We are very pleased to have confirmed an exciting filming job flying our drones in the most Northern settlement on Earth!
We plan to blog about the entire adventure (which you can subscribe to here) and film some behind the scenes videos which will go out across our social channels!
The preparations begin!
So, what on earth are we doing in the arctic! Well, let's start with where we are going!
Svalbard: 77.8750° N, 20.9752° E
In February we will be flying to Oslo, Norway and then onto Svalbard, deep in the arctic circle! Famed for many things, such as having more polar bears than people, being one of the coldest places on earth and having the most Northerly settlement, airport, and post office in the world!
Temperatures here can drop as low as -42°C which will prove a challenge not just for the drones but also for our film crew!
What are we filming?
Something mind-blowing.... its called the Global Seed Vault, but you may know it as the Doomsday Vault! The Global Seed Vault is the world's largest secure seed storage vault and has the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops. Each variety will contain on average 500 seeds, so a maximum of 2.5 billion seeds may be stored in the Vault.
Currently, the Vault holds more than 1,000,000 samples, originating from almost every country in the world.
Ranging from unique varieties of major African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum to European and South American varieties of eggplant, lettuce, barley, and potato. In fact, the Vault already holds the most diverse collection of food crop seeds in the world.
Dug into the side of a mountain and secured by the Norwegian government, this is more like something out of a bond film! Heres a great article by The Times on The Global Seed Vault!
Very rarely do people take drones to such extreme environments, therefore, very little research has been done on the effects to the equipment in extreme temperatures. We have therefore taken it upon ourselves to test each element of the drone as best we can before heading to the arctic. In addition to self heating batteries, we're also taking multiple drones for back up.
We have started our testing by freezing drone batteries to -20° C in a conventional home freezer. Once they have been frozen to this temperature for 24 hours we fly the aircraft in a controlled area and carefully monitor the cell temperatures and voltages to spot any problems. As well as testing the batteries, another area of interest is a phenomenon known as prop icing, where ice buildup on the propellers can change the shape of the blade which reduces lift to potentially catastrophic levels. We are using Rain-X hydrophobic spray on our propellers to reduce moisture buildup, thus stopping ice from freezing on the blades. So far in our tests this has been very successful.
Other challenges our drones will face in this tough location include GPS issues due to the satellite locations in the arctic circle as well as low light due to the almost complete darkness we face in February. Luckily, our DJI Inspire 2 has a larger camera sensor to allow more light into the camera than most other drone cameras.
I often struggle with the cold temperatures when defrosting the car in the morning.... so this is going to be a real shock to the system! We have raided the Helly Hansen store which we are very luckily pro members of and have purchased a tonne of warm looking gear (its been like Christmas here most days with boxes arriving)!
COVID-19 is still very much a concern for this trip as the hospitals in the region are not sufficient to handle COVID cases. Testing will be rigorous to ensure we are all fit to fly and visit the area.
Flying larger drones in the EU requires an additional test which we have completed, but flying right next to the most Northerly airport in the world, Longyearbyen Airport, does require special permission!
One of the most incredible parts of travelling this far north is the wild nature we can enjoy and hopefully capture as part of our filming. Svalbard is home to over 3000 polar bears, which far exceeds the population of humans here.
With polar bear being incredibly dangerous to people, Svalbard is also the only place in the world that requires you to carry a gun when leaving settlements. We look forward to shooting polar bears with our long zoom lenses on our Canon R5 to capture additional B-Roll shots. In addition to the polar bears, there is also potential to spot the largest animal in the world, the blue whale. We can also expect to see plenty of Arctic foxes during our expedition.
We are also really hopeful to see a glimpse of the Northern Lights which will be filmed and photographed to add to the production! Svalbard is so far North that it is one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis and we are going in the prime season too, so fingers crossed!
Well, we are only a couple of weeks away from this incredible shoot! We are preparing kit, getting last minute orders in and charging the batteries. There will be plenty more blogs and content for you to see how we get on, so please do consider subscribing! In the meantime we are locating our hand warmers, packing our gloves and charging freezing our batteries in with the fish fingers! Why not follow along on our social media too!