When Jenk, a young man from Turkey, first received his small aerial photography drone four weeks ago, he had no idea he would be using it to film a major political upheaval. He flew his drone daily.
Then, in early May, Jenk (full name withheld at his request) learned that his government intended to demolish the Taksim Gezi public park and turn it into a commercial space.
“I had no intention of using it for eye-witnessing of what’s happening in Turkey,” Jenk wrote in an email to sUASNews. “However, I wanted to take a short film of Taksim Gezi Park for myself, having in mind that soon the park would become a concrete mass and would no longer be there.”
What he saw on the ground shocked him. Jenk reported seeing men, women, and children being beaten by police. But no video evidence of police brutality aired on government-controlled television.
“It’s really difficult to explain the things I have seen,” Jenk wrote. “I have been witnessing very bad things happening to innocent people; police violence, arresting lawyers and doctors, and hurting children.”
Jenk decided to take to the sky with his DJI Phantom, an RC quadrotor helicopter equipped with a high definition GoPro 3 camera. His aerial videos, uploaded on Vimeo and posted on Twitter, capture clashes between demonstrators and police.
His four weeks of practice with the RC helicopter proved invaluable to recording aerial video of the Gezi protests. Jenk reportedly scouted out terraces and open areas where he could take off and land away from people and objects.
On June 11, police turned their guns to Jenk’s drone. The quadrotor was hit by police fire, and crashed on the pavement at Gezi Park, shattering on impact. The camera also was broken beyond repair. Its memory card was ejected in the crash, which corrupted the aerial video.
“Police were violently attacking to protestors at Taksim Gezi Park and I guess they did not want to get this storm taped in such a good angle therefore, they decided to shoot it down,” He wrote.
This wasn’t just a setback for his goal of recording the protests, but also was a considerable financial loss. The small RC helicopter retails in the United States for around $700, and that price doesn’t include the $400 HD camera. In Turkey, however, these items can cost twice as much.
That didn’t stop him from returning to the sky. With the help of a friend who had the same drone, Jenk began flying again and uploading videos on June 16. Jenk’s videos of Gezi Park have since been picked up by international media.
“Prime minister of Turkey calls protestors ‘terrorists’ and these protestors have no weapons. Most of them are young, well-educated and talented people.”
“I must say I am not on Erdogan’s side.”
Matthew Schroyer is the founder of DroneJournalism.org, co-founder of the transdisciplinary research consultancy DronesForGood.com, and leads the National Science Foundation grant-funded Drones for Schools STEM robotics initiative at the University of Illinois. He can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter as @matthew_ryan.