Beijing From Above, aka The Story of How I Was Detained by the Police for flying my DJI Quadcopter

DJI Phantom Review

The most common question I get here is what kind of quad do I use? I have two reviews here on the site. Here’s the DJI Phantom Review and also the DJI Inspire Review if you’re a geek like me and want to know about flying cameras!

The video – Beijing from Above

Before I tell you the story of being detained by the Chinese (and, like Taborlin the Great, I similarly did not have key, coin, or candle), I’ll share the video I made! I would have gotten even more footage had the quadcopter not been, ahem, confiscated… BTW, I recommend running the video in HD mode with earphones!

This was made with a really awesome quadcopter — the DJI Phantom. All the footage was shot with that GoPro. I did a mixture of wide angle and narrow shots. I also had it in a mode that automatically took a photo every 5 seconds, and I put some of my favorite photos at the bottom of this blog post!

That music is by the great Jon Hopkins. The name of the track, fittingly, is “A Drifting Up.” Thanks to Chris Craker for the introduction.

The Detention Facility and Quadcopter Confiscation

So, I went into this not knowing what was legal and what was not legal. Okay, I had a sinking feeling that flying a quadcopter over the Forbidden City might be more black than grey, but my intentions were pure and artistic, so I figured that gave me some sort of leeway. At least, this is how I justified everything in my head beforehand. You’re starting to see how I make bad decisions.

Note to self: don’t mess with these guys. Another note to self: don’t goof around with drones the 25th Anniversary of It-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named. This was taken with the Sony A7r the Alpha 28-300mm lens. See my Sony A7r Review for more.

Let me set the stage here. Beijing is the seat of all Chinese government power. So, deciding to fly a drone over China is kind of like Luke Skywalker deciding to ride his landspeeder on the Death Star.

There are multiple “rings” that encircle Beijing. The first ring is the Forbidden City. The second ring has many monuments and other houses of government. It’s kind of like Washington D.C., except with less communists.

I had flown the DJI Quadcopter for about five days with no problem. I was there with my friend Tom Anderson who also had the same DJI Quadcopter setup as I did. We were both having a great time and getting some really cool shots. I am so excited to take photos and experiment with this thing! We had even flown it several times around police in various places. They never said anything. The police were probably generally confused; their lack of interference only emboldened us.

Note to future self: Do not fly quadcopter over the Chinese NSA Intelligence Buildings

So here comes the juicy bit. Well, it could have been worse. But I was certainly at fault!

I was at Beihai Park. Now, some of you may already be rolling your eyes, because you know what I did not know. That behind those trees there are all their government buildings, where they would rather not have things flown above.

My DJI remote control was low on batteries, and I have this rather sane fear of the controller going dead while quadcopter is off having a party somewhere without me. So I set the quadcopter on the ground beside my assistant. My assistant is this 28-year-old female who was kind of cute and quite bubbly named Ady. I say this because it comes into play later in the story. One other thing I can tell you about her is that she was absolutely zero help in warning me that I was about to fly the quadcopter over the Chinese NSA and FBI buildings. That’s one of those things I would have liked to know… My plan was to take an aerial shot of the White Dagoba on Qionghua Island (which you can see from the ground level here).

Anyway, I went out to get my batteries and walked back. I saw Ady still standing by my quadcopter with a rather surly-looking female police officer. I was getting a bad vibe. As I approached, the surliness seemed to increase, and it was really harshin’ my mellow.

Beijing From Above

Here’s a view from over the Northeast Tower. This is the most popular area to take photos in Beijing… so I was happy to see what it looks like from a thousand feet up with the sweet DJI. I had this set to take a photo every 5 seconds while recording HD video!

Off to the lockdown

I approached and planned on using my charm offensive. It’s the only strategy I have, so I hoped it would work. One unforeseen fault in my plan is that this policewoman did not speak English.

But Ady spoke both languages, so we began a brief frenzy of back-and-forth, all of which went nowhere fast. We were then escorted to the nearby police area. My friend Tom was standing nearby. But not that near. Actually, he was off in the bushes by the lake, peering at us from afar through multiple tiers of shrubbery.

We were escorted inside a series of secure doors, and the last of which made that CLA-CHUNK-CLINK sound effect that you hear in movies and TV shows. It really made that sound. I thought….oh shit.

To the right here, you can see an example of the sorts of bad decisions I make in China… this is my “spa” day with Tom.

There were more enforcement officers inside. I figured I had a lot of ‘splainin to do. And I did!

I had a feeling that I was in a rather sensitive area that I did not know about. So I was sure I had indeed done something wrong, but I just didn’t know what. Thank mao I wasn’t actually flying the thing and it was sitting inert on the ground when security descended. This helped.

Now, this small little detention facility did not have a lot of lights. It was dimly lit, flickering in a sickly yellowish light, and I could not quite see everything inside. I did see the rather burly gentleman officer that was right there with me, leading the questioning. Ady translated. Although I wasn’t so sure of her translation capabilities because earlier in the day we had gone to KFC and she had ordered me a chicken neck.

Luckily, she was very smiley and cute, which probably did not hurt. She seemed very positive and happily began translating for me. The senior policeman seemed to enjoy her bubbly nature.

He was holding the quadcopter and turning it around, examining the camera, the blades, the everything. He was a curious cat. He asked many questions while a female officer held something that looked like an old CB radio but actually had a camera and was recording me. So I’m somewhere in some Chinese video database, making some amazing arguments.

I basically explained that I was a photographer, and I like getting unique angles. I simply like taking photos and making Beijing look beautiful. I noticed they liked to hear this and were a bit surprised. I saw an opening.

I whipped out my Samsung Nexus Android (S4) phone. I pulled open my photo portfolio and asked Ady to translate. I started sliding through the photos, then I handed the phone to the alpha male. He started swiping and asking questions. She translated and I answered. Oh, that is in Japan. That one is in New Zealand, my home! That one is in Indonesia. This one is in Death Valley where the rocks move on their own! Very mysterious! By now, the guy was smiling and inviting the other officers over to see. They were all crowding around, smiling and laughing, pointing. Now Ady was laughing and having fun and explaining. I was telling stories about the photos… etc etc. It was a suddenly a fun party in jail!

Okay, so this little photo party went on for about ten more minutes… this was an exciting day for them! I think they saw that I was an artist and I really had no interest in taking photos of sensitive things. Those of you that have been coming to the blog for the past 8 years also know this… but, well, these guys were not regular readers so I had to fast-track them! In fact, the alpha male there asked for my blog website here so he could come see new photos. He’s probably reading this now. Hello Nice Chinese Military Police Man! I forgot your name, but thanks for not doing bad stuff to me and stuff.

After the little photo partay, he gave me back the quadcopter and said, “Okay, here you go, but please don’t fly it inside the first or second ring of the city.” I said, okay, cool. And then we made our hasty egress.

