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Dominant drone-maker DJI commissioned this animation as part of their #DronesForGood campaign, highlighting interesting and positive uses of drones. A research team at SUNY Binghamton discovered that commercially available drones could be very effective at detecting land mines in challenging locations. Drones equipped with thermal cameras can pick out so-called butterfly land mines with great accuracy because they heat up and cool off much faster than the surrounding environment. These mines are hard to find with traditional metal detectors because they are primarily made of plastic.

I started out by modeling an essentially functional drone in 3D, which was a really fun endeavor. By "functional," I mean that its rotors rotate, there is a system for retracting its landing gear, and another for popping on the thermal camera, and so on. But while the drone needed to have a certain degree of realism to it, I also wanted an abstracted look with a bit of character. I employed a simplified geometry and came up with a comics-inspired solution to help communicate the spin of the rotors. It can be difficult to convey spin at very high speeds without using motion blur, because a rotor spins much faster than a regular video frame rate can capture. I actually modeled the circular motion lines as rigid objects that rotate slower than the rotors themselves, achieving a nice trick of the eye.

Illustrated globe showing land mine locations
Illustration of graveyard with orange butterfly
Illustration of a DJI drone, from animation by EDLUNDART
Illustration of a drone with thermal camera onboard
Screenshot from animation for DJI
Still from drone animation by Bard Edlund
Boxes of drones, an image from a DJI animation project

Text overlays for social media videos are not my favorite kind of thing, but one cool thing about these is that I designed them as editable (mogrt) slates, so that DJI's team can easily publish the video in other languages for international markets.

A vital part of the final look and feel is the texture of the ever-undulating diagonal lines, which also serve as transition devices between scenes. Similar to the rotor motion lines, they evoke a print design sensibility, which I think brings a bit of personality and warmth to an otherwise quite mechanical animation.

DJI's Benjamin Popper provided the script and produced along with Nina Zou and art director Jason King. All visuals by Bård Edlund — that's me. And for this project, I also composed the ambient music score! As a little advertised side business, EDLUNDART has dozens of music tracks placed on tv shows across many major television networks, and can deliver custom compositions for your project.

Have a look at other interesting projects on the animation page, or listen to some music.

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