Key considerations When Hiring a Drone Aerial Filming Company

Currently in the U.S. there are over three thousand FAA Section 333 approved drone service providers and many, many more rogue (unauthorized) operators. As word spreads throughout various industries that a legal (although cumbersome) option exists for limited commercial drone use, more and more companies are insisting on only using Section 333 authorized companies for their drone aerial filming needs. Here are a few reasons why:

In general, well established businesses don’t want to risk getting into scrapes with the Federal Government or having to deal with the negative publicity that often results when things go south. The media continues to sensationalize anything negative associated with drone use, no matter how trivial it might actually be. Larger companies also don’t want to risk having an entire production shut down unexpectedly by the FAA. Using only an FAA authorized provider is also preferred for liability reasons.

A down side of using a Section 333 provider is more planning is required, which can result in significant delays in a production schedule in some cases. A perfect example of this is the requirement to obtain a written letter of agreement from airport management when flying within controlled airspace. As a matter of fact, at this point in time it is just about impossible to get such approval flying near any of the 12 largest Class B airports in the country. This might sound like an infrequent issue until you look at an aviation sectional chart or Airmap.io (a great resource). Every moderately populated part of the country is densely littered with airports and heliports.

In our part of the country, over 50% of our business inquiries want to shoot within 5 miles of an airport. The main reason for this is many desirable filming locations (and subjects) are situated within population centers, and consequently, near airports. At times we have had airports provide written approval in less than 24 hours. In other instances, like in Frankfort Kentucky for example, a drone shoot had to be canceled because the approval was going to take over a month to obtain, once the airport’s board and legal departments got involved.

There is also another compelling reason to only use an FAA authorized drone company. There is considerable time and expense associated in becoming authorized. Companies willing to put forth this effort are almost always committed professionals. Consider that less than 1% of the U.S. population are certificated pilots. To become a pilot requires intelligence, dedication, good decision making skills and hard work. These same exact qualities are what most people want in a company they are going to do business with.

With these thoughts in mind, here is a list of the top 10 things clients want from a professional drone aerial cinematography company, based on our 11 years in this business:

  1. Drone pilots who can get technically difficult shots without putting the cast/crew at undue risk.
  2. A company that brings at least 2 of everything and is also good at improvisation.
  3. A company that’s flexible and doesn’t slip in extra charges for minor gear changes.
  4. Drone Pilots who have the flying skills/gear to get epic, attention grabbing shots, above and beyond the same basic moves the everyone else is doing, even in less than perfect conditions.
  5. A crew that are not only drone experts but camera/video production experts as well.
  6. The ability to move from location to location and deploy in only a few minutes.
  7. A company that is adept at dealing with the public and law enforcement concerns.
  8. A company that is equipped with latest cutting edge drone/camera technology that is currently evolving very rapidly.
  9. A company that can meet the current Section 333 exemption rules and still get viable results.
  10. A company that doesn’t oversell it’s capabilities.

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