Apparently, the news kind of spread around to another group with which I was working in Beijing. They showed up at my hotel the next morning to confiscate the quadcopter, obviously not trusting me not to fly it any more. They agreed to bring it to the airport before I left Beijing. I doubted I would ever see the thing again, but, sure enough, they showed up! I threw the sweet beast in my bag then jumped on my flight back home to New Zealand. Shwew!

Other Photos from the Quadcopter

Here’s some of my other favorite photos that I took with my little toy 🙂

Metal Underpants

Here’s an arial shot from the CBD area. This building is really cool, isn’t it? The locals call it the “Metal Underpants”


Quadcopter Perspective

The perspective from up above is truly amazing. I find myself trying to picture what it looks like from above then launching the quad to confirm. It really makes you think about 3D space in a different way.


World Park

Here’s one from their little World Park where they have all the world’s monuments in semi-miniature. It’s a strange place, truly.


Trees on Roof

I didn’t even notice there were trees growing on top until I got the quadcopter up there!


World Wonders

Here’s another from that strange world park. You can see four World Wonders right there below!


Drum Tower

Looking down near the drum tower.


Ming Tombs

I like how they lay out the towers for the Ming Tombs in this pattern. I bet the original designers would have enjoyed seeing this perspective.



Getting up high in the 798 area gave a nice perspective on the industrial detritus.



Traffic on both sides of a park in the CBD (Central Business District)


Ming Tombs From Above

One of the Ming Tombs from above. This is honestly the straightest shot I’ve ever taken! I didn’t even have to rotate it 1% in Photoshop… and I was 1000 feet up in the air!


Drum Tower Axis

The amazing drum tower sits right in the middle, along the central axis.


Willow Path

A beautiful path of willows bends into the distance.


The Forbidden City From Above

And last, The Forbidden City from above.


  • I’m going to try to bring a drone to Epcot China and see if the Disney cops come after me again.

  • Charles Buckley

    Great pictures and videos. But not needed at your expense.

  • Francois Nadeau

    Thats great Trey!! I even saw myself in the video in the shots of 798!!!

  • susan ratcliff

    Wonderful video and photos – you are lucky! Your bday is not 7-7 for nothing! 🙂

  • I imagine if you flew around the NSA and FBI buildings in the US they are not nearly as nice as the Chinese police.

  • treyratcliff

    Thanks – yes everything turned out okay! 🙂

  • treyratcliff

    Haha cool – yes there you were! 🙂

  • treyratcliff

    Yeah, for real!

  • I live in Shanghai, been here for many years. I’ve been detained by the police here before and so have my friends. Our experiences with them were very similar to your own 🙂

  • Chris Newham

    Super video what great different angles you get with the copter I especially like the shots looking straight down such wonderful patterns in the buildings and streets.

  • treyratcliff

    Thanks @Chris Newham:disqus !

  • Michael Pettingill

    Epic video and pictures Trey. Its tough going to places with our rigs, not knowing the reception we’re going to get. I’m with you; I’m there to capture beauty and life through the lens of my GoPro. I’ve been in some weird situations with people and law enforcement in some places, because of a misconception about what I was doing. Some were cool after showing them, others…not so much. I’m glad it worked out in your favor.

  • Chuck Crawford

    Monstrous! Thank you Trey!

  • Met

    You are an idiot. Don’t go to another country and expect to be treated differently.

  • Binayak Dasgupta

    If you had read his post properly, not once did he say he was expecting to be treated differently. In fact, he admits that it is his own fault, and that he didn’t know that he would be flying over sensitive areas.

  • Nice footage. Glad you were able to keep it. I worked in a maximum security prison and we took peeps cameras. You’re lucky Trey and good thing you didn’t stick around long enough to meet Bubba. I will definitely do some research before flying mine. People: ignorance is not an accepted excuse in many countries. So go beyond your best behavior. Here’s another guy who got locked up and deported for tweeting Trey, you’re still a rockstar!

  • Dave

    Great video footage – How was the blood letting and barnacle feet cleaning fish at the day spa?

  • I will be very cautions on doing stuff in china,..i live in Japan and here too you can get in trouble easy.great video ..and great already known your photos are amazing.

  • Trey, I have to say WOW! Amazingly POV. Good that you did not know of those security issues otherwise we would not have seen these shots.

  • Wow it right. I love reading and listening to you tell stories Trey. Thank you.

  • PatrickInBeijing

    Dude, awesome pictures! But you are a first class idiot. If you did this in Washington DC, you would probably be shot down as a terrorist. A car full of people drove into the crowds at Tienanmen Square last year. The Chinese Police are amazing for not shooting you down or locking your up for a year or two. You definitely owe them thanks! I do like the pictures.

  • treyratcliff

    Yes, well, I did not fly it in Tian’anman Square… I thought it was just a temple in the trees… I didn’t know what was back there.

  • treyratcliff

    Thanks Ronin! Cool name btw!

  • treyratcliff

    Yeah – they tickle!

  • treyratcliff

    hehe lucky this time… 🙂

  • treyratcliff

    hehe thx @binayakdasgupta:disqus 🙂

  • treyratcliff

    hehe yes, I think it helps that I am trying to make pretty things and not trying to cause trouble!

  • Mariamichelle117

    You got some amazing photos with your quadcopter and I’m glad you got it back. I’m not taking a quadcopter to China in August, but I need to do my best to leave my attitude at home. My luggage frequently gets searched extensively because of all my passport stamps (I guess). I’ve always been polite until they searched me in Vancouver. My father born in Canada and I grew up less than an hour from there so I mistakenly didn’t expect any problems. I have all sorts of stories, but yours takes the cake. Glad everything turned out alright and that’s awesome that you were able to remain friendly through it all

  • Really enjoyed reading this. Getting into trouble as a photographer is all part of the job, sometimes you have to bend the rules to get the shots you want. The GoPro video is sweet Trey! It’s almost getting there for still photos use, maybe go pro 4 or 5 will improve it upto compact camera image standards.
    I never got into trouble in Beijing, but you can definitely sense the military presence there compared to other Chinese cities.

  • Jerry

    Actually, China SHOULD allow this. Love the photos. Thank you for taking the risk. Face it, some of their laws need to be broken, my Chinese better half insists. This past week they have forced eighty churches to remove their crosses. These were the legal (registered) ones already under communist control. They are really uptight about anything they do not control.

  • Tim & Nat ✈

    We were just talking about the possibilities of creating great footage with a drone. Great video and photos!

  • Binayak Dasgupta

    no problemo, got you back. Your work is really an inspiration. I am an aspiring photograper from SIngapore, do check out some of my work if you have the time and the inclination:
    If you are planning a walkabout in Singapore some time in the future, I will gladly join!

  • Jean-François

    Too many wide angle shots makes this look like a video game… All sense of reality is being lost !

  • I’ve had that hot jar treatment once… just once! No idea why people think it’s helpful.

