March 23, 2017

Dangers of Drone Filming

Dangers of Drone Filming

Video footage via drones is growing in popularity. Shots that would otherwise be impossible can now easily and affordably can be captured. Drones therefore are a great resource for marketers and videographers to add to their took toolbox. 

But filming with drones does not come without risks. I’ll share a recent experience that highlights some of the potential dangers. We had a client who needed some drone footage for an upcoming event. Due to timing there was only a one day window available for filming. The morning of the shoot the crew awoke and winds were blowing mildly with some larger gusts. Because there was no time available to postpone the flight we decided to take the crew to the site to see if flying was possible. Again, winds were light but gusty so we decided to do an initial test flight. . . and that’s when things got crazy!

We were filming near many power lines which produced strong EMF interference. This interference impacted both the controllers connection to the drone and the GPS signal. Normally if a connection is lost, GPS will enable the drone to hover until a connection is reestablished. In this situation, the GPS was also being interfered with and just as the connection was being reestablished gusts of wind would flare up and push the drone causing loss of contact again. And to make matters worse, very close to our flight areas was highly sensitive, critical infrastructure that could be damaged if the drone impacted it. The good news is that we got the drone down safely. And to be extra safe we aborted the shoot for that day.

The key takeaway from this experience is that while drones can produce great footage, a number of things need to be considered when planning a drone shoot:

  1. Hire a certified drone pilot: There are a number of different certifications from the FAA that a drone pilot must have depending on the situation and the environment you’ll be filming in. Make sure you are aware of the requirements and hire an experienced pilot with the right certifications.
  2. File a flight plan with the FAA if needed: To fly in certain areas (such as near airports) or other sensitive areas you’ll need to file a flight plan and get approval in order to fly. If you fail to take this step you’ll likely get shut down and the entire crew will have to go home. 
  3. Not all drones are made the same: As you know there are many types, models and manufacturers of drones. Some may think that all drones are alike. The fact is that higher end drones have stronger receivers and more advanced safety features. This is particularly important when flying in difficult conditions, when interference may exist, weather conditions aren’t perfect and when crowds are present.
  4. Safety first: we often have time constraints and we always have pressure to “get the shot” but it’s always best to follow the old adage of “safety first”. If conditions are bad, if your drone pilot didn’t bring the right equipment or if you’re uncomfortable in any way, it’s always best to cancel the shoot and film another day. 

Again, drones can capture incredible footage and can add that extra special factor to your videos, but when planning any drone shoot the above pointers will help you get going in the right direction.

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