Drone Services Are More Accessible Than Ever. What's Next?

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

By Alicia East, Crew Connection

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are taking over the skies. They’re being used for everything from “reality capture” (as detailed for businesses to sheer enjoyment by hobbyists. As regulations become clearer and equipment grows increasingly affordable and user-friendly, the production industry is taking up its fair share of the sky, too. More video crews than ever are certified to fly small UAVs for commercial purposes. For more on what this means for both production crews and clients looking to hire drone services, we talked to Ryan Goble, Senior DP and FAA-certified drone pilot at Running Pony. 

On regulations:

In years past, just as the rise of UAVs made aerial shots more accessible, strict Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules on commercial operation kept drone services frustratingly out of reach. Some crews operated in the gray areas or even outside of the law. Others either sat it out or practiced as hobbyists while they waited for the FAA to iron out details. According to Goble, the most recent regulations simplify the whole thing “as long as you have an FAA certification, are flying under 400 feet, and are in open, .

That’s good news for anyone looking to offer or hire drone services, but it’s still important to stay in compliance and keep abreast of new regulations. A drone operator who isn’t FAA-certified puts a client at risk of exposure to legal liabilities.

While federal regulations have relaxed, it’s good to note that localities are still trying to navigate drone regulation. In Memphis, where Running Pony is based, for example, it costs a whole lot more to get a film permit when aerial photography is involved, due to increased insurance requirements. Goble says, “The drone industry is still new and sometimes local governments don’t understand what’s involved.” Running Pony’s approach is to try to be a part of the process by working with the city to come up with something reasonable.

On safety:

In the eyes of the FAA, the minute you send a UAV into the air, you’re officially an aviator just like the Wright brothers and Amelia Earhart before you. That’s a big responsibility. It’s one the FAA takes seriously, just as anyone who puts an aircraft into the sky should.

Goble says, “Now that regulations have simplified and the ability to get into the industry is easier, the biggest focus needs to be on safety. It’s each vehicle operator’s responsibility to stay out of each other’s way and according to the law, a helicopter doesn’t have priority over a drone.”

“From our standpoint,” Goble says, “they do have priority. Just because there aren’t regulations saying you can’t do something doesn’t mean you should. Making sure you’re not infringing on other people’s safety is the biggest responsibility for a company doing this kind of work.”

Among Goble’s top concerns are other businesses using airspace, especially hospitals. Flight for life operations are basically grounded if their flight crews even see a drone. “We communicate with them and make sure we’re letting them do what they need to do since they’re saving lives and we’re just trying to capture beautiful footage,” Goble says. 

On what makes drone photography stand out from the crowd: 

There’s not one aircraft or camera that accomplishes everything. Those who make drone services a central part of their business likely have multiple vehicles for different purposes. Goble says, “We have a Cinestar heavy lift that will fly a RED or other bigger camera and then smaller UAVs that can carry smaller cameras if we need to move them quickly or are working in close quarters. Smaller UAVs are a little safer to get around actors on set.”

UAVs offer a perspective you can’t get any other way. Goble says you can do even more with a UAV than you can do with a helicopter because you can get closer with a drone. This technology allows you to get the look you would with a helicopter, but also what you can get on a dolly or a jib—sometimes all in the same shot. “The creative opportunities you get from that are so exciting,” Goble says. He believes the most effective shots are those that surprise the audience. “I like shots that make the viewer think they’ve seen it before and then you change it and all of a sudden, it completely turns into something they didn’t expect.”

Looking to hire drone services?

When you’re sending big, expensive equipment into the air, the stakes are high. With a drone shoot, “It’s either a success or it’s not. If you clip a tree or a wire, there are no small fails. If the shoot goes wrong, it’s in a catastrophic way.” That’s the kind of thing you want true professionals managing. So how do you know you’ve found someone reputable?

Goble says that the best companies will have their certification and insurance in line. They’ll also have a standard protocol for how they do things and a checklist they complete before going airborne. They will have walked the route they’re going to fly and they simply “will NOT fly over people who aren’t a part of the shoot.” They’ll also make sure they’re in contact with other air traffic and doing everything they need to do to make it safe for the people and equipment.

Now that production companies all over the world offer aerial footage as a regular service, you won’t have to dig as deep into your contacts or your pockets to find crews who can provide all the coverage you want. It’s as easy as a few clicks on Crew Connection’s custom international database of video and post production crews and services.

When you create a profile, you can search video crews anywhere in the world and narrow your results by gear and services, such as drone crews. No matter how big the crew, how complicated the gear, or how far-flung the locale — Crew Connection has what you need in just a few clicks.

About Running Pony

Running Pony has 4 FAA-certified drone pilots on staff, and also provides a wide range of other production and post production services. Founded in 1994, the company serves clients including major broadcast and cable networks, advertising and public relations firms, corporations, government agencies, local businesses and non-profits.

About Crew Connection

Crew Connection puts a world of video post production service providers at your fingertips. In just a few clicks you can search, chat with, and book vetted crews local to your shoot—all on your own schedule. Rely onCrew Connection’s team of media experts to organize the crews and gear you need for multi-day and multi-location video projects anywhere in the world. Our professional crew coordinators are on call around the clock if you ever need live assistance. Sign up onCrewConnection.com, call us at 303-526-4900, or shoot us an email at info@crewconnection.com.
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