  • They will. Disney security is tighter

  • I recently thought better of flying my Drone over the Magic Kingdom from our room at the Polynesian. Considering it may have been a bad decision or lead to premature termination of a family holiday. I was really more worried about the wrath of my wife than that of the Disney Police.

    The fact that you flew it in China, over Beijing no less, is so next-level AW-SOME! (I love the results) and thank you for my new favorite quote of all time: “It’s kind of like Washington D.C., except with less communists.” 🙂

  • JuneGoose

    Cool video! I loved the people’s reactions to the quadcopter flying overhead.

  • Little world park is in Shenzhen isn’t it? Next time if you need translations contact me I am interpreter/tour guide living in China and also amateur photographer and a big fan of yours 🙂

  • Johninchinar

    ron in Japan

  • Chang He

    You are fortunate to have been let go. What is unfortunate is the blissfully unaware narcissism that allows you to say you were “locked up” when actually you were just questioned, and which allows you to write 1500 words on the topic and not mention the hundreds of thousands of Chinese political prisoners who don’t get a “slap on the wrist” but who suffer and die for justice and truth. If you want to “make a difference” how about caring less about dime-a-dozen aerial photography shots, and caring more about real issues involving real people, which your experience gave you the tiniest taste of.

  • SigridEkman

    I love China. I once saw a man get really angry at airport security when he wasn’t allowed to bring a huge bottle of liquor through. He was shouting and pushing, and I kept on thinking that if this was Europe you would have been on the ground in handcuffs within a split second. At Beijing airport they just tried to calm him down and explain to him why he couldn’t bring it along. It’s a weird polarized nature, as long as they believe you are not really intending to destabilize the country and get involved in politics they will be pretty patient and reasonable with you.

  • treyratcliff

    yeah – I’ve seen strange stuff like that too.

  • treyratcliff

    Yeah, you don’t want to mess with those Disney police @BillDodd:disqus ! 🙂

  • treyratcliff

    Thanks @Mariamichelle117:disqus ! 🙂

  • treyratcliff

    hehe thanks @kimberlyaedwards:disqus

  • ken

    Can you imagine you doing this in US capital hill…lol

    China Police are actually very friendly compared to many other country as long as you not doing things for politics. I fly Drone in China dated back to 2008 and never have any issues . Below is few pictures and video I fly in China

  • Chang He

    Don’t be anymore clueless than you can help. The United States does not run concentration camps. The Chinese police do. While the headlines would have you believe the FBI and NSA are somehow evil, they do not hold a candle to their Chinese counterparts in terms of pure cruelty.

  • Pickle

    Sorry, you sound like a typical spoiled rich kid who is butthurt that you didn’t get treated like loyalty in a country where you were a guest. PS. Your HDR pictures suck.

  • Pickle

    lol yeah, so brave…As brave as Tank man he is.

  • I like how you edited your comment from the original. You are rude.

  • Chang He

    My initial comment was rude. That’s why I edited it. My comment as it stands is true, and ad hominem attacks do not alter the truth.

  • Chang He

    Exactly my concern. Breathless tales of this kind that purport to “derring-do” trivialize real sacrifices, real horrors, and real heroes. The “tank man” has never been conclusively identified, and for all we know may still be rotting and freezing to death in a Manchurian labor camp.

  • Wow, that is a crazy story. Personally, I find the pictures far more interesting than the video.

  • Will Lovitt

    Reminds me of the greeting I got when I went to Cuba with WAY too much camera gear.

  • treyratcliff

    They might have one there, but this one is in Beijing.

  • E Galarza

    Amazing video Trey, I’m really impressed what can be done with these drones after watching your video. Hat’s off to you for the awesome videography and photography you made on your trip.

  • lucky you weren’t chinese, eh?

  • ilikemac

    Yeah, do that drone thing in Tibet and you’ll be out of there in no time. And Xijiang too. Thanks to earlier ‘tourists’ who posted nasty videos on YouTube.

  • ilikemac

    Aha, a ‘politico’ on this photography forum. I should’ve known it. Sooner or later someone with an axe to grind will come along…

  • ilikemac

    I second that…

  • ilikemac

    Leave politics out of this photography forum.

  • ilikemac

    ‘Military presence’? Thanks to separatists and terrorists inspired by you-know-who. And no thanks to those tourists who posted videos on YouTube belittling China like those on Lhasa, Tibet.

  • treyratcliff

    Thanks @egalarza:disqus – glad you think it is pretty too! 🙂

  • treyratcliff

    Thank you kindly @JeffPeterson82:disqus ! 🙂

  • ilikemac

    Honestly, I think Trey knew it was kind of dicey at best, to fly drones in Beijing. He went in knowing full well that he could get into hot water. Next time he might not be so lucky. Advice: get approval from the ‘ahn kone’ folks. (In case Ady didn’t translate it for you over there; it’s the police – ‘kone’ is brigade, company, association, group; ‘ann’ is peace.

  • treyratcliff

    Haha… you are a riot. I challenge you to a duel of wits, sir! White glove in the air, in a delicate arc towards your sour physiognomy. 🙂

  • ilikemac

    …. he will definitely make the evening news…..

  • goodinuf

    Trey as suggestion on your video, I find the transitions you used between shots to be distracting and draw too much attention to themselves, especially during the quicker cuts. A simpler transition like a fade or dissolve might be more effective and not distract as much from your beautiful shots of China.

  • Chang He

    Don’t be foolish. The very real imprisonment, torture, murder, and devastation of millions of people is hardly “politics”. Just because it makes you uncomfortable to think about doesn’t mean it is something you shouldn’t think about. And if this post was just about the beauty of China or photography opportunities in China, I wouldn’t have mentioned what I did. But it isn’t really about photographic opportunities in China. It’s about the Chinese police, and their activities, which are an affront to those who believe in liberty and human rights everywhere.

  • Chang He

    “Belittling China”? As if the hurt feelings of a nation are any hint of retaliation for the invasion and genocide the Chinese have perpetrated on the Tibetan people. Your consistent support of a nation given to oppression, murder, the imprisonment of innocents, the suppression of free speech, and the most egregious environmental assault in the modern world makes you an extremely questionable moralist.

  • Chang He

    He’d be deep in a mine in the desert of Xinjiang if he were.

  • Ray

    As a Chinese myself,simply can’t believe they returned the quadcopter to you,——— so thank Mao you’re not Chinese

  • Sam Dull

    Amazing aerial views and pictures. It sure gives a whole new perspective of Beijing.

  • Carolyn

    I agree with the transitions. Beautiful footage but I get motionsick easily and the transitions were not good for my tummy.

  • Fiona Lee

    What an absolutely amazing story – one of which I would’ve been scared to death if a Chinese militant came up to me (Could be because I am Chinese [HK] American). Beautiful pictures & videos, never had a chance to travel to Beijing so these pictures are the closest experience I have! Love it.

