within line of sight, according to FAA guidelines. Even if it didn't have to be within line of sight, there's good chance your professional-grade cinema drone likely would not be able to handle conditions at these sort of heights. If it could take it (and we're certainly getting close), we still haven't quite figured out how to sufficiently sharpen drones' sense-and-avoid capabilites. The danger would still be there. All of this lays at the knotty core of next-gen air policy, something the FAA can't quite seem to go about untangling just yet. 

Anyway, behold the awesome terror of flight. And can we talk about that belly shot at around the 12-second mark? Goddamn

@thebanderson

Topics: cinematography, photography, aerial photography, drones

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