A drone’s-eye view of Singapore

Better known as Idroneman, Chia Joel spends his free time capturing incredible aerial photos of places in Singapore and beyond. Here, he discusses his drones, his shoot planning process and his love of seeing Singapore from a different angle.

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National Stadium

Tell us about the equipment you use and the process of capturing these images.

I use and trust DJI camera drones and quadcopters. I own three DJI Phantom 3s (Advanced). These machines have been providing me with a high level of consistent quality and reliability throughout my aerial adventures. The process of my aerial adventures, or should I say, aerial photography sessions, consists of a number of important and well thought-out processes. Most of the time, the day before a flight, I have to plan out where and what I would like to capture and shoot, with some rough framing of the shots that I would like to capture in mind.

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Pasir Panjang Terminal
And on the day of the shoot?
Before heading out on the actual day, I check the weather conditions. If it’s all good, I head down to the location with my co-pilot – none other than my very understanding, patient and enthusiastic girlfriend – to recce the area to determine a good launching and landing spot. Most of the time, I choose an elevated area to allow for more battery to be reserved for shooting rather than trying to ascend into the sky. Once a good location is determined, setting up the drone takes about 10 minutes. This important process includes attaching the propellers and the prop guards, warming up the aircraft and ensuring that the signal strength is good with minimal radio interference. This is crucial as a safe and good flight is highly dependent not only on the natural weather conditions, but also the strong signal strength between the remote controller and the drone.

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Bedok South
What are the challenges during the flight?
Throughout this entire process, lots of focus has to be placed on framing the photo or video and keeping a close look out on both my iPad, which displays important information like the wind speed, velocity and signal strength, as well as the drone up in the sky. After my photos are captured to my liking, flying the drone back is usually a breeze as long as the battery consumption was well managed!

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How do you identify places to photograph?

I feel that many places I end up shooting are places that I just randomly explored on a day out that made me think, “Hmm, maybe this location could use some new perspectives.” I love exploring Singapore and sometimes when I’m out, I notice places or subjects that would look really awesome from a drone’s point of view.  And the next thing you know, I’m back there a few days later with my trusty DJI drone! Most of the time, after a day of flying, I end up so fascinated by how somewhere so ordinary, or perhaps so common or random, can turn out to be a piece of art! 

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Singapore Indoor Stadium 

What regulations do you have to follow regarding the use of drones in Singapore? 

I do have to follow the regulations and the drone law that was implemented and ensure that I do not fly within 5km of an airport or air base, or 61m above mean sea level. If I have to do a flying session that requires me to ascend higher than 61m, then a flying permit would be required. It takes approximately two weeks for processing and approval before a flight. So far, all my flights have been safe and cleared by authorities as I do practice safe flying habits. I believe this is truly important as the community of drone pilots grow here in Singapore. The closest call I had with the authorities was in China, where I was flying over a theme park to get some really cool new perspectives. A security guard rode his bike over to ask what we were doing. Thankfully, after he found out, he was really cool about it and even stopped to watch me fly my drone back for landing.


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Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

How do these new perspectives on Singapore make you feel? 

Well, these new perspectives on Singapore make me feel that there is so much more to explore and shoot! It really inspires me and drives me to capture more of what Singapore has to offer with a view from the top. With the ability and agility of drones in this day and age, it opens up endless possibilities to shoot amazing aerial views of landscapes and architecture that have never been seen before! I once fell in love with skydiving because of the amazing perspective you could gain while you were freefalling. Having a drone and sending it up to be the eye in the sky brings back the same excitement and exhilaration every time I fly. 

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Singapore Sports Hub

What would you like people to gain from seeing these images?

I love Singapore, and I would really like each photo of mine to tell a story, one that every Singaporean or even tourists can relate to. I hope to rekindle the love for Singapore, old or new, and hope to remind people that beauty can indeed be found here in Singapore if you just keep an open mind and are willing to see things from a whole new perspective. Sometimes, we take for granted and forget how blessed we are to be living in such a thriving metropolitan city.

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Nanyang Polytechnic

What are some of the dream locations you’d like to photograph?

I would definitely love to photograph Singapore Changi Airport with the planes from the top, but I know that’s impossible, so yes that would just be a dream. As for the rest of the world, I would love to focus more on capturing nature at its best; something that Singapore lacks. I just recently shot at one of my dream locations, the Great Wall of China. Other places on my list which I intend to check off would definitely include the Maldives, Prague, Switzerland, Indonesia, Turkey, Greenland, Italy, South Africa and England.