  • Kip Hartwell

    I like them myself. Yes, simple transitions are usually best, but these ones really bring out the tempo of the beat. I was actually admiring the editing.

  • foljs

    Nope. They are bad. No sugarcoating it.

  • goodinuf

    It effected my wife the same way.

  • Phyllis Burgess

    you were truly blest..and I thank the Chinese police for your opportunity

  • treyratcliff


  • treyratcliff

    Thank you @disqus_o2QR0dwkXk:disqus 🙂

  • treyratcliff

    Cool – thank you @Sam

  • treyratcliff

    haha @disqus_Aw0bQdBPyy:disqus – brilliant

  • Elliot deBruyn

    I agree with you in part, but I have to say that the “shady” part of the US institutions in question are simply more hidden. The Chinese have never tried to hide their human rights abuses. In fact, it works as another method of control. However, the US has illegally taken the right to kill anyone and everyone in the entire world using drones. China hasn’t once tried to do anything remotely that frightening.

    Most people on the ground here, and I say this as an American photographer and videographer with a journalism background living in Shanghai for the past few years, don’t give a damn about what the government does. They all just want to make money, like everyone else.

    My point is that if you’re on the short end of the stick, no matter where you are, you’re going to be disappointed with your lack of voice. China isn’t more or less evil than the US, or Syria, or Russia, or Burma. The human rights abuses are just covered up differently in each place.

  • Craig Murphy

    Great video Trey and even better story, glad you got through it all ok mate.

  • Rosewood97

    Ahhhhh, Ming Tombs. I couldn’t figure that one out.

    Great video. Thanks for taking us for a ride.

  • croozn

    Seriously, you should be locked up just to protect you from yourself. What kind of moron would even THINK this was a good idea IN ANY COUNTRY ON EARTH? Go try this over the US capitol, for example, and then enjoy your new life in Cuba.

  • mzungu

    You should try to get some shot of planes landing near the airport next….

  • Wow Trey thank you for telling your story. Glad to hear that you are ok.


  • Darkthagoras

    This is awesome

  • Peter Johnson


  • markgriffith

    Nice video and write up. I used to live in Beijing. I made a little video while I was there, which was a little nerve wracking :

    And I had a very similar experience being detained by police for shooting video with a GoPro you can read here :

  • ClausRasmussen

    Chinese authorities often try to resolve the situation at the lowest level possible. It is part philosophy (let people resolve their differences themselves) and part laziness (there is a huge amount of paperwork involved in arresting someone). It is also one of the things I love China for.

  • ClausRasmussen

    >> It’s kind of like Washington D.C., except with less communists

    That cracked me up too

  • Zinan Li

    Before you shot the video you should apply for the permit. Beijing has no-fly zone, which is common sense. I have been to Washington DC and symbols of no-camera could be seen around the Pentagon. Thank you for your beautiful images, but I cannot agree with your complain at all.

  • dji man

    shame on you .your action is very danger. dji phantom may hurt this historical building.

  • Bec

    Trey! Love your work! I, also from down under, now live in BJ — wish I’d known you were here — I could have told you NOT to fly a quadcopter over China’s government buildings! But then again, you wouldn’t have had this awesome story to tell. Let us know when you’re here next!!

  • Todd_Hanson

    The gist of the story seems to be that you did something incredibly stupid and were mildly inconvenienced. I’ve had similar experiences, but tend to downplay them. You should, too. My concern is that in the future the inconvenience you experience may prove considerable. If that happens, people familiar with your track record may find it difficult to sympathize with you. Obviously, many commentors here have no sympathy for you now. Take care.

  • Todd

    Transitions were pretty rough actually… editing took away from the quality of the shots

  • A photographer… great cover story you have… :-p

  • treyratcliff


  • Your blog is blocked in China now lol. See for more detail. And KFC in China does not sell chicken neck at all. Are you sure that place is KFC?

  • Alfred

    Great images but your technique changing from one scene to the next needs some work. Appears very jerky.

  • Mark

    As a fellow quadcopter owner and huge fan, I don’t need to tell you you got away very lucky. Two things more:

    One photo says you were up a thousand feet. First, hard to believe. Second, beyond incredibly stupid. The legal ceiling is 400 feet. You are endangering aircraft by flying over 400 feet. Perhaps a review of the rules and laws are in order.

    Two, your cuts on your video are dizzying and way overdone. For a man of your great talent, you can do way better. I had to stop watching it because of that. And flying so close to that child? You do know they can go out of control when you least expect it, right? Mine did once.

  • Interesting story and good thing you got away with just a warning. But your photos could all use some more editing to get rid of that horrible fish eye effect that the GoPro’s tend to have. Unless of course that is what you were hoping to achieve.

  • JSolitude

    To be frank: I do very much enjoy the photography of Ratcliff -especially his earlier work-, but to be honest Trey: it’s not the first time you photograph stuff without paying respect to local customs and requirements. For instance: The Lama Temple in Beijng which I visited myself states clearly that the sandalwood Buddha can NOT be photographed. You basically waited for the monk that keeps an eye out to fall asleep (you even shot him) and then went ahead anyway to shoot the sandalwood Buddha. One can can have a debate if photographers should be allowed to shoot just anything, I personally believe when it comes to religious places or other delicate subjects one should respect local customs.

    LIke another reader states: if you would fly that drone over the fence of the White House, Area 61 or any other delicate places in the US you would receive the same treatment.

    Being a great artist doesn’t mean you should demand the right to just disrespect local culture and requirements. Luckily you’re well known on the net and could show your work; the only thing the Chinese did was tell you what was allowed and what not and as far as I can read you even got away without a fine and they gave the gear back to you on your exit.

    I was in China last year, respected photography laws and never got into any trouble, even shooting with a tripod on Tiananmen and in The Chinese Communist Headquarters itself. How: just ask, that’s all there is to it. But don’t simply fly a drone up there.

    Maybe next time, getting that Visa to China might be another problem 🙂

  • clifford

    Registered to agree with joljs. Yes, video editing needs major work. Some clips were too quick, shots from the same flight were peppered here and there with no rhyme or reason. The flight speed from one clip to another was fast then slow, then fast again. Basically, there was zero story telling within the video. Additionally, it’s a pretty asshole move to film when there are clearly signs not to film. Stick with still shots or just shoot stock video for others to edit and just because you’re a foreigner in China, doesn’t make it OK to intentionally say “fuck you” to the rules.

  • Rainabba

    “…It’s kind of like Washington D.C., except with less communists.” Muahahahahah!

  • Rainabba

    Next you’ll suggest he stop using Helicopters to get to photo sites and not to climb mountains either? A message like this has NO place on his article, if any at all. Lucky for us, Trey is adventurous and like to share the fruits of that adventure. There’s an argument to be had that he IS respecting those subjects by sharing them with the world to be admired. People here in the US not-so-long ago considered it disrespectful to have a dark-skin individual sitting at the dinner table in a home of a southern, “white-skinned” house. Cultures can respect each other without agreeing to customs and there can be consequences. It’s up to each of us to decide our values and the risks we will take.

  • Michael Ng

    Fantastic story, Trey. Did the police make you review what was captured on the GoPro or erase anything they didn’t like?

  • Steve

    I took my DJI Phantom 2 with H3-3D. Here is some footage I took.

  • Darrell Lew

    Hey Trey … sweet images and even better story! I’m here in Shanghai … we should talk some time soon … find me on fb and private message me. Interested in doing a workshop here in China? Just keep your drone at home!

  • ShawnW

    Disrespecting local culture, maybe just a little bit, hehe, but you can’t compare it to flying over the White House. Tiananmen Square is a tourist attraction full of historical artifacts, not the Communist headquarters, lol. That would be the Great Hall of the People. Photographers have to take a lot of creative liberty in order to produce art for everyone to enjoy. I don’t think any monks will be hurt or dishonored by this video either. Staying away from governmental buildings or military installations (like Area 51 for example) is a VERY good idea though. lol

  • ShawnW

    What’s the big hype? You ever live in China before? Ever heard of plane spotting? It’s not illegal. I do it all the time, even at the military XiJiao Airport.

  • sdumpling

    You are not the first person who come up with this idea of take photos with drone in Beijing or have the ability to do it. But probably you are the most ignorant one of them to actually do it, or maybe the first one lucky enough to get away from the police.

  • sunnyhuanny

    It is a great video and the thumbnail image is definitely my first time seeing the forbidden city from that angle.

    However, I am a bit disappointed about how you describe your experiences of shooting this video. If from the beginning you carefully did your research about local laws, customs and regulations of flying drones, especially in the area the central government of China is located, and you still decided you would do it, you probably would not fear anything you were to do was illegal, and your story should not have sounded that sneaky. Reading from the post I ended up having the feeling that you sneaked through and there was something in your camera that should not be shot in the film, which is not true. Maybe just think of it as launching a drone in front of White House, would you still do it? or do it in different ways?

  • Wait, is that MyspaceTom? HAHAHAHAHA. I’m thinking he has a couple reasons for wanting to hide in the shrubs of Beijing once the government shows up. lol

  • haters gonna hate

  • Jazz88

    Actually the whole part of Beijing is surrounded by government buildings. He’s very lucky he got away with what he did, and it was a bit disrespectful.

  • Jazz88

    This is “Yahoo Comment Board” level uninformed and wrong.

  • KennethLNOR

    Please follow the rules and guidelines set by AMA and the FAA for controlling model aircrafts when you are in the US rules and guidelines for the country you are visiting. The FAA wants to regulate the hobby and if they succeed it will spread to other countries too. As a former hobby/amateurphotographer I can agree that it is very cool to have a “flying camera” like the DJI Phantom, but for us who are into RC and are buildng our own multicopters this is not cool. Would you want to be responsible for ruin someone’s hobby? What if a group of dumba**es ruined you hobby or interests? Don’t mess it up for us RC enthusiasts just so you can get colol video’s and pictures.
    Don’t fly over people! If a motor or an ESC(speedcontroller) fails on your multicopter it will fall like a brick, if it “lands” on someone’s head it will probably kill that person.


  • Rich Kolasa

    Disrespectful of one of the most brutal communist regimes around. Awww, what a shame. Idiot!

  • esceptical anonymous

    Your pictures are not that great for a pro photographer or an artist, they are very regular, i think you are a spy passing by a photographer to get information from china! Or a regular photographer that got hired from USA to get our secrets!

  • Mike Grigsby

    the best way to judge ones success are through the mouths of haters/ great pics i really enjoyed them

  • Tammy

    I’ve lived in Beijing for 2 years, I must say these pictures are simply gorgeous. Brings back a ton of beautiful memories

  • Becca

    Thank you for the funny story and for sharing the beautiful pictures!

  • Tony Penson

    Great pictures and sound tract. There are many places in the world where it is no problem to use aerial vehicles to film. If you want more freedom, assist,work with,… government, police, tourism,news media,etc.

  • cbliz

    I think the guy above was being sarcastic.

  • HarrySpider

    major suckage… Really awful writing… great girl singer…

    “commie jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you CAN do…”


    produced by “some Chinese dude”?

  • ConstablePlod

    Again, great pictures and soundtrack. I have been umming and ahhing about buying one of these, now you’ve convinced me, you Sheepshagger you.

  • Wang Feng

    awsome video. does it make me a sissy if I say it makes my eyes wet?

  • Darren Craig

    Love your stuff but yeh I have to say that its a quad…it fails, it falls, its lethal. One big accident and more bans happen and more laws introduced so best not to fly it over people unless your going to use more than a quad!

  • Kriegar

    Why was the lady walking down the red carpet, in a bathing suit, with an umbrella?

  • Kriegar


  • David

    Great stuff! One thing for sure though, the police would have been way more nasty with if you would have flown it in Washington DC…

  • Kriegar


  • Kriegar

    For real! This guy seems to attract his fair share of trolls.

  • Kriegar

    Who said he was complaining? I never detected a note of complaint in his story. Understanding, and appreciation, but no complaint.

  • Kriegar


  • Kriegar

    I see this same type of remark, and once again, I have to ask where this person acted in any negative way about his experience, or treatment. You people have strange, and twisted, skills of non-perception.

  • Kriegar

    You’re overzealous in your attack, and in your diatribe. This description of being “locked up”, and the entire relating of the adventure, is a sheepish communication of the errors of a mistake in judgement, and knowledge. And nothing but appreciation was expressed for the forbearance of the Chinese authorities involved in the situation. This is the third post I have read claiming that the man was unappreciative, or disrespectful, of the way the authorities treated him. It is simply an untrue and false allegation.

    You comments regarding the realities of harsh politics and political prisoners is understood, and we all have sympathy for them, and certainly wish them only good things-but your attack is uncalled for and misplaced.

  • Kriegar

    You really seem to have a total lack of understanding of the nuances of diplomacy, or surveillance. Relax, killer.

  • Kriegar

    Good lord. What is “in” Tian’anman square????

  • Kriegar


  • Kriegar

    It is not an ad hominem attack. You should invest a little more education in the meaning of the term.

  • Kriegar

    I want to tell you, I am not familiar with you, or your work. And I thought that this work was not only beautiful, but wonderful of you to share. I really respect the risk that you took, and the way you related your experience with the authorities with respect, courtesy, and levity.

    I see that even you attract trolls to your page, which I found disheartening, but I guess it is par for the course on the internet. Keep up your wonderful work, be safe, and stay well!

  • John Conn

    “It’s kind of like Washington D.C., except with less communists” LMAO.

