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FAQ: Licensed Drone Piloting for Video

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

It's a bird! It's a plane! Nope, it's a drone!

Drone video footage has become a powerful marketing tool for many businesses. Few, if any, mediums are more engaging than video. We already know that people are far more likely to watch video than read content. Add to that a dramatic bird's eye view, and you're virtually guaranteed to capture viewers' attention. Aside from their inherent visual appeal, drone video has many advantages, including cost-effectiveness and versatility. Drone video footage can be used on your website, social media channels, in digital ads, tv commercials, and more.

Realtors were early adopters of drone video for marketing for good reason. Whether it's commercial or residential property, drone video gives potential buyers an excellent perspective of properties that they could never get from the ground. Construction, manufacturing, roofing, and landscaping companies also use drone footage to effectively market not only products and services, but their work processes and safety procedures.

Drone video isn't just for marketing either. It's an excellent training tool for many industries, especially those with compliance and safety concerns, as well. At NorthCoast, we've shot drone video for everything from lighthouses to museums. The sky is literally the limit for what we can do with drones!

Here are some frequently asked questions we get regarding our drone capabilities:

Q: Can we shoot drone video?

A: Yes, we have licensed commercial drone pilots.

Q: We need a video that is close to an airport, can you fly there?

A: It depends on the airspace. In general, the closer you are to an airport, landing strip, or path of a landing strip where incoming and outgoing air traffic is high, the less likely we will be able to fly there without a waiver. A waiver that may take up to 90 days for approval.

Airspace around an airport is a big circle. Think of it as a target, rings of circles and a bullseye in the middle. The bullseye in the middle of the target is the airport and landing strip. That is a no fly zone. You can not fly in this area without proper clearance and a waiver from the FAA, and Airport Traffic Control (ATC). This type of clearance can take up to 90 days for approval if approved at all. As we go away from the center of the circle, we are still in controlled airspace but we are able to fly there with permission and clearance from the FAA. This clearance will typically come with height restrictions. It is much easier to get permission in these areas. In most cases, we can get that clearance the same day we request it.

The FAA created a great drone flight map (see below) for each airport with controlled airspace to help with safety and communication between remote pilots and ACT. It is broken up into a grid system. The numbers in the grid are height restrictions for that airspace, in feet. The '0' means you can fly '0' feet, which makes sense because this is the airport and landing strip area which is a no fly zone. If you see 200, then you may fly in this area with a max height of 200 feet. Permission is still required before take-off.

Q: Can you fly indoors?

A: The easy answer is, yes, we can fly indoors, but only at the discretion and approval of the remote pilot in command (PIC).

Flying indoors can be challenging. Obstacles and hardards are more prevalent and at times the GPS on the drone will not work indoors which may make the drone's actions unpredictable. So before an indoor flight we would do a site check of the proposed area and perhaps a short start-up and test flight with the drone before determining we can perform a safe successful flight.

Q: Can you fly over people?

A: No, you can not fly directly over people, unless they are involved with the drone operation itself. This means, crew members of the drone operation only.

We are able to fly in most public places and we can fly where there are people and crowds but we can NOT fly over any people or nonparticipants of the drone operation. If there is an event that has a large gathering of people we would be able to capture video of the event from a safe distance. This does not include stadiums or large events that have drone restrictions in place by federal or local authorities.

Here's the description from the FAA:

§ 107.39 Operation over human beings.

No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft over a human being unless that human being is:

(a) Directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or

(b) Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.

Q: Can you fly at night?

A: Yes, but requirements state that you must have lights on the drone that can be seen from three miles away. Also, we always provide a site check during daylight for power lines or other safety hazards.

Q: It looks like it's going to rain. Can you still fly?

A: Unfortunately, no, we can not fly in the rain. Most drones are not waterproof; bad weather involving rain, snowfall or even high humidity can ruin a drone. If water gets in the drone it can cause a short circuit in the electrical components. This makes it impractical and unsafe to attempt any flights in these conditions.

Another important condition to consider is WIND. The truth is, like airplanes, drones work best in pristine weather. Sunny skies, warm temperatures and minimal winds are a remote pilot's best friend. Flying in light and mild winds at 10-15 mph is something we can do safely. When we go beyond the 15 mph wind speed it gets to be more than the drone can handle and will make the drone battle for position while it uses its GPS system to hold its course. High winds become difficult to navigate and can make the video look shaky.

Q: You can only fly up to 400 feet but I want video over a building that is 700 feet? Can you do that?

A: Absolutely! Drone pilots are allowed to fly 400 feet above the top of the tallest structure within a 50 foot radius of their operation. So if we needed to get video of a building that is 700 feet, we could fly 400 feet above that structure for a total of 1,100 feet.

Drone regulations are constantly changing. Sign up for our blog for the latest news and trends. If you have any questions about using drones to gather video footage, ask our pilot, who's also a cinematographer!


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