Remote Control Aerial Photography and Printing

Aerial photography with a remote control helicopter
Media East's Droid hovering overhead and casting a shadow as it goes to its next aerial photo shoot.

One way to help maintain sanity in the crazy world of large format printing is to combine your hobby with your vocation. Jeff Sheffield, owner of Media East in Virginia Beach, Va., has done just that with remote control (RC) airplanes.

Aerial photography with a remote control airplane
The Droid shows its aerial photography capabilities in this shot near Virginia Beach, Va.

The connection between hobby and vocation is the way Sheffield is using his experience with RC planes in a unique product line that connects aerial photography, digital capture and digital inkjet printing. Sheffield has attached Canon cameras to a helium balloon and an RC plane called a Droid to take aerial photographs of the surrounding area.

This is a long play for us; we have it in place and are just now getting the word out.  We’ve shot several jobs in the last few months where people have hired us to shoot specific aerial shots for advertising purposes,” explains Sheffield. “We’ve also been shooting new developments around the Virginia Beach area. We print selected photos, frame them and send them to the economic development folks and developers to peak their interest. Then, we follow up with calls and emails.”

Remote control aerial photographySheffield prints the images on LexJet’s Sunset Photo eSatin Paper on either a Canon iPF8000S or Canon iPF9000S. We use eSatin for all of our long-term high quality photo printing. In addition to high-quality reproduction, eSatin has a nice weight so finishing doesn’t have to be quite as careful with it, which cuts down on re-prints,” says Sheffield.

The balloon is equipped with a Canon 5D Mark II and a video system where Sheffield can see what the camera sees for cropping purposes. The RC Droid carries a Canon T2i. Sheffield says he would prefer to use a 5D Mark II, but the extra weight of the higher-end camera cuts down on the battery life of the Droid, which is only 8-10 minutes as it is.

Photography from the air with a helium balloon“You’re usually flying the Droid between 50 and 100 feet, though it can go so high that you can’t really see it. The balloon can be legally flown up to 500 feet, except in close proximity to airports,” says Sheffield.

The Droid is actually more than a simple RC plane; it’s a more like a multi-rotor helicopter. Similar models are being used to capture shots on film that are almost impossible using other film techniques. Amazing footage is being shot utilizing similar methods to Sheffield’s, though they’re a bit more sophisticated.

Aerial photography with a helium balloon
Media East's helium balloon for its aerial photography.

“They’ve got their RC units set up with cameras and goggles. They’re shooting with a second camera that has a video feed to either goggles or a monitor for a first-person view. Eventually we hope to have that capability on the Droid,” says Sheffield.

To find out more about the technology and to see how it’s being used, go to and Here’s a demo video from FreeFly Cinema that shows the amazing things they’re doing with RC and digital video…

FreeFly Cinema Behind the Scenes from tabb firchau on Vimeo.

A UV Boost to Production at the Coors Distribution Center’s Print Shop

Printing signs with a UV curable inkjet printerIn 2011 the Coors Distribution Center (CDC) in Denver printed more than 100,000 signs, plastering the city and the Front Range surrounding Denver with its brand. CDC print shop manager Chuck Black says sign production has increased at least 110 percent and up to 140 percent over the past six years.

Some of that can be attributed to the merging of the Miller and Coors brands, but Black says it all has to do with simple demand.

Inkjet printing point of sale signs“We offer the high quality printing that a lot of our competitors aren’t able to do, so it gives us an edge. We get opportunities to put up signage where not many others can, just because they want that quality,” says Black.

An important component of the quality produced by the CDC’s print shop is keeping up with the latest technology it gets from LexJet. That way the CDC adds versatility to quality, winning on all fronts in Denver’s beer wars.

The print shop recently added CET Color’s X-Press 500H UV Hybrid R-T-R/Flatbed printer as well as a Canon iPF9000S to its lineup, both of which have helped boost production and meet the demand in the field.

Coroplast cut outs printed for special promotions“The new CET UV-curable printer has updated heads and the passes are a lot smoother in the overlap, which means you don’t see the same banding you might usually see in a UV printer. It’s running at medium resolution and it’s running faster than our older UV printer at its lowest resolution, plus it was a lot less expensive than our original UV printer,” says Black.

Since the printer’s a hybrid, it can print directly to flat, rigid materials like Coroplast as well as roll material like banner stock. Black says the UV inks provide a matte finish regardless of whether the print surface is gloss, matte or luster, so when something needs the pop of gloss to make it shine indoors, the Canon printer takes over.

Printing banners with an inkjet printerThe added speed and quality of the two printers allows the CDC to offer its accounts a wider range of signs, including creative Coroplast cut-outs (pictured) for special promotions. Also, and most importantly, the CDC’s beverage brands are front and center, dominating the point of sale in its market.

“The newer technology, with both the CET UV printer and the Canon, helps us win advertising space. When our reps put out our signs they really impress the owners of the businesses we serve,” adds Black.

More New Year’s Cheer with Canon Rebates

Through the end of February take advantage of instant rebates on Canon inkjet printers of up to $1,200, plus a $1,000 mail-in rebate on the Canon iPF8300.

Canon’s iPF6300, iPF6350, iPF8000S, iPF8300 and iPF9000S are all included in the instant rebate program.

For details, bundled offers and help finding the right printer for your business, contact a LexJet account specialist.