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Can someone please recommend a drone I could use for amateur 360 HDR sky photography in the USA? I hope recommendation requests like this are on-topic here.

Requirements:

  • I will be mounting a Ricoh Theta Z1 360 panorama camera weighing less than 200 grams on top of the drone.
  • The camera will be atop a 0.5 meter mast above the drone, so the center of mass will be high (This is so the drone itself will occupy a relatively small region of the panorama image)
  • The drone must be able to hold a moderately steady position for about a minute while acquiring the multiple images needed to construct a high dynamic range sky image (True HDR, not just tone mapped).
  • The altitude during image acquisition will be roughly 30 meters, to be above nearby trees, power lines, and buildings; so distant sky, clouds, sun, and mountains are the main focus of composition.
  • I'm technically skilled, so I can do some assembly and simple electronic work. But I don't want to make a PhD thesis out of this.

Optional:

  • The drone should be constructed of narrow struts, so the drone itself occupies as little of the panorama image as possible.
  • The drone should be paintable, so I can use color to help edit out the drone image in postprocessing.
  • I am a novice pilot; so I also want a recommendation for a cheap durable drone I can use to develop piloting skills before operating my real drone.
  • It would be nice to have some way to alternately mount my camera 0.5 meters below the drone, for landscape images, but while also protecting my $1000 camera during landing and emergencies. Remember that this camera takes an image in every direction at once, so surrounding the camera with a cage or landing gear is not an option.
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  • $\begingroup$ This sounds difficult. If you didn't have to have a perfectly spherical sky, I'd say just use an Air 2S. Having a mass half a meter above the drone is going to adversely affect the stability. $\endgroup$
    – avianate
    Mar 10 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Nate Graham Maybe I could put a counterweight below to keep the center of mass in the center of the drone. I could mount my camera on top, and use the on-board camera, pointed down, for optical feedback stabilization. Please consider posting an answer describing the positive qualities of the Air 2S. $\endgroup$ Mar 10 at 16:02

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Here's a guy hanging a 360 camera from a Mavic air 2. He had some issues getting the drone to land or automatically landing during flight but his rig might work for your needs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo4yg8lsHQw

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    $\begingroup$ What are some aspects of the Mavic air 2 that make it a good option? Considering that the OP asks for a cheap and durable drone, do the benefits of the Air 2 outweigh its relatively high price? $\endgroup$
    – Jacob B
    Mar 11 at 0:55

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