Last week we hand-picked 5 short films which all used drones in unique and creative ways to push the limits of drone filmmaking (and we’re still trying to work out how some of them were pulled off to be honest) But while drones are becoming that much more impressive and useful as a tool for storytelling for professionals and consumers alike; the process between coming up with an idea and nailing that final take with the drone is often forgotten about. For commercial use, filming with drones is not quite as simple as pressing record and letting the little propellers do their thing. So we wanted to take a slightly more comprehensive look at exactly what goes into getting a drone up in the air for video shoots.
Permission To Fly
The first hurdle is actually getting permission to fly your drone. As easy as it can often look on Youtube, theres a whole heap of things that could potentially go wrong when flying drones. This is where the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) comes in. Essentially they’re here to assess whether or not your drone might be a potential harm to folks on the ground - which is where drone pilot licenses come into the picture. A CAA recognised pilot training certificate acts as proof that you’re competent at operating a drone, so having one of these is essential if you're planning to shoot any commercial footage with a drone. As of July this year, you could face a fine of up to £1000 for failing to sit safety and competency tests for your drone.
Crowd Control To Major Drone
So you’ve been given the all clear to actually fly the drone - but now you need to make sure you’re not legally causing a threat to anyone on the ground. Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where drones and humans live together in harmony, but until then we’ve got to make sure our flying camera stays at a safe distance from any crowds. You could be fined for flying a drone anywhere within 50 metres of congested areas, without legal permission; which is less of a problem if you’re shooting in the open countryside, but becomes a little more inconvenient as you start to attempt shots closer to a city or more densely populated area..
To Infinity And Beyond...
... almost. We love E.T as much as the next guy, but if he was attempting to “go home” on a drone - He'd technically be an illegal alien. The specific laws are subject to change, but as it stands drones have to make sure they don’t go above 400ft from the operator, and must always be within view. It might sound like a lot on paper, but it might put you back to the drawing board for those sky-high sweeping takes - so it's important to know your area and heigh requirements before you go out to shoot.
If you were planning a shoot on the ground, in the traditional sense, you’d understandably be expected to get the permission of anyone appearing on camera to be shown in the final product. This doesn’t change when shooting with a drone - in fact, it can prove to be a difficult hurdle to overcome depending on the scale of your shoot. The same privacy and data legislation applies in the air as on the ground, so make sure you’ve got permission from anyone you’re filming (especially if you’re flying over private land).
An (Air)space Odyssey
One final thing you'll need to keep in mind when filming with a drone is where you're flying it. Like any other aircraft, a drone has to adhere to the laws of the sky - which, admittedly, does sound strange when said aloud. Without going into too many dull details of air travel and the specifics of fly zones; essentially any aircraft needs to stay within specified fly zones and paths, so as not to to collide or cause problems with other airspace inhabitants. In short: you don't want your drone to hit a plane. We all know who's winning that fight. But outside of that, there are various security measures in place around airports, or specific zones of air travel - so any drone pilot will need to make sure they're given the okay to fly where they want to fly. It can be a little tedious, but there are great tools out there to make sure you're aware of no fly zones in whatever country you're planning to shoot in. Whatever you're shooting, you do not want to be breaking those flight restriction laws..