  • Chang

    Saying “you are rude” is ad hominem, meaning directed at the person, not the argument. I suggest you try a dictionary before resorting to sarcasm.

  • Chang

    I said nothing about the man being unappreciative or disrespectful. Rather the opposite in fact. Are you certain you’re responding to the comment you intended to?

  • Jazz88

    Dude, first of all you obviously know nothing about China. Secondly, just because you don’t agree with their politics, doesn’t mean you can go there and be a fart-face about everything. If that’s truly how this dude felt, then he should not have gone there in the first place.

  • Benjamin Dover

    I’ve recently visited Beijing a week ago ( I visit every 5 years or so) and noticed 2 things: blue skies for once and less traffic. The authorities there are really friendly and tend to engage in a friendly conversation. Coming back to California I can’t help but to notice that cops here just love to swing their nuts around. The American government just love to assume the international police “powers”.

  • RL

    Not at all “regular,” they are AMAZING! As for him being a spy, what an idiot you are.

  • KennethLNOR

    I’m not a troll. I have been an avid hobby photographer since 2008 and in the past two years I have lacked interest for the hobby. I wanted to elevate my passion for photography with a “flying camera” like the DJI Phantom, but the more I read about RC the more I got interested in the technical bit of the hobby. I have almost no interest in photography, but very interested in RC. I would hate if the hobby got so regulated that I’m not allowed to fly my planes, multicopter and FPV before I have tried it and/or gotten good at it(I’m building two multicopters, and several planes at this moment).

    I don’t know much about Trey except for his class on Kelbyone and The Grid, but I hope he read this and sends a message to the photography community that an entire hobby is at risk because of “drone” flying near downtown building, over buildings and over crowds of people etc. I’m not saying all the hazardous flying are done by photographer, it’s not. There are a lot of bad pilots in the RC community also. But most people who are very interested in RC fly within the guidelines and want to preserve their hobby.

    What if the photography hobby was suddenly regulated?

    -Telephoto lenses gets forbidden because it can be used to spy on people and invade their privacy.
    -No more than 6Mp because the image can be resized digitally and invade peoples privacy.
    -No more than ISO 3200 because the camera can almost “see in the dark”.
    And so on…

    Just remember one thing. It will effect both RC entusiast and aerial photographers if the FAA and other agencies regulate model aircrafts. Photographers can go back to their ordenary photography interests but we in the RC community have nothing.

    To be honest I hope all Ready to Fly quads like the DJI Phantom gets banned. It’s to easy to fly and the “pilot” need no skills at all to fly it. Just my 2 cents….

  • Phung

    awesome video! I am surprised at the lack of tourists or people in these shots!

  • Manny

    Hey dude. Awesome story. Awesome pilot. Awesome video… sadly I didn’t think those dissolves were awesome. Actually the zoomy, weirdy dissolves were not at all in keeping with those slow moving epic images and gave me a sore head. But this doesn’t change my respect for your droning ability. Well done man 🙂

  • ftfish

    In Asia (e.g. China, Japan), young ladies like going out with those umbrellas on sunny days. The umbrellas have anti-UV capabilities.

  • Juicy

    Amazing video and shots but have to side with Manny about the dissolves being too much for this type of vid. Keep up the great work!

  • Shawn W

    the beijing i know never has blue sky 😉

  • Alan Dryer

    I bet their little World Park doesn’t have little miniatures of ALL the worlds most famous, iconic monuments. I would lay money, that they do not have the most famous American monument. You know, the one the entire world knows about? The Statue of LIBERTY… LOL I could be wrong. 🙂 That was an amazing video, BTW.

  • Roy Browning

    You had a back scrape and then the hot pots??? WTF were you thinking? One OR the other but never both at the same time boy!! Two weeks to heal up right!

  • Roy Browning

    I live in China and have noticed similar problems: 1. There seem to be far more Communists in American politics than in all of China. 2. The Chinese don’t like to get heavy handed but the American police seem to really dig the Brownshirt Nazi style and it makes them look exactly like Nazi’s on foreign TV coverage.

  • Garrett Leckrone

    That was great. And I hope the really nice police officers that used discretion, and common sense really do read this, and take a thank you from an American that appreciates your understanding and letting him show your wonderful country in a beautiful light. I don’t see that in the officials I deal with anymore, not to mention the big government crack down on personal drones that is going on here in the states now. Our wonderful FAA (FEDERAL aviation administration) (notice the word “FEDERAL”……. is willing to destroy a new wonderful up and coming technology without even realizing the countless benefits this new hobby has to offer :(…. Thank you Trey for the wonderful stories and pictures. As a first-time visitor to your site, I am impressed!!!!

  • Rohit

    Hey Trey!

    I live in Beijing and the police confiscated my DJI vision in late February 2014. I was flying that over Miyun ( 60KM from Beijing Downtown) and after 3 days coming back from there, 8 cops showed up at 10PM with my friend at my apartment. They took my DJI and took me , my friend, my girl friend and one of her friend to the police station. We were there at the police station till next day morning. They interrogated everyone in a different room. We were released form the police station at 6AM. Next day with my help the police raided the DJI dealer in Beijing and he was put behind the bars for selling them. I got my DJI back after a month with a note saying not to fly that in Beijing. I got all scared because of that. I wrote email to DJI about this incident and they were of no help. They came up with a new firmware update which will not let you fly it near the airport and some monuments. In the last week of June I was in Nepal with my girl friend and she got a call from her friend who lives in Beijing. The police went to her friend’s house asking for her and me. We had no clue about why but on her return to China, the police wanted to see our quadcopter and now I think its because of your video. I love my quadcopter and take it everywhere I go. I always wanted to fly mine near the CCTV building and the Shangrila hotel.

  • Filippo Gregoretti

    I lived in China, every time I had to deal with police or authorities I only had pleasurable experiences, and found friendly helpful people in front of me. You have much more chances to leave of an american police station with a broken back, than a chinese.

  • Kelvin El

    product of China, but unknow to the Chinese. probably the phantom was designed far to the south (Shenzen)

  • John Kuczwara

    In Europe and America They are made with more lace and are called parasols
    They are a portable sun shade

    With Steampunk taking off they are making a comeback

  • Professional videographers and photographers aren’t going to stop improving their craft because of RC enthusiasts. They’re never going to outright ban RC helicopters, just limit where you’re allowed to fly them.

  • icarusty

    the whole post reeks of a superiority complex. His tone is condescending and mocking of the Chinese, especially the police… one would imagine that doing the same things in the western equivalents they would nowhere be as forgiving. Plenty of cases where taking a single snap of a government building (even irrelevant ones) lead to the police taking your fingerprints and taking your phone. The fact you were allowed to keep the drone and the data stored on it is a miracle in itself, because they obvously give viewpoints that potential terrorists (or governments) can use.

