Opening shot: a grand vista of a sleepy little town. With stars and city lights twinkling, the camera moves towards one little house. Still moving closer, we see a young lady who lives in the upper bedroom, gazing at the stars from her window. The story moves the audience from a big world down to hers in one simple, expensive move.
Shots like this commanded large budgets 10 years ago. Helicopters, camera crews, and all the coordination just add up. This is no longer the case: enter stage right, the drone.
These little flying fortresses (forgive me) aerial game changers. For less than the cost of a catered lunch, you can launch a camera, a GOOD camera, into the air and get a beautiful shot. Okay, I am oversimplifying a little. There is more involved, but it is more than possible for you to get dynamite footage from the air.
Okay, cute. I can get a photo of my dog from 150ft. Is that all?
Nope! Time to explore the horizons. ZOOOM!
UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) have been around for a while now. The technology simultaneously grew inside engineering labs as well as the garages of massively-obsessed hobbyists. The end result is a camera-wielding aircraft you can pick up off the shelf of your favorite big box store and immediately go make cinema magic start learning to fly with training and practice.
The real opportunity in the drone world is its reliability and accessibility. A new force of pilots is rising up. These unique aviators combine flying skills with knowledge of specific industries. Now, a drone operator shows up with a kit, an FAA certification and passion for your project. She will create a cinematic masterpiece out of that lovely real estate property, analyze acres of crops or follow your top cycling athlete down a deserted highway for some major BOOM in your story. In fact, several industries already benefit from aerial video and photography – like real estate, agriculture, industrial search and rescue, and, of course, cinematic video productions. So much possibility and yet, one word of caution…it needs to be done right. Remember: Safety first…
Drone Laws and Safety
While anyone with a credit card can order a DJI Phantom off of Amazon, to do so commercially, and safely, required steps need to be taken. If you or your pilot don’t do these, it can mean some serious ramifications:
FAA: Drone police
The FAA has been wrestling with the “UAV problem”. Currently, their regulation approach is pilot certification. This means, to operate a UAV for any commercial purpose, a pilot must pass an exam to receive the “Part 107” certification. The test covers air traffic near airports, weather patterns, and reports. They also focus on best practices in small UAV operation and maintenance. The knowledge makes for a better pilot with a sound operational understanding.
If you hire a drone pilot, it is critical that they have ‘license to drone’. If not, serious fines could be part of your future.
While the recent wave of drones put in thousands of hours of fail-free flying time, accidents just happen. Having a financial safety net is important. Liability insurance gives you and the pilot the peace of mind that the worst case scenario is covered. Since most video/film productions must carry insurance anyway, they can often expand it to aerial operations. If not, many companies offer insurance products specifically for UAV applications and some will even provide it on an individual project basis like Verifly. It’s very available and just smart to have it.
Public and personal privacy is currently the hotbed topic for UAVs. Many fear the possible misuse of ‘flying cameras’. It is an area that the FAA and local authorities struggle with because of the lack of precedence. If this is a concern of yours, make sure you work with a professional pilot. Someone who knows the laws, the zoning of the potential flight paths and has a sensitivity to the problem. We need to keep level heads and realize the technology is not the bad guy, it is the intention of its use.
Enough of the boring stuff. Let’s get flying!
Which drone should you buy?
Here is a quick list of options to get started with.
It’s a brave new world
Is Aerial imagery an exciting new area?
And it is only getting started. Having the aerial perspective in the toolbox allows another means of telling your story in the ways that will provide the most impact.
This article is a kickoff for a series on drone tech and its roles in different industries. Next up! Creating cinematic video of a commercial property that looks like a million bucks…just like the home!