10 Tips for Choosing a Drone Operator and Using UAVs
Drones have been used in television and film production for a few years now, but not all drones or drone operators are equal. For this reason, you need to make sure that you’re using the best operator for the job.
We’re hoping that these top tips will help your production and drone experience run smoothly and problem free.
1. Make sure your drone operator is CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) certified
All commercial drone pilots in the UK must hold a PFCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) certificate which is issued by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). It is an easy task to check if the operator is approved as the CAA issue an Approved Operators List. Here is a link to the list…
Typically, drones must not be flown higher than 400 feet and further than 500 meters away or within 50 meters of any person, building, vehicle or vessel. There are also additional rules for flying near crowds and congested areas (see below).
2. Choose someone who operates to safely
Every drone operator in the UK must have their own OM (Operations Manual) which details among other things, the health and safety procedures, aircraft maintenance schedule and pilot qualifications. It is always worth asking your drone operator for a copy of their current OM or safety procedures.
3. Two’s company
You can get great results with a single operator drone, but the more dynamic shots can only be obtained with a dedicated gimbal operator moving the camera to a DP’s instructions.
4. Pick people as well as products
The rigs and cameras are obviously important, but not as important as the crew you’ll be working with. Competent drone operators will also understand professional filming standards, have an appreciation of the workflow, the language and terminology and the format you need to walk away with.
5. Look for UAS OSC if in congested areas
Permission to fly drones of 7kg or less within a congested area is normally given as standard, but if you’re looking to film using a larger drone the operator will need to hold a UAS OSC (Unmanned Aircraft System Operational Safety Case), which used to be known as CAOSC (Congested Area Operational Safety Case). The UAS OSC allows the operator to fly closer to people and buildings in congested areas, with drones which weigh more than 7 kg.
6. Camera package
Check that the proposed package suits your needs and does not require post stabilisation. If you need a large cinema sensor camera with a large lens and lens control, you’ll need a drone that can cope with the weight.
7. The Need for Speed
How fast do you want to fly or track? Typically smaller drones are faster than larger drones with a typical drone flying between 30 mph and 60 mph. Much faster than this and you will probably need a commercial helicopter.
8. An Eye on the Weather
Weather can play havoc with any location shoot but excessive wind will ground all drone flights, so have a contingency plan.
9. Don’t fly uninsured
Again, it is a legal requirement that all commercial drone pilots in the UK must have a specific aviation public liability insurance. You can simply ask your drone operator for a copy of their current insurance certificates.
10. Know your budget
Rates vary considerably across the industry, with more experienced pilots commanding a higher rate. Rates typically start at £800 to £2500 per day. The fee often includes all pre-planning, site recce, permissions, risk assessments as well as the camera, lenses, gimbal, drone and pilot. The only additional fee is usually travelling expenses and VAT.
Finally, enjoy your shoot and if we can help in any way, feel free to give us a call on 0845 600 1373.