Drones are Hot (But You Gotta Know the Rules!)

If you’re like many of our clients, you’ve seen lots of aerial footage in videos lately and thought “I want that in my next video too!

It’s true, drones are hot. Hot to trot. The perspective, the angles, the agility… and they’re super fun to play with and to see in action. It’s astonishing what you can now do affordably with a drone that, in the past, would have been accomplished with a manned helicopter, cranes, jibs, massive dolly tracks, or rigged production vehicles.

Drones are so hot, in fact, that it’s easier than ever to walk outside your door and find a guy with a controller in his hand, gazing up into the sky.  Go ahead… just ask a guy you know if he knows a guy, and I’m sure that guy would then tell you he has a guy. Perfect! Well… maybe.

As it turns out, there are plenty of hobbyists who have an astute eye for composition and light, who are fantastic pilots who can capture breathtaking imagery. Additionally, there are many licensed drone pilots who can legally fly, but aren’t directors of photography, so while your footage will be legally obtained, it might not be what you’re looking for.

As you might be aware, there are different regulations that apply to drone operators, based on whether they’re flying for fun, or they’re flying for commercial use (getting paid for it).  And because of the predicament above, there are many talented hobbyists who are approached to do commercial work and occasionally cross over. (That might even be the guy you know!)

If you’ve just gotta have aerial footage in your project (we get it– it’s breathtaking!) and using a drone is the best way to accomplish it, (which it probably is), it’s very important that the operator you hire is crystal clear on the rules put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). And the rules tend to change frequently as drone use becomes more prevalent.

The big takeaway here, is that you should be looking to hire a commercial drone operator who:

• has registered his or her drone with the FAA
• has his or her Remote Pilot Certificate with a sUAS rating
(known commonly as “Part 107”)

The first is the most critical and recent development, as reported by PC Magazine back in July 2017:

“If a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register… The court ruled that the FAA’s drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft — in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly.”

That’s a big deal, because it really takes a layer of accountability off the table for recreational flyers, should their drone cause an accident. The commercial guidelines are tighter because the flight patterns are often more demanding and potentially hazardous to the public, private property, or they need to be balanced with other commercial aviation professionals who are operating in the same airspace.

When you’re considering aerial for your next production, we encourage you to do your due diligence to learn about current aerial regulations and ask the right questions of your prospective drone operator to make sure they are certified to fly for commercial use. It will ultimately affect the way you approach budgeting, production, and maybe even your initial art direction.

If you’d like to incorporate aerial footage into your project, please drop us a line.  We’d love to hear about your video needs!

Find more information on current UAS regulations here: