How to Live Stream from a Drone Using TVU Solutions

Drones with live feed cameras increasingly are proving to be an important aerial platform for television newsgathering, first responders and a wide variety of others who need a view from aloft to better understand the situation on the ground.
A man live streaming a video, using a drone
Drones with live feed camera are important for television newsgathering

For television stations, live streaming with a drone can serve as a convenient, affordable alternative to news choppers or as a source of supplemental live streaming aerial coverage. First responders like firefighters and police, can rely on drones with live streaming video capability to share up-to-the-moment footage with first responders on site and those in management roles who must quickly assess whether to allocate more resources to the scene.

The list of other businesses and government agencies that use drones with live video feeds seems nearly endless—from architectural and engineering firms and sports franchises to departments responsible for wildlife and natural resource management and video producers hired to capture aerial footage.

All of these enterprises benefits from live video drones because they deliver a perspective on the object of interest that just can’t be derived from a camera on the ground, and they do so far less expensively than shots from a helicopter, a plane or even a satellite.


What You Need To Be Live Streaming With A Drone

There’s the live video that’s captured by the airborne camera on the drone and fed back to the drone operator as part of the two-way communication needed to operate the aircraft safely and comply with government regulations, and then there is the live video stream that’s transmitted to those who need to receive the video, whether it’s a TV station or a fire captain.

The former is integral to the flight control and communications of the drone. The latter is not, and is the subject of this blog. Therefore, streaming drone live video is a matter of connecting the video output of the drone controller—usually via an HDMI cable plugged into the video output of the control device—to any one of the IP transmitters offered by TVU Networks.

That means every option, whether it’s TVU Anywhere running on a smartphone, the small, lightweight TVU Nano IP transmitter or the TVU One pack, can be used to contribute live streaming video from the drone controller. In essence, these IP transmitters act no differently when used with a drone than they do when used with a video camera on the ground to contribute live shots from the scene of a breaking news story.

Iphone with the settings of TVU Anywhere app
The drone can be integrated with TVU Anywhere, TVU Nano IP transmitter or TVU One pack

Choosing the right TVU IP transmitter for the job involves weighing the same issues and considerations that must be factored into deciding when picking a TVU transmitter for any other application. Those can be boiled down to weighing the resiliency of the connection to a wireless network against the cost of the transmitter.

For example, a freelance drone operator streaming live video to a producer/client located miles away in an office for real-time direction, might be able to tolerate an interruption in the stream, especially since the footage also is being recorded on site. For this drone live video application, the cost of the transmitter might be the overriding concern, so TVU Anywhere running on a smartphone might be best.

However, the overriding consideration for first responders is the ability to connect the transmitter in the field to a wireless network from just about anywhere in their service area. For these users, cost is less of a factor than establishing a reliable connection to a wireless network to live stream situational, real-time video to managers so they can assess what’s happening in real time without interruption.

For these users, the most popular solution is the TVU One pack, an IP transmitter that offers six integrated wireless modems. With external device support, it provides for up to a total of 12 data connections, including cellular, Ethernet, satellite and microwave, which can provide as much as  25Mbps of bandwidth to stream video.

The settings of TVU One and a woman speaking in the microphone on the screen of the camera
TVU One pack is the most suitable solution for those who want to establish a reliable connection

Other Benefits of Selecting TVU

One example is TVU Overwatch, a product that runs on a TVU transceiver and re-encodes streaming video for distribution to up to 15 people on their smartphones. In essence, Overwatch turns a TVU transceiver into a mini media server.

For first responders on the scene of an incident, such as a fire company, TVU Overwatch running on a transceiver can feed drone video to different members of the crew to guide them in fighting the blaze. For instance, a firefighter on a hook and ladder truck watching streaming drone video on his or her smartphone can better direct an elevated nozzle where water is most needed. At the same time, the fire chief across town could be watching the same footage to inform decision making.

For first responders and others that might require direction from a management team that at any moment in time might be widely geographically dispersed, TVU Partyline offers important benefits. Using its return video feed function, TVU Partyline makes it possible for committee members to watch drone video as it unfolds on their smartphones and contribute their input via Partyline’s return video feed.

Perhaps the greatest –and easiest to take for granted—benefit of TVU Networks products used in support of drones with real time video is the fact that they support real-time operation. Latency introduced into the entire process of transmitting video is less than a second.

That means being more responsive to changing conditions on the ground—whether it’s a fire or a car chase—is possible, and especially in situations where lives are on the line, that’s the biggest benefit.


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