Filming Dolphins with a Drone

One of the highlights of every boat trip by the sea is undoubtedly the sighting of giant sea mammals like dolphins or whales. While in some areas of North America humpback whales or Orcas can be found, the Mediterranean Sea gives you a high chance of seeing the sweetest of them all – dolphins!

On a recent sailing trip in the area of Croatia and Italy, we were not only surprised by a group of dolphins swimming next to our boat suddenly, but we also had a significant advantage: I had my drone ready to go. As there was no wind and we were on the engine, we stopped immediately and got the Phantom 4 prepared to fly. One acted as a dolphin spotter, one maintained the boat, and I operated the drone.

The biggest challenge, to begin with, was to get the dolphins into the viewfinder. These gracious animals disappear from time to time or hunt smaller fish playfully. Once I had them, I tried to get closer. Not too near at first because I didn’t want to disturb them. But close enough I could watch their play and take a beautiful video.

Filming dolphins with drone Filming dolphins from the boat with drone

As you can see in the video I have attached to this post, the main two challenges were actually following the dolphins as they were hunting (because of their rapid movement) as well as managing the reflections of the sun (which was on a high angle at this time). The general learnings for me were:

  • The higher the sun, the lower you must aim at your “target.”
  • Get as close to the water as possible, but be careful. Drones don’t judge water proximity as well as they do with the solid ground.
  • Have a spotter (preferably with binoculars) to always watch where the dolphins are (and the drone)
  • Watch battery and the boat’s position – you might end up far from the home point recorded initially
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