Flying the Xiaomi Mi Drone at night

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As a bit of an experiment (and because I had a free hour after work) I took the Mi drone out for an evening fly over the Humber. Being as we’re in the depths of winter it was pretty much pitch black (not to mention bloomin’ freezing) and to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting terribly much. The tiny sensor in the Mi combined with a lack of any manual controls didn’t fill me with confidence for stunning images. Sadly it turns out I was pretty much right.

Just to exacerbate the problems it was also quite breezy, which meant that the shutter speeds the drone was selecting for the exposure I’d set were giving me quite wobbly, blurry images. There was also a quite spectacular level of sensor noise as it had clearly set the ISO to about twenty million. Video was pretty much a non-starter as even with the ISO whacked up the faster shutter speed meant that all that was really visible was wee little pinpricks of light.

I had a quick play with the results in Photoshop to see if I could coax any life out of them, and whilst there are workarounds for the noise levels there’s really not a lot can be done about the camera shake – even Photoshop CC’s incredible Shake Reduction filter wasn’t able to bring it back to anything like acceptable levels.

In fact the most interesting photo I got was one where I pressed the Photo button by accident and kept flying – the moving light trails kind of cancel out the blur and make it a little bit interesting again. I’m not giving up on the idea of shooting at night yet, and I think getting out at twilight could result in some fantastic shots but a stiller day is definitely a must for any kind of long exposure attempts.

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