FINDING NEW PLACES THROUGH PERSPECTIVE

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By Athena Thompson

Andrew Thai has a long history with Landis+Gry in Laverton North, having worked with them for nearly around 10 years. They make electricity smart meters and gas meters, and his job is to make sure they do that right. He is in Quality Assurance.

Aside from his eye for detail in QA, he uses that skill to provide his colleagues with a new and completely unique view of their workplace. His award winning photo for the company’s global photo competition took teamwork to a whole new level.

The photo that formed part of the company’s annual calendar gave a new perspective. He went where only one thing could go safely in the heights of the factory, he used a drone.

A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle, and the one Andrew owns is mid range and comes with a camera attached. There is a controller and he attaches his phone to act as the screen to see where he is flying. Andrew’s can fly up to 30 minutes in the air, in principle the lighter the craft the longer it can last in the air. Although the specifications say you can fly nearly 7kms away, the furthest distance he has taken the drone is around 2km. We’ll get into the why a little bit later.

Andrew grew up in the west, having lived nearly all his life in Yarraville and more recently moved to Point Cook. His parents migrated from Vietnam before he was born and love the area, its connectedness, its community and easy access to just about anything your heart desires. In fact you may have met his dad if you went to Yarraville West Primary school between 2011-2017 as he was the local lollipop man. Andrew shares this same love of the west and its multicultural vibe. He has a penchant for smoothies from Healthy Self Co and a frozen yoghurt from Gojé Yarraville. With only recently moving to Point Cook, he is yet to be able to fully explore the locality.

Why not just take the drone to zoom around from above, you might ask? It turns out that whilst you don’t need a licence to drive a drone for recreational purposes there are a few rules that you need to follow. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) sets out those regulations (you can find them here: casa.gov.au/knowyourdrone/drone-rules), and there are a few spaces you just can’t go as near as they are restricted air space, like airports or helicopter landing sites. As Point Cook is home of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF Base), there is already a bit going on up there in the air. Andrew advises there are few other things to keep in mind and explains to us how he started safely.

When he first started flying his drone, he was nervous.

Careful to follow the rules maintaining a safe distance from people of at least around 30 meters on land and up to 150m in height, he found a nice park clear of trees and people. Finding a comfortable spot to practice, his girlfriend Sheryl accompanied as a second pair of eyes for the drone in the air. For double insurance that the drone was always within eyeview and her friendly encouragement. Even though Andrew didn’t want to lose sight of his new gadget, it also happens to be one CASA’s rule, to stay in line of view. On querying on how he approximated the distances, Andrew said it was quite easy, as part of the controls it will give you those details. He also uses apps called AirMap and OpenSky for location based information. These apps will show you where you can and can’t fly your drone in accordance with aviation legislation. Now at ease with the controls through lots of practise, Andrew describes it as really similar to playing a video game. And sometimes Sherly gives it a shot too.

We asked Andrew, what first got him on to aerial photography and who inspired him. He initially followed a few on instagram, his top three included two professionals certified for remote pilot licence with CASA in Australia and one from the US. Emily Avery (@averyaerial_photography) a pro who takes truly iconic photos of Australia’s coastline and Phil @mygippsland whose images show even waves have emotion. And then there is Johnny Schaer (@johnny_fpv), a First-Person View (FPV) drone pilot from Chicago, who literally films while racing after race cars on the track. Watching these people is what feeds his inspiration.

Yet, his main motivation that kick started his hobby, was the prospect of a European holiday in 2017. Already armed with a decent camera, he wanted to take the trip to a higher echelon, knowing that he would get stunning photos from a different perspective. In his travels, he found not all countries have the same regulations with respect to flying a drone. For instance, on arriving at Santorini (where his research indicated it was ok) there were handmade signs on the island indicating otherwise. At times like this he just took the safe, common sense approach.

Images Andrew has taken here in Australia are his favorite, simply because it was unexpected. He captured the Pink Lake just near the West Gate Bridge, as well the Pink Lake in Dimboola in western Victoria, – this photo featured in an ABC Melbourne article. Sometimes when he goes out, he has a specific idea of what it should look like, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. With Dimboola, as the sunset, they were no longer on this planet but had travelled all the way to Mars and were in a perplexing pink hue. It’s one of the things about drone photography Andrew loves, it’s a very unique surprising perspective of the world.

Andrew has been taking the aerial shots for the Westsider’s instagram feed, to keep people guessing ‘where we are in the west?’ on a Wednesday. One of Andrew’s goals is to become a certified drone pilot. You can follow Andrew’s adventures in the sky or on land as he is avid cyclist, on instagram @andrewthai_


Athena Thompson is, a professional problem solver by day (business consultant at www.TechLever.com.au), and supreme question asker by night. Exploring Melbourne’s west one curiosity at a time.

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