For some time, the question of taking low cost aerial photographs of the farm has been causing some head scratching. While it would be impossible to match the high quality SLR photos obtained by the investigators in a real aeroplane, various methods were suggested for lifting a simple camera to a useful height above the ground to enable features to be observed more clearly.
The options considered included balloons, kites and model aeroplanes. The first two methods are both practical, but are rather limited- tethered balloons need still conditions and a ready supply of gas while kites are limited in lifting power and need suitable wind to raise them. They are also limited in their direction of travel.
It was decided to concentrate on using a model aircraft to lift the camera and some thought went into the choice of model. Simplicity and economical repair costs were vital and the model had to have sufficient wing area to lift a camera. It also had to be quiet if it was to operate over the environmentally sensitive Avon Valley.
Using modern Lipo rechargeable batteries, the electric motor can keep it aloft for up to 20 minutes while its simplicity and stability make it ideal for a novice pilot. Spare wings and fuselages are readily available for around £15 although these have not proved to be needed as much as feared. Radio control of the rudder, elevators and motor speed mean that it can be easily controlled for the purposes of photography. It took a couple of hours, a new set of wings and a few long walks over the river before I felt confident enough to send up a camera.