In 2017 drones are a part of our everyday life. The news is full of stories ranging from the military’s use of drones overseas & over protective fathers blowing them out of the sky with a shotgun. With their increasing capabilities, ease of use, and falling cost we see them all over the place. Check the video out below to see how Intel is using swarms of drones to redefine light shows such as in the 2017 Super Bowl Halftime show. We are frequently asked whether we have a drone and what benefits a drone could bring to our photography. No, I do not have a drone and here are the 4 main reasons why we have not added a drone to our standard equipment.
1. The Federal Aviation Administration
First, let’s define the term “drone.” It is a term that is thrown around loosely, but most people associate “drone” with quadcopters. They are really Unmanned Aircraft Systems as defined by the FAA. For the purposes of this article drone = UAS.
That’s right, the federal government has begun regulating the flight of all drones weighing more than 8.8 ounces. In fact, you must do the following in order to fly one for commercial purposes:
· Pass TSA vetting
· Must acquire a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate
· Requires class time & passing an aeronautical knowledge test
· Each UAV over 8.8 ounces must be registered
· Any crash resulting in damages exceeding $500 must be filed with the FAA and may be subject to investigation
There are many more rules that govern the actual flight of the aircraft and can be found here. For brevity, these rules place the pilot under VLOS (Visual Line-of-Sight) rules meaning that the vehicle must be observable by the pilot with no device other than corrective lenses. The drones use is further limited to flights under 400 feet AGL (Above Ground Level), daylight only operations, & flights may not be conducted over people.
Though we do not feel these rules to be excessively limiting they do create additional complexity within the bounds of a typical project.
Safety is a huge concern of ours. We do not want anyone to get hurt or their property damaged. We work on multi-million dollar projects with clients & the occasional worker helping around the location. The last thing we want is for something to happen with the drone and for it to crash into the building or worse hit someone. Yes, we sound like Chicken Little, but a 20+ pound metal object with rapidly spinning blades falling from the sky is nothing to take lightly. Which leads to the next point…
Anyone in business knows how important it is to have comprehensive insurance coverage. In January our insurance sent out a memo stating the changes enacted by adding a drone to our coverage:
· Yearly premiums triple
· The deductible increases by a factor of 5
· The policy would no longer cover bodily injury coverage (injury to someone)
· The policy would no longer cover property damage coverage (injury to something)
The purpose of insurance is to cover the big stuff, like a drone losing signal and crashing into something. This would no longer cover large losses, however rare they may be, that could potentially leave our family liable. That is a risk we are not willing to take.
4. Limited Practicality in Our Operation
Above we mentioned safety and regulatory reasons that helped confirm our decision not to provide drone based services. The other side of the decision was the fact that only a few clients have asked about drone photography. (Most of the people who ask us about drone photography are random people we meet). 98% of our work is shot with the camera firmly locked on a tripod. Any architectural elevated views are usually taken from a scissor lift or from the top of a neighboring building. A drone would not drastically increase revenue so it makes little sense to add one to our standard equipment.
The future of drone photography for us is uncertain. If drone services become a deciding factor for our clients then we will rethink their risks vs. rewards. Right now, there is no business case for adding a drone to our arsenal. There is no doubt that drone based photography can be used to create stunning work, but our client’s safety, the safety of their property, and our own safety are paramount. Though we don’t do aerial photography our ground based photography is world class! Check out our portfolio and contact us here to book your latest project!
As always, this article is for information purposes only. This is not legal advice. We are not lawyers and we do not work for the FAA.