  • Andrew Dodd

    Sorry, mark, but you’re wrong. One – a thousand feet is easily achievable, although not necessarily a good idea.

    Second – in this particular case, USA laws are completely and utterly irrelevant since he was flying in China. That said, better awareness of China’s laws would probably have been a good idea.

    Third, as to the 400 foot limit –

  • HP

    Actually, if I am to judge by the photos, there IS a Statue of Liberty. Google world park beijing and it`s the second image on the results

  • guest

    wrong. he’s using light-hearted humor on himself for not having known what to do or expect.. as for viewpoints, foreign satellites already exist. his photos do make beijing look beautiful

  • What this post conveys to me is gratefulness and appreciation for the Chinese authorities who took an interest in him and his work and realized he had no bad intentions.

  • vtx

    What music are you playing in the background?

  • Feng Xiao

    That is not true at all. Go to www, and search phantom 无人机 you will see how many sales they have had. I don’t know why u people like to make such groundless claims.

  • Feng Xiao

    Now don’t you feel stupid? U think the Chinese even fear of talking about liberty? No we don’t. You can fuck yourself. Sorry for my rudeness but I found the only way to deal with stupidity such as yours.

  • vtx

    sorry, stupid comment 😀

  • xmarkwe

    Fantastic pics, and a great story amusingly told.

    I have to admire the reasonableness of the Chinese cops.

    You may not have been treated so well in the USA, where officers of many branches of enforcement agencies are apparently overtaken by a combined sense of drama, authority, hysteria, duty, and righteousness. Use of common sense would appear to be not allowed.

    Here is a story of a 70 year old glider pilot who was requested to land after flying over a nuclear facility. He was ordered to land nearby by radio. He did so, and was met by 17 police cars and armed officers, and thrown in jail. (I can just picture 17 officers all using their ‘big deep voices’ and pointing guns, “You!! Get on the ground! Don’t move! Hands behind your back”!!!)

    It turns out there is no law against flying over the nuclear facility, and that local police have no authority to order an aircraft to land. Not to mention any idiot could realize a glider was not a very likely terrorist threat. And if they had any doubt, a quick conversation with the 70 year old pilot may have helped.

    ‘..When Fleming complied with the order to land and touched down at
    Hartsville Regional Airport, one observer there counted 17 police
    vehicles involved in the apprehension. The subject of the “chase” was
    that of an unpowered glider flown by a pilot who had willingly landed.
    The glider was on the ground and stopped. ….

    …….. there is no such kind of zone, no such regulation and
    no such offense….

    Fleming complied with the request to land, was detained on the spot,
    brought to jail, held overnight on a charge of “breach of peace,” and
    not released until he was bailed out late the next day. The Darlington,
    South Carolina, sheriff’s office denied Fleming’s request to call
    someone when he was initially detained, so the members of his soaring
    club ….. organized a search for him.

    (To get rid of the charges ) ….Fleming was…. required to agree not to
    sue the sheriff’s department.’

  • xmarkwe

    “reeks of …. superiority complex. His tone is condescending and mocking…”

    That is just a weird interpretation, Rusty. He sounds like he was polite and reasonable, and the police were polite, interested, and sensible. They came up with a sensible resolution in the end.

    You are perhaps in US law enforcement, and your common sense has been surgically removed and replaced by righteousness?

    Can anyone explain how it has been decided that anyone taking a snapshot of a government building must now somehow automatically be some sort of terrorist threat? There are plenty of satellite photos and snapshots out there which only require an internet search.

  • xmarkwe

    But I can see one good reason to NOT fly them over occupied areas: They can slice you up pretty quickly.
    DJI Phantom 2 Injury
    It is not what you can do with your hobby but what your hobby can do to you… DJI Phantom 2 it is not a toy, it is a Drone, take percautions when “playing” …

  • Kelvin El

    i’m not saying the product is bad. what i mean is, the product is well known to the world. but seem the enforcement officer doesn’t know it’s their country’s product.

    ‘read back the story to get the picture’

  • Kriegar

    I thought “parasol” immediately after I sent, lol.

  • Kriegar

    It’s sad to me, the things you say.It seems that everyone wants everything banned, for one reason or another. If your hobby got banned, it would not be because of hobbyists and photographers. It would be because not enough people did not stand up and say “you’re not banning marshmallows just because they contain sugar”.

    Life isn’t perfect, and people make mistakes. Things happen. Life happens. No one has a right to go around banning every little thing because they get their undies in a wad, or because one mishap occurs out of thousands of flights. So, if anything gets banned, including this thing you want banned, it was because you’re all too weak or narrow minded to stand up and say it is not going to happen.

  • Kael’thas

    More like the author touched the chinese’s superiority complex when he said how much he ‘admired’ the beauty of beijing. If he never said that, I doubt he would have been able to write a blog post about it. In a western jail cell, at least theoretically you are guaranteed to be treated with basic human rights (unless you are a convicted terrorist), but in beijing there is no such thing, anything goes in those torture cells. Before anyone calls me racist, I’m from Hong Kong, ethnically Chinese (but not so socio-politically, not even culturally), but as a Hong Konger we know of horror stories.

  • Kael’thas

    Well, it depends on what you are saying to them. Can’t believe you chi-na apologists, ostriches with their heads in the sand.

  • toc001

    Post the raw video, your editing leaves a lot to be desired. The transition effect is annoying and you’re cutting the scenes to early. Post a few extended, subjective videos instead of packing everything into one incongruous video. Or hire an actual editor.

  • treyratcliff

    You have a gentle bedside manner, sir.

  • NEVdD

    Hello, I too travel and take aerials videos though I am not really a photographer I tend to make artistic videos. I’ll soon go to China and visit yunnan mostly. I intend to fly the thing in small cities and nature. I read your story and if I understand, Chinese are ok with people flying if it is not close to sensitive places? The fact that they confiscated your phantom despite the fact that you were not flying it at the moment you were arrested gets me confused…

    If you want to see my work, please go to

    I wish you many more flights 😉

  • Andy Day

    Hey Rohit,

    I’m coming to Beijing tomorrow and need a Phantom for a job I’m shooting over there. Is there anywhere in Beijing I can purchase one? Any help would be massively appreciated.


  • Great video Trey and I love the way you told the story with humor and a positive attitude. I’m pretty sure you were more than a little nervous during the actual experience, yet what come through is your optimistic view of human nature. Thanks for sharing!

  • treyratcliff

    Thank you Ray – I’m glad you get it! 🙂

  • Filippo Gregoretti

    It is just my experience. That I openly share here. Defining others only defines yourself.

  • Andrew J. Rózsa

    Wonderful pictures, good background music, a delightful aerial journey. Great story-telling. I know EXACTLY how you felt. Many years ago, my friend and I were painting a bridge in Romania. Aqua. Not much detail. From the river bank it looked like a wonderful way of demonstrating perspective. Two miltiamen arrested us… apparently, the railroad tracks over the bridge made it a matter of national security and we could have been spies. My sense of humor did not stay with me, like yours did. At one time, I may have peed in my pants. Thank you for sharing the bird’s-eye view and the story.

