Capturing Drone Footage: The Rules and Best Technique Tips

The first and foremost thing to consider about using drones to shoot video is being extremely considerate of airspace over private property. Videographers that utilize drones to obtain footage should notify neighbors surrounding a property of their intent and even go as far as at least making some poster board signs declaring what the drone is being used for. Drone video is great for real estate agents, wedding photography and other venues, but negative press of drones shooting aerial video are in the news practically every week.

Rules for Shooting Drone Video

Not following the Federal Aviation Administration’s rules for flying an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), commonly referred to today as drones, can get an operator in a lot of trouble. The technology has outpaced the old rules, but the old rules are still in effect. That FAA is scrambling to adapt guidelines to the new drone technologies on the market, but drone operators still need to be prudent and use wisdom. Drone destruction by property owners, fines from local or federal authorities and even imprisonment and civil liability for damage to property and injuries to people on the ground are possible.

  • Do not fly close to airports without express permission being obtained (get it in writing).
  • Stay clear of any government property including prisons and military bases.
  • Drone operators must maintain visual contact with their aircraft.
  • No flying over sports stadiums or fields to get game footage.
  • Apply for and obtain an FAA permit/certificate for any business or commercial use of drones.
  • Even though many drones can easily climb a mile high, obey the FAA altitude restriction of a maximum of 400 feet.

Drone Footage Capturing Tips

Get permission before flying over any commercial space. The golden hours of the day that give warm-toned light are just after sunrise and just before sunset. Plan to shoot video just before sunset for the best visual appeal. This avoids morning haze and fog. Print some aerial satellite photos of the property or area that will be captured on video to develop a flight plan. Write down every must-have shot. Estimate the time to capture footage to make sure enough drone battery power before a recharge is needed remains available. After capturing the must-have shots, shoot some B roll for filler.

Don’t Forget the Obvious:

  • Charge the battery.
  • Get a drone lock on the GPS position for auto return.
  • Clean the camera lens.
  • Check for overhead wires.
  • Complete the manufacturer recommended pre-flight checklist.
  • Complete a low altitude flight that includes takeoff, hovering and landing to test accelerometers and gyroscopic stability sensors.

Barring the unlikely banning of consumer use of drones by the federal government, it looks like drones are here to stay. They have plenty of good uses, but some operators do need a lesson in helping to convince the general public that they are not being spied on or at any great risk of injury when the rules are obeyed. Local regulations may become an issue for drone operators if the FAA does not establish updated UAS rules soon. Drone operators should follow good piloting common sense along with the general rules of street photography privacy and safety concerns.