What You Need To Expect From A Drone Shoot

  • Urban Samurai Creative

Tips by Urban Samurai Creative

Drones have certainly made a splash in the short decade that they’ve become commercially viable.

They’ve expanded the horizon of video capture, especially for smaller-budget documentary and commercial/corporate projects. Aerial footage that once required hugely expensive helicopter gimbals and other bulky alternatives can now be achieved by a two-person crew and a small kit at a fraction of the cost. Perhaps it’s because of their convenience and quick pickup time that many people seem to forget: drones are not toys or gimmicks. Drones are as much a tool as a wrench, a camera, or a car, and when it comes to hiring a drone crew for your upcoming project, it’s important to consider that there are guidelines and standards of operation just like any other kind of special equipment or production vehicle.

While it may seem like “the sky’s the limit” when it comes to drone capture, the FAA would say otherwise. Once you decide you want to include drone footage in your project, the first thing you should fully consider is the content you are hoping to achieve. Contrary to popular belief, there are very few times you can actually fly on a whim. Drone flight for commercial use is highly regulated, and violations of restricted airspace/Rules-of-the-Sky can incur heavy fines on the production and drone pilot (up to $100,000). A key step to a drone shoot is to make a detailed plan of the subjects you wish to capture in your footage and review what restrictions may be in place with your pilot.

For example: at Urban Samurai Creative (being based in the Bay Area) we get asked a lot for footage of companies located in San Jose and its scenic downtown. However, due to the close vicinity of the city’s international airport — specifically within five miles away — much of the airspace above downtown is FAA restricted, as represented by the “0’s” on the airspace map below:

Strict regulations like this can kill an idea for a drone shoot flat, so it’s important to be mindful of the kind of airspace restrictions you may encounter on account of your desired footage. That’s not to say these regulations are final, as many restrictions can be waived with the FAA (including airspace violations and restricted activities), but be sure to allow ample time before your scheduled drone shoot to research any violations, communicate your intentions with the FAA, and allow your flight waivers to process. You can find specific information on all these restrictions on the FAA website and their partnered “B4UFLY” mobile app.

Another key step in assembling your drone footage is choosing your pilot. Yes, there are drone types out there that even a child could pick up and fly with relative ease, but flying a quality camera drone requires a trained professional with an understanding of legal flying limits if you want to achieve the strongest footage possible. The best pilots come with the necessary FAA remote flight certification and insurance for drone-specific liability, along with the experience to advise on FAA restrictions and how to effectively achieve the vision you are going for. The best pilots also come packaged with a spotter (and an assistant depending on size of the drone) to keep in accordance with FAA line-of-sight rules and ensure an efficient shoot, so be wary of one-man operations. Typically, a two-person drone crew will cost you $1,000 to $2,000 per day depending on their level of experience. As always, though, the experience will beget quality.

While camera drones’ convenience has taken the video industry by storm, it’s important to remember that they still require their due diligence for a successful shoot. With that said, if you are interested in more consulting on drone shoots, or if you are interested in hiring a drone crew for your upcoming project, be sure to reach out through our website. We have years of experience using drones, all the required certifications and insurance, and professional remote pilots ready to execute your vision. You can find more at UrbanSamuraiCreative.com!

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