Using FlightDeck to get Aerial Shots in Unreal Engine 5

Josh Goossen
Visual Content Lead
Beth Mutch
Video Producer + Project Manager

There are places on Earth where it's illegal to fly drones. Airports, super secure places, the Eiffel Tower, probably. And if you've ever been a tourist before, you know this. People will fly their drones anyway, do not be one of those people. We respect the drone zones, as we call it here in Canada, where our laws are some of the strictest, yet still legal to fly laws in the world.

Most people who have used drones have crashed them….or almost have. Now imagine someone crashing a drone in a national park, or at the White House. That's why it's illegal. What if I told you there's a way around all of these drone zones where you don't actually need a drone? A way to get these shots From the comfort of your own home using Unreal Engine 5 (UE5)? The way this is possible is through Cesium. Cesium uses geo-spatial data, then projects that in 3D directly into Unreal Engine as a tessellated mesh.

To make it even easier to move around our brand-new virtual world, we're going to be using FlightDeck, the plugin that we made here at CoPilot. It connects with Cesium using AI, so all you have to do is enter conversational prompts, and it will take you anywhere in the world. Anywhere illegal as a matter of fact. We are at the Statue of Liberty, where I'm pretty sure you can't fly a drone.

But here, I can set up my shot just like I would in any other Unreal project, run it through Sequencer. Next thing I know, I've got a nice drone shot.

What is the most illegal place? Where would your drone be shot down, essentially instantly? Probably the Pentagon. Turns out there is no 3D data in Google Maps for the Pentagon (shocking, I know).

Beyond the pentagon, the map is still in 3D but when you get to the Pentagon, it is flat. There is one way around this and that is to get a top down shot instead. It is like I was flying my drone essentially directly over top of the pentagon. That is definitely illegal.

We did like the highest security risk thing. But, one that I think is often thought of, especially if you're a drone pilot, is airports. You can't fly near airports. What's one of the biggest airports in the world? LAX. Going through LAX in Unreal Engine makes me kind of feel like I'm in GTA. If we set up another shot in sequencer, the final shot looks like this:

Remember when we talked about which place is definitely illegal to fly a drone in? The Eiffel Tower definitely stands out. In fact, it is a 70,000 euro fine if you are caught flying a drone around the Eiffel Tower. Instead, in a few seconds, we are at the Eiffel Tower. We can fly here now.

One more place that I for sure know it's illegal to fly a drone in is Sydney Opera House. I've never been there, but I can see it from above. The average tourist can't say that. They can't say, “yeah, I flew above the Sydney Opera House.” because…you probably didn't, that's illegal.

We set up a nice, cool shot of Sydney Opera House, changed the lighting and made it beautiful to create a cinematic, usable shot for any project.

With Cesium and FlightDeck, we have unlocked the potential to capture drone shots from the most restricted locations, legally, and creatively. Soaring over the Pentagon, cruising through LAX, or getting a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower—all within your reach. Definitely check out our latest youtube video showing you exactly how to get these shots so you can do it for yourself!