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A Newcomer’s Guide to Drone Videography

 At this day in age, it’s amazing to think that remote controlled drones (or UAVs) are becoming a part of everyday life. They can be seen in search and rescue applications, lighting scenarios, and of course aerial videography. When it comes to other places it can be useful, the sky is the limit (pun intended).


Let me preface this write-up by stating that I am still a newcomer to the drone videography world. My goal for a while has been to learn any video rig I can get my hands on, and this is the most logical next step. The value in drone videography is obvious as well; shots from the sky add an interesting perspective to your video that simply cannot be replicated.

At first I was under the impression that someone can go out and buy one of these and use it freely, similar to a remote controlled car- boy was I wrong. Here are a few tips and other things you should consider when becoming a drone enthusiast

  1. Start Small: A drone big enough for a camera complete with all the necessary batteries, prop guards, gimbal, and controllers will set you back at least a couple thousand dollars. Before making such a purchase, I found that buying this $70 drone is a great stepping-stone before graduating to the bigger contraptions. It helps with getting a feel for the controls, air resistance, and aerial maneuvering. It’s also inevitable that you’re going to have a few crash landings, which won’t damage it because of the small size (the drone in the link fits in the palm of your hand).
  1. Take a Class: Flying a drone is not a “plug and play” solution. There are important details such as calibration, course setting, home lock, airport communications, and many other things you need to know that can’t be summed up in a brief YouTube video. I found that taking an in-person course really helped me get familiar with both the drone and the app. The instructors are all licensed helicopter pilots who can address any other questions you may have, and there’s a block of class time that’s used for flight practice.
  1. Stay Current with Government Regulations: The FAA controls all of the airspace in our atmosphere. Whether it’s a few inches above your head or 400 feet off the ground, they are the ones who make the rules. It’s important to read up on their current and proposed regulations, so that you don’t get ticketed or fined for flying illegally. Right now, in order to make money from flying you’ll need to obtain an FAA 333 Exemption, or be a commercial airline pilot. While this paperwork can be easily applied for, it takes roughly six months for it to get approved and sent back. I’m writing this blog in June, and it’s been rumored that the FAA will be coming out with a separate set of drone pilot regulations this month. We’re still waiting on that, which leaves a lot of us commercial drone pilot hopefuls in limbo.
  1. Practice, Practice, Practice: Similar to the first tip I covered earlier in this blog, you can never have enough practice. After all, a great aerial shot cannot be achieved without great aerial maneuvering. Setup a chair or trash barrel in your yard and practice orbiting around it, with the nose of the drone constantly facing the subject. Once you’ve mastered that, give these a try.

To sum it all up, it seems like drone flying is a hobby/professional tool that is here to stay. It’s an activity that should be done with safety as the number one concern, and enthusiasts should not rush to the finish line. I’ll leave you with my three favorite drone videos on YouTube (1) (2) (3). Happy flying!