This is our chance to answer some of your more commonly asked questions. If you can think of something which we haven’t answered, please do let us know.
Do you need a license for the drone?
The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) assesses every commercial drone operator through their NQE license scheme, before issuing a license to conduct commercial aerial work. The NQE training course provides the drone operator with the necessary skills to be able to conduct this type of work in a safe and controlled manner. The drone is not a toy and has to integrate with manned aviation. Part of the license requirement is to produce an Operations Manual, which details how you will conduct your work. The Operations Manual has to be approved by the CAA before a license is issued. The operations manual details our risk assessments and how we will plan our flights to ensure safe operations.
Do you need insurance?
Yes, it is a legal requirement and we are covered up to £10 million public liability insurance. We also have an additional £50,000 cover to carry our client cameras.
Are drones safe?
We take every precaution necessary to ensure any risk is at an acceptable level before we start. This includes:
- Pre-site survey – To ensure we can safely fly at your location and there are no hazards that will cause us concern. This consists of checking aviation charts for airspace, NOTAMS (Notice To Air Men) to see if any manned aviation activities are taking place in the area, Google earth, local press in case of any events nearby, weather and weather warnings.
- On-site survey – This is conducted on the day; if we have identified anything in the pre-site survey that causes us concern we will make a prior on-site assessment. This will back up our pre-site survey findings.
- Safety checks – We carry out before flight operations, and after flight operations to satisfy ourselves the drone is capable of undertaking any flight in a safe manner.
- Fail safes – The drone is fitted with several fail safe systems. In the event of a radio transmitter failure the drone will land itself at its take off point. If the drone has more than 6 motors, in the event that a motor should fail we are still able to control the drone and land it. We can initiate the fail safes at any time to return the drone to its landing area.
- Emergency procedures – We regularly practice our emergency procedures. To ensure we are calm and under control in the event of a system failure. Our drones which have 6 or more motors will still fly in the event of a motor or propeller failure.
- Safety in general – We will never fly if it is not safe to do so. We will never compromise the safety of others to get the imagery.
- Air Space – Although it looks like there is lots of places that have controlled airspace, most of the time all it takes is a phone call for permission to fly in some of these areas.
Can you fly anywhere?
The CAA imposes strict rules to ensure public safety, we are bound by these rules under our license conditions. This Permission is granted subject to the following conditions, namely, that the said aircraft shall not be flown:
- Above or below height of 400 feet from the operator.
- Over or within 50 metres of persons, structure or vessel not under our control. (30 meters during take-off and landing)
- Over or within 150 metres of an open air assembly of more than 1000 persons.
Key point in the approvals is the statement is “Under our Control”. Although these rules may seem restrictive we can fly closer to people and property if they are under our control in accordance with our operating procedures. We will also require approval from the landowner for the take-off and landing site(s). These are our standard permissions but these can be negotiated with CAA with the appropriate risk assessments. For large events we can apply to the CAA for extra permission or exemption, based on a thorough risk assessment and site survey. This takes time and would require plenty of notice and planning.
How long does it take to setup the drone?
The first setup of the day takes the longest as we have to unpack the drone, undertake a safety check to ensure that nothing was damaged in transit, load the batteries, calibrate the GPS and Compass electronics and acclimatise the sensors. This initial setup takes around 15-20 minutes with subsequent battery changes only taking around 10 minutes. If we do move more than 40 miles between locations, then we do have to do a full check and re-calibrate the drone again.
How long can the drone fly for?
The flight times vary depending on the drone being used, the weight of the camera, air temperature and altitude. Normally our drones will fly for up to 15 minutes on each set of batteries. We have several sets of batteries and can also charge them on the day. Normally we find that images are obtained best at certain times of day in certain light, therefore multiple flights may be required at different times of the day to get the imagery required.
How long after landing before the drone can fly again?
After each flight, we have to remove the used batteries, check and load new batteries and re-initialise the drone. This entire process takes around 10 minutes.
What cameras and accessories can you carry?
We have a selection of in house cameras and can also hire-in cameras from our partner companies. Our own cameras include the ARRI Alexa Mini, Sony FS5, Panasonic GH4 and DJI X5. We can also hire-in Red Carbon Dragon, Black Magic range, Canon C range and many others. Our in-house camera of choice is currently the ARRI Alexa Mini and Panasonic GH4 depending upon situations.
Can the camera be controlled from the ground?
Yes, the camera / gimbal operator can orientate the camera in virtually any direction. Depending upon the camera setup, we can also control other features such as start stop recording, focus, iris, zoom and other camera settings. Please ask for more details if this is crucial to your shoot.
How stable is the imagery?
All our drones use the industry leading MoVI M15, M10, M5 and Zenmuse gimbals offering the best possible image stabilisation.
How long is your working day?
Our working day is generally 8 hours on location and a further 2-4 hours maintaining the drones and charging the batteries for the following day. We are happy to extend our on location hours to 10 hours or more, but this must be arranged in advanced and may incur an additional charge.
Can you fly in bad weather?
We can’t normally fly in rain, as rain does not mix well with our equipment especially the camera; any water on the camera lens will spoil any imagery.
The maximum wind speed we can fly in is approx. 25kts, anything more is beyond the drones safe working limits.
We can also offer a weather day which is an additional day(s) at reduced cost. We will firmly reserve the day for you and only charge you a full day rate if the drone is unpacked and flown.
What information do you need to provide a quote or plan a flight?
Before you go too far in your planning stages, contact us first. You may be in a geographical area where it may not be possible to provide our service. We will need some basic details of your requirements so we can carry out an initial survey to see the suitability of your requirement.
- Location where the work is required.
- Proposed date and time.
- Details of your requirements
With this information, we will be able to work out if we could deploy the drone, or if we would need to seek additional permissions. We will let you know if your requirement is acceptable so you can continue to fine tune your plans.