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Recently, a hot topic in the photography and videography space is the use of drones. While the more widespread accessibility of drones has allowed people to capture footage that wasn’t otherwise available to the regular citizen who didn’t own a helicopter or plane. But as with many new technologies, there are debates around regulation and safety.

I asked our resident photographer and videographer, Rachel Cohen, for her take on the subject. Take a look!

What are the big issues that people are talking about?

3 big things that people are talking about when it comes to using drone photography are:

  1. Whether a drone is being used for commercial vs non-commercial purposes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does have pretty clear guidelines about what falls into each category. For example Amazon’s delivery drones are clearly commercial and a regular person who buys a drone online to play around with is non-commercial. However, there are some gray areas, like say someone bought a drone just as a fancy toy, but then decides to use it to take pictures or video for their business. Is that commercial or non-commercial. Situations like that are more squishy because they don’t fix neatly into either category.
  2. Federal regulations have been back and forth about whether drones used for non-commercial purposes have to be registered. The current status is  that non-commercial drones don’t need to be registered anymore. Many people, including drone manufacturers, aren’t too happy about this change in policy.
  3. There is some debate if  people who are using drones for non-commercial endeavors should have to take any type of training or certification for flying them.  Flying a drone can be tricky, and there having been a lot of accidents caused by people who didn’t know how to properly pilot their drone. 

Rachel, what is your personal opinion?

I think that if someone is using a drone for commercial purposes yes, they should certainly have to register it. And even if they are using it for non-commercial purposes they should have to register it. Particularly if it is being flown in a more populated area where it could become an issue of invading people’s privacy.

I also think that there should be some type of training or certification for people who are going to fly a non-commercial drone because if you don’t know what you’re doing they can be quite dangerous. I’m not sure what that certification would look like. Maybe it would be from the drone manufacturers, where you would have to take an online course you get a login code that you would need to get your drone up and running.

What advice do you have for people thinking of using a drone for photo/video project?

  1. Check the rules in your city.
    Before you send your drone up to start shooting footage, check to see if your city has any rules and regulations concerning drone use, such as where they can fly and what they can capture on film.
  2. Get proper permissions.
    As with any photos or videos that you are intending to distribute. Make sure that you have permission from the people that you have on film. Or if your footage is of buildings, get permission from the building owner. And as I mentioned before, depending on your city’s rules concerning drone use; you might have to get a permit from the city as well.
  3. Be safe!
    Before you start doing anything, it’s crucial that you know how to fly the drone SAFELY. Especially if you are going to be flying it anywhere near people, it’s not as easy as it looks. And you don’t end up with an incident like this or any of these.

As you can see, using a drone to capture photos or video footage can be a rather complex endeavor, as can be the case with many photo or video projects. If you have one of these projects that you could use a hand with, we can help!