Drone produces memorable aerial photos of anti-pork rally



For events like Monday’s Million People March, pictures can be more powerful than numbers. And perhaps none were more powerful than the bird’s-eye-view photos of the mammoth crowd that were widely shared on social media by midday.

Estimating crowd sizes is a highly imperfect science, especially with muddy areas of Luneta Park left unoccupied by PauloAlcazarenprotesters and thus excluded from density calculations. Any crowd estimates by the police – even the eventual 75,000 towards the middle of the day – were met with some skepticism by organizers who were invested in the “Million People March” branding of the mass action.

But the photos shot by urban planner and architect Paulo Alcazaren clearly showed, if not a million people, a helluva big crowd. Veteran political observers don’t recall a larger political rally in that venue since the huge anti-Marcos crowds in 1986. Alcazaren’s pictures may be on their way to being iconic.

First assumed to be top shots from the roof of the Manila Hotel, from where the most memorable photos from 1986 were taken, the pictures of Monday’s historic rally were from heights much higher than any building in the vicinity of Luneta Park.

It turns out the pictures were shot from a high-flying, unmanned drone – a technology that didn’t exist back in the 1980s and known more for US attacks on terrorists. But drones also have a range of civilian, even life-saving uses, including quick aerial surveys of disaster sites.

Alcazaren attached a 12-megapixel camera to a drone that he usually deploys to shoot sites for real estate clients. This time—as an activist in a range of causes, including saving Manila Bay from reclamation—Alcazaren aimed his flying camera at the humanity in Luneta.

“The pictures never lie,” he told GMA News Online via text. “But sites always seem cleaner from the air.”

As his drone flew around the heart of Manila as high as 150 meters, Alcazaren was reminded that “Luneta and Manila Bay are still fabulous. But we may lose them to ill-advised reclamation and commercial development.”

Alcazaren’s drone, which was an attraction for rallyists who took photos when it flew low over the crowd, is based on a standard DJI Phantom “quadcopter” (with four propellers).

“But it’s pimped out with a camera mount and downlink electronics,” Alcazaren explained. “It is GPS enabled and stabilized with gyros.”

He operated both the drone and the camera himself from a base near the Department of Tourism building, with the help of an assistant, “to ward off usiseros.”

As impressive as the aerial photographs were, Alcazaren says the technology can do much more. “With a fancier downlink, I could stream video and stills” from the air, he says.

Instead, he processed and then posted his aerial pictures on his popular Facebook page from where they were freely shared.

Driven by social media to Monday’s giant meet-up, citizens from many walks of life contributed what they could to make the event a success. Alcazaren used his cutting-edge contraption to give everyone a souvenir of the day when they were one of the tiny figures in a historic crowd. – TJD, GMA News