  • nojusticeatall

    Pretty cool pictures….loved the story.

  • Shane Shaw

    great story, that could’ve ended very badly instead lol

  • Lisa Dee

    Wow… <3

  • Luna Wu

    I wonder if you really check the website given by Feng Xiao. It just explains that the product is well known in China. Because the product has a very high sale in “Taobao” (Chinese Ebay). The enforcement officer might be just curious that the author flew the DJI quadcopter in such a large area and even across some sensitive buildings. That does not mean he or she doesn’t know the product at all.

  • zoom

    so is it legal or not to fly drones in china? thinking about getting one and bringing it to shanghai

  • Yeah – it’s very grey… but, mostly illegal!

  • David Hunt

    In March of this year 2014 I brought my DJI Phantom 2 with me on our cruise down the Yangtze river. We had a guide (keeper) that was with us the entire time. We asked if I could fly the drone and he said yes with the exception on The Forbidden City. I’ve posted some to my Youtube channel David Hunt. They are raw videos.

  • MikeM_inMD

    “… but my intentions were pure and artistic, so I figured that gave me some sort of leeway.”

    You need to grow up and stop acting and thinking like an entitled fool.

  • Invest in the Engineer

    And this is in a placed called “The Forbidden City”…#RealSmart

  • Racist

    One can still b a racist discriminating against his own.

  • Jerry

    Hey Trey, I’m heading to beijing china for several months… I’m planning on taking my DJI Phantom 2 VIsion+… I’m contacting DJI about this before hand also. They even have a Studio in Beijing ( surely there should be some progressive change by now towards clearer dos and don’ts. I’ll likely take the police advice to avoid inner loops of the city but would you have any other advice?

  • sen jack


  • 周思远


  • itchy13

    Hi, did you have any luck flying in China? Im off there in a month and am planning on also bringing my Vision+.

  • nomanzone

    The video is wonderful. But common sense should have told you that even in Washington DC, there are places that are off limit for drones and Beijing is even more sensitive about security and secrets. Nonetheless, thanks for risking your freedom to bring us the amazing video. By the way, don’t try it over Kremlin.

  • What is that spa treatment with glass bulbs? Looks really hurtful!

  • Alex Bayntun-Lees

    The ‘Forbidden City’ is neither forbidden, nor is it a city. Photography is permitted and tourists are encouraged to visit. This all happened in Beihai park and the issue was with government buildings. We all push the limits a little bit for the things we enjoy. So please, get off your high horse and #DontBeAnAss

  • Invest in the Engineer

    Suck your mother. I not about to read all of that!

  • Invest in the Engineer

    Suck your mother! I’m not about to read all of that.

  • Forest billow

    Haha, if you know the Chinese ‘white house’ is not in forbidden city, but in ‘middle sea’ and ‘south sea’. While North Sea (Beihai) is the park, you are just too funny to ‘set up’ something towards middle and south sea. Now you learn the lesson:)

  • Nathaniel Lorenzo

    Just an FYI, I recently went to Jordan and asked the hotel manager if I could take some aerial footage as our hotel had a direct mountain view on the top. I DID NOT EVEN FLY IT.

    A few hours later reception call me (at my room) and asked if I still had the drone. 2 hours later reception called again stating that the cops were downstairs and would like to take a look at the drone.

    They questioned me and asked me if I knew it was illegal in the country and that some one could strap a bomb to the drone and kill people. I told them no and that’s why I asked if it was okay because some areas may not be allowed.

    Two hours later headquarters decided to confiscate the drone and that I “should” have it back within 2-4 weeks

    Being that this was in the middle east I was quite scared that may be do something or inprison me. This meeting was held in a room of the hotel and they felt I was not a threat as I showed them some pictures of footage I have taken. They were really nice however this was a 1,000$ equipment (Xugong V2 with gimbal) that I may not get back. DO HEAVY RESEARCH ON THE COUNTRIES YOU WISH TO RECORD

    Hopefully I will get it back. Don’t take your drone to Jordan or Egypt

  • poida84

    what a good read thank you trey was entertaining 😀

  • Joe

    so surprise police didn’t delete video file.

  • コちゃん|マダオ

    No, on the south of Bei Hai (North sea) is not the Chinese FBI or CIA or NSA. Zhong nan hai, “Middle south sea”,another royal garden palace built in Qing dynasty of China, serves as the highest headquarters for the Communist Party and the central government of china, and it’s also an official residence of president of china. THAT’S CHINESE WHITE HOUSE.

  • Harry He

    The Chinese law declares 15 nautical kilometers of no fly zone near Tiananmen.
    You were lucky to do this two years ago as the regulations weren’t enforced by DJI firmware. And there were only police to stop you.
    Now drones won’t even lift off in that area.

  • This was made with a really awesome quadcopter — the DJI Phantom. All the footage was shot with that GoPro. I did a mixture of wide angle and narrow shots. I also had it in a mode that automatically took a photo every 5 seconds, and I put some of my favorite photos at the bottom of this blog post!

  • Milly Chu

    Cupping therapy, an ancient Chinese treatment.
    Learned from Wiki:

  • blitter

    Great story! After reading the comments I feel I have to add something: unless you spent time (filming) in China you may not understand the intricacies. I’m not a China apologist by any means (quite the opposite) but:
    1. At least as a foreigner, I have to agree that a certain English-speaking country is a lot scarier in every way! Do you realize Orange County is on Amnesty’s list of the list of places which practice torture? Just an example… but that doesn’t mean every person is like that. I worked (film-wise) with several police detectives and at least one of them was a totally cool and very honorable man. You can’t judge an entire country by the actions of a few.
    2. The thing about China is that, for a Westerner (who doesn’t speak mandarin) it’s impossible to make any sense of how this country works. Trust me: I was ready to kill by the time I was done shooting the documentary (Beijing Taxi drivers anyone??) but it cuts both ways. The Chinese can be (appear?) rude and illogical just as they can be completely reasonable.
    3. I have NO idea why that is but for some reason the police has never been a problem. They appear to be normal human beings who follow common sense, as opposed to some abstract idea of righteousness. Of course the political system and the “higher-ups” are a something else: I’m referring to the (many) cops you encounter on the streets.
    4. For completeness sake: although I was shooting a documentary with (Chinese) people who have spent time in prison and are (still) considered “subversives” I never encountered a single official roadblock… even the airport officials were weirdly helpful (we had about 100kg of overweight baggage that somehow made it onto the plane after a uniformed official spent a good 30 minutes figuring out a way to “divide” the baggage among the crew – and failed! Funny thing is I couldn’t have cared less about paying $700 bucks but the good man was on a mission…)

    China… a weird land of opposites!

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