Shooting drone photos and video footage requires special considerations. In addition to operating a camera, we’re also flying an aircraft; albeit a small one! Here are some practical and legal things to keep in mind when considering using drones…
FAA Certified Commercial Drone Pilots
To operate a drone commercially in the U.S., you must have a “Part 107 Unmanned Aerial Systems” remote pilot license from the FAA. This requires taking a FAA pilot test and registering your drones with the FAA. We have our FAA drone pilot license and have undergone additional drone training and flight time. On top of all that, we have over 40 years experience in photography. Recommendation: Hire someone who is a legally certified drone pilot, and who knows photography. (Hint: that’s us!)
Provide as much advanced notice as possible. Some circumstances may require getting a flight waiver from the FAA, which currently can take from 30 – 90 days. Recommendation: Contact us early!
In locations like farms, ranches, and private property that are not near airports, it’s usually easy to verify we can fly a drone legally. For locations near airports, we have to check the FAA’s airspace maps to make sure we can fly in the area. Fortunately, the FAA has made it easier to get authorizations to fly near most airports. However, in some cases, we have to apply for an authorization or waiver, which can take 30 – 90 days. Recommendation: Let us know as early as possible the exact location you want us to fly – we’ll check it out and work to get authorizations if needed.
For any outdoor photo shoot or drone flight, the weather is an important factor. We can’t fly in rain, fog, or high winds. And depending on what we’re shooting, it may be best to fly in the morning or afternoon. Flying around mid-day may mean the drone’s shadow is in the shot, which we want to avoid. And then there’s solar weather – if the sun is having strong geomagnetic activity, it may affect GPS satellites and the drone’s performance. Recommendation: Have a 2nd and 3rd option for the date you want us to fly if at all possible.
Insurance is one of those things that you don’t want to use, but need to have. We carry $1 million in liability insurance that is specific to drone operations. Recommendation: If you require a higher amount or specific type of liability insurance from us, let us know as early as possible.
As a condition of our FAA certification and liability insurance, we are required to adhere to certain guidelines and restrictions with drone flights. A few of these include:
- Can’t fly over 400 feet above ground level*
- Can’t fly over people not involved in the operation
- Can only fly during daylight hours*
- Can’t fly near larger airports without authorization
* – There are exceptions to these. Recommendation: Give us as many details as possible about your needs and we’ll try to find a way to legally accommodate.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to fly a drone indoors. It’s a bit more difficult, but with careful planning, it can often result in dramatic videos. Recommendation: If you have a manufacturing facility, stable, outdoor structure, or large house, consider drone photos or videos from indoors as well.
For many situations, there are potential workarounds (all safe and legal). As one example, although we can’t fly directly above people, we can fly nearby and point the camera at the people. Recommendation: Let us know your vision; we’ll get creative and work with you to come up with safe and legal ways to shoot unique and dramatic photos and videos from a drone’s perspective.
Contact us. We’ll work with you to determine the best way to get you great drone videos and photos.