Pilot Spotlight: Interview with Hélène Franchineau
Company: HF Visuals
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Tell us about yourself.
I'm a French visual journalist, consultant, and drone pilot. I'm based in Istanbul, Turkey, and I travel all over the region. I work as a cameraperson, editor, producer. I am also a visual consultant for NGOs and PR companies, helping them produce new visual campaigns and videos. And I'm a pilot!
What inspired you to begin flying drones, and what made you want to enter the industry as a drone pilot?
I started flying in 2017 when I was a journalist based in Beijing, China. I quickly realized a drone is a great addition to visual storytelling, as it gives new opportunities and new angles. When I moved to Turkey I kept flying and decided to get my professional license to fly drones up to 25 kg when I started doing wind turbine inspections at the beginning of 2020.
It is an exciting and promising new field for me, I have learned a lot and expanded my skills in areas I had no idea about, and it allows me to travel even more.
What were you doing before you started flying drones, and what made you make the transition? I have always been a video and visual journalist. I just added drones as a new tool to tell my stories. However, I am now very interested in using my drone to inspect renewable energy installations, such as solar panels or wind turbine farms.
What drone(s) are you currently flying, and what drone accessories do you love? I fly the DJI Inspire 2 (with ProRes and Cinema DNG) and the Mavic Pro (first edition, which is still one of the best drones that ever came out). My favorite accessories are my extra batteries and my NG filters.
What is your favorite feature on your drone and why?
The Apple ProRes and Cinema DNG feature on my Inspire 2 can produce really beautiful and professional footage, when you're working on high-end projects.
What drone images are you most proud of and why? I got to film a Mongolian traveler crossing Kazakhstan with a caravan of camels for a BBC story in 2019. A great way to show her long and arduous journey was obviously from a bird's-eye view. Flying in the Kazakh steppes above this brave woman and her camels on perfect spring weather gave me great images and a lifetime of memories.
Have you learned any valuable lessons from being in the drone industry that you can share with our female drone community? I think that the most "technical" drone jobs (inspection of construction sites, agricultural fields, renewable energy installations, etc.) should not necessarily be left to men only. We are definitely bringing something to the table, we just need to trust ourselves a bit more.
Whether it's from a creative, commercial, or humanitarian perspective, tell us about the most memorable drone flight you have piloted thus far. My most memorable drone flight was made in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was on an assignment with the NGO World Vision and I flew above a school in the countryside. The children were fascinated by the drone as they had never seen one before, and they all gathered around me. They were very curious but also did not know what to make of this flying object.
What would you say to women and girls about the drone industry to spark their interest in getting involved? You can start flying a small drone at first and then upgrade, there's so much to choose from. And drones have so much potential for the future and for so many industries!
What excites you most about more women joining the drone industry? I want to find other kindred spirits, and other women in my region, to learn from and exchange tips and advice. We need to help each other.
Do you have any drone tips & tricks you can share with our audience? Just make sure you set the right maximum flight altitude and the appropriate return-to-home altitude before every flight. Basic, but it can avoid your drone crashing into trees or wind turbines for example while returning home.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you? Confession: I crashed my drone on my very first flight, on the Great Wall of China near Beijing :)
Hélène Franchineau is a visual journalist, consultant, and professional drone pilot based in Istanbul, Turkey.
She films and produces news videos, documentaries, as well as visual campaigns for NGOs and other international organizations. She is a certified drone pilot who produces visual content and does inspection work for renewable energy companies.