Navigating The Drone Laws Maze And More For Artists &photographers.
Tomorrow I am expecting the arrival of new drone I ordered from Amazon. I can't wait to get started!
I started by trying to familiarize myself with as many aspects of operating a drone for aerial videography, let me tell you, it's no small checklist! From what type of equipment is available to the techniques for executing aerial cinematography and then to that one must not forget the most important consideration, operating a drone "legally".
Why is it I say the most important consideration? well for starters one could be fined $250,000. by the FAA for flying a non registered drone, on top of that is a $27,000. civil penalty and let's not forget "3 years in jail". That's almost enough for me to want to say screw that!
But the desire to want to explore this creative endeavor far exceeds the fear of "BIG BROTHER" so I though a thread on this fascinating subject might be helpful to any creatives who are interested or are already engaged in this exciting process to film or photograph from the sky above. I sure stand to learn something from those who have hands on experience in this.
If you hate drones, I understand, it's like art we don't all like the same things.
Open for discussion, drone types, drone laws,drone cameras,drones as hobby and drones for POD business. Not an Image thread.
So first things first, I did not even want to wait before my drone arrives before I registered it, I simply went to the F.A.A website and did a rather simple application and paid my $5.00, gave Uncle Sam a valid credit card number and answered a few basic question. This is basically a certificate of exemption to having to have a UAV pilot's Licence for non commercial use of a drone.
You get a printable certificate to carry with you when flying your drone and they also mail you one, it's good for a period of 3 years and valid for all drones you own or purchase in that category. Any drone weighing more than 250 grams (0.55 lbs) must be registered with the F.A.A..
Note that "non-commercial" exemption. Don't get caught offering any results of a drone flight for sale - or to promote sales. It's best (safest) to do the study time and get the FAA Part 107 drone license.
A lot of local laws are starting to pop up trying to further regulate the use of drones,that is not such great news if you are interested in operating a drone in a restrictive community.
That said, the F.A.A however is taking the stance that they are the ones who control all the aerial vehicles (drones are aerials vehicles) in the air space from the tip of a blade of grass into infinity and has warned those local governments about passing new laws that clash with existing (Federal Laws), at least someone is doing the bidding to protect droner's rights.
I agree Bill, that would be illegal and the fines are stiff. For me personally I haven't ruled out going for that license but it's not going to be until such time that I am proficient enough that what I film might be commercially viable, that could be a long time. :-)
Commercial applications are pretty saturated already and the start up cost is not cheap, if one specializes better chance but it's even more expensive.
It's a beautiful Florida day here so any picture or filming is going to be done by me grounded on my two feet. :-)
A musician friend of mine just ordered 2 cheap drones. One for me!! Also one of the photography companies I work for will be doing drone shots soon and they said go ahead and getr my FAA license and hold off buying a good drone until they decided what model they want as standard.
I already read the rather technical book by the 'Drone Boss". I need way more training. I know there are some good video courses, some free but I want a book too because I find they are easier to navigate as a reference. My goal for 2020 is to be a lcinsed drone pilot and have a good drone. I expect a windfall of money later this year and will probably but a Mavic 2 Pro or a Mavic Air 2. I want it the camera to shoot Raw and I want one that communicates with control towers. He in Cocoa , FL we have many airports plus 2 'Space Force" airports at Cape Canaveral SFS. and Patrick SFS.
Bradford, check out this link : . https://pilotinstitute.com/ The founder is a commercial aviation pilot and instructor and his course is online and also relies on a paper book the aviation handbook . The course is not one of those that is designed to just give you the questions and answers for passing the FAA test rather is a learning course. Sounds really good and professional plus it comes with a money back guarantee if you don't pass the test. The course is only $249, view the Part 107 commercial drone pilot course.
If I decide to go the licensed route I will take this course.
Oh, I agree 100% Richard, it's just that some people, even local governments seem to have zero tolerance towards them and want to make it totally impossible to operate by excessive control and rules implemented.
The drone arrived! Everything super nicely packaged, comes with a very nice case that carries everything very snug,to my surprise I got a 2nd battery which was included, plus 1 extra that I bought so now I have 3 batteries for a combined flight time of 69 minutes (under ideal conditions)!
I Also got not one spare set of propeller blade, but two sets.
It's always nice to get more than was implied, a car charger, plenty of connection cables for different phones, the chargers for the transmitter and the battery charger and the manual. The only thing I had to go out and purchase separately was a Micro SD card which cost like $11.00 at walmart. It did not come with a landing/take off pad either. Arrived on time as promised.
I have everything charging now, that will take time, I might be able to get the transmitter control app downloaded and maybe tomorrow power it up and see how many satellites I can connect to and at least get it hovering in my yard without going to the drone park as I familiarize myself with the drone.
Feels like it's Christmas morning and I'm a little kid, charging my toy's batteries and anticipating what to do next, planning tomorrows play time.
Make no mistake about it though, this is not a toy, one look at the flight controller app specs and it tells me that. This aircraft connects to numerous satellites to navigate and can fly 4 kilometers away and transmit live FPV video while doing so.
Actually I'm about as nervous as excited, but I will be taking it real slow because if in configuring my flying settings I get something wrong, well it could be costly to say the least.
Right now though I'm having an issue downloading the app, it seems to be taking way to long on my android phone.
Ok, got the app installed now, tomorrow I connect to my devise and start the pairing of device to the drone. Enough for one day, two out of the three batteries charged along with the transmitter and the third battery is charging now.
Today is first flight day, and no I will not video my self taking the maiden flight as I want to focus on what I'm doing and not screw this up, but first I need to do the pairing and the calibration and go through all the controls and learn a ton of stuff and all the safety precautions and familiarize myself with restricted air space around me,we have a small airport minutes away and also some high tensions power lines and towers within visual distance, actually pretty close and that can interfere with my transmitter and GPS signals.
It's like learning to drive a car for the very first time, everything is mechanical at first until it's learned. The joysticks don't come natural to me as I'm not a video gamer so this is where I want to take it very slow and easy, one crash and I could be done before I start. I also want to be sure I have all the GPS settings correct and the same for my android settings.
Ok, next time I post in this thread is because I will have taken to the skies and have some video to share or because someone besides me has something to say. :-)
Thanks for the link to the course. The FAAL license course is now only $179. I will be buying it soon. I could probably get a passing grade now, having read a book but I want to soak up as much nowledge as possible. I am near 5 airports and will be doing paid photoshoots in the area so I want to make sure I get the FAA part down perfect.
I gave up interest when I saw how much-restricted airspace there is - even here in the middle of no where a hospital helicopter flies over the house regularly and the air force uses the region for training because it resembles Europe.
Your welcome Bradford, I would be the same way if I decide on the commercial aspect regardless, the laws will only continue to get stricter and more complicated and the fines and penalties are far reaching, getting as much knowledge as possible is the wisest way to go.
Ed, even where I live I'm sure we have lots of restricted air space, an airport though small but restricted for 5 miles around it, a nuclear power plant which is off line but still restricted and I'm sure a bunch more. Think of it this way, the more restrictive it becomes the more lucrative the opportunities will be when they present themselves if you are given access.
As restrictive though as it may be there are places you will be able to find to fly, I stumbled on a public park just 12 minutes from where I live just by googling it and it's a drone park and best of all when I checked it out in person there was no one there flying any thing, there was just no one there period.
I wasn't able to fly today as it was windy, but I spent a good amount of time in the flight control app trying to get familiar with all the different settings. Maybe tomorrow I can get it up in the air even for a short flight or some hoovering to practice with the controls on the transmitter and activate the camera so that I can go through the process of downloading and editing the video.
Today I was finally able to figure out the app enough to download it, pair the control devices to the drone and to calibrate the compass points on the drone with the satellites. I had as many as 15 satellites which connected with good signal strength.
I was having some issues until I put my phone in airplane mode, I was getting some short frequent warnings of usb signal disconnected, which might just be some data usage limits settings I will need to reset.
It got dark on me by the time the wind calmed down so I decided to wait until tomorrow if I have the time, and I might just take it to the drone park because I'll have a much larger margin of area should something go wrong.
I did mange to start the motors and get the drone hovering at about 3 feet, but since it's illegal at this time to operate a drone at night I decided to stop. Plus I really need more time with the controller and the app, the app flight controller is very sophisticated and complex, it has lot's of indicators monitoring the aircraft and the signals and satellite connections, distance ,height,speed,battery and more. Pretty overwhelming if one does not take it step by step and go through a check list of things especially if your teaching yourself.
Teaching oneself comes with a bigger risk of crashing the drone if something goes wrong, and that could get very expensive. So slow and easy is the way to go.
In fact starting out with a $3,500. or more expensive drone would be insane to learn on. Even a $450 drone is not something you want to crash, but it happens and happens a lot. ,
Thing is Don, I think I'm still a little shell shocked from my last fly away and that's why I haven't pulled the trigger on ZINO yet! Lol!
I will eventually get around to it, but the flight control software has a lot of settings and I want to make sure I have control of the drone if something unexpected happens.
There are so many things to consider, I'm right on the line of restricted zone a small airport, and I surely don't want to violate that airspace. Depends how I look at the map it gives me a distance of 5 miles or 5.5 miles.
Don, more regulation is probably inevitable, I've heard police departments have ways of disabling and destroying drones when they violate local rules,I'm not sure if it's laser or transmitter jamming technology. I just hope it doesn't get to ridiculous with the rules or I'll have to find a place far enough away to evade. Lol!
Finally had some good weather and I was able to take the drone out for it's first flight. First I went to the drone park I discovered just 12 minutes from my house because I wanted a large enough area to get familiar with how this drone flies.
I used up two of my batteries at the park and got about 45 minutes of flight time, then I felt confident I could probably fly it at home in a smaller area and I used my third battery for that. I was more than pleased with how the drone handled especially being my first flight with it.
Here is the video, it's not cinematic but I was really just wanting to get familiar with how the drone handled more than anything. Flying with GPS is the way to go! I am so pleased I decided to go with this drone. I need to check my setting on the navigation software to see if I had my camera in 4k mode. The navigation software has some really nice features, it's packed with features, has a flight log and records important aspects of the entire flight,location, speed, height,distance, etc. etc...
Bradford, the flight app I use is the X-Hubsan Professional Flight app, I don't believe it's like DJI app where it automates restricted air space and won't allow the drone to fly in certain areas. It does have map navigation and automated GPS navigation and it works with a series of the Hubsan drones.
I am looking into downloading the B4UFLY app that is put out by the FAA which also identifies if your location is safe to fly and permitted by the FAA.just as a 2nd precaution to do a check before I fly an area I'm unfamiliar with.
Since I was flying at the designated county drone park yesterday I wasn't all that concerned. I only fly where I can keep my drone in sight and below the 400 ft threshold. Below are the main features in the X-Hubsan Flight Control App.
Main features include:
1. GPS positioning that allows users to pinpoint wherever aircraft is located
2. Map navigation and viewing, as well as waypoint mission control
3. Real-time HD video and telemetry transmission
4. Versatile and nimble aircraft control via a set of on-screen virtual joysticks
5. A flexible aerial photography platform
6. Customizable flight parameters
7. Tutorials for the novice pilot
8. X-Hubsan supports H501A, H507A ,H501M& H216A series models
Thanks Mario. I did download the FAA app of course. I am trying to locate drone parks but so far I can't seem to get any official notice. Lucky for me I live just outside the restricted airspace and the is a