Should we use a drone in our video? December 19, 2017

Once upon a time, flying a radio-controlled (RC) helicopter was hard. It’s why only a handful of hardened RC geeks tried it… including me. Today, flying a drone is significantly easier, so many unqualified people are taking to the skies without considering the consequences. 

Drones have picked up a bad reputation recently. If used irresponsibly, they can be a serious hazard to the general public and other air traffic — as Marcel Hirscher nearly found out.  

 

 However, if used safely by a qualified and experienced crew, they can produce stunning cinematic results — once a privilege reserved for high-budget Hollywood blockbusters.

If you choose to use a drone in your videos, here’s a checklist of important things to remember:

  • Always use a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) qualified pilot. If you don’t, it’s against the law - even if one of your team does it with their own drone and doesn't receive any payment.
  • A capable pilot is important, but a great gimbal operator is also crucial. An experienced flight crew isn’t necessarily a good film unit!
  • Make sure the pilot/agency have prepared all the paperwork; that will include insurance and flight plans. As we found out, you never know who will turn up.

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Big Button team ‘filmed by drone’, joined by armed Police officers

  • Be prepared for bad weather. A drone won’t fly in heavy rain or strong winds. Larger drones will cope better but talk to your pilot/agency about a contingency plan.
  • Control the area. Your pilot will have certain restrictions; for example, most need a controlled perimeter of 50 metres around the flight zone, and you will need to control all people and vehicles in that area.
  • Drones are noisy, so don’t plan to capture dialogue with a quadcopter too close, unless it’s being dubbed later in post-production.
  • Don’t fly over 400ft without special permission from the CAA.
  • Avoid no-fly zones, including stadia and airports.
  • Be creative! Drones provide the opportunity for unique footage that even helicopters can’t capture. They're extremely nimble, and their size and stability mean you can execute some very special moves.

For more information, the Civil Aviation Authority has plenty of resources, including a directory of licensed pilots — particularly useful when choosing someone to capture spectacular footage for your next video.

Simon Crofts
Client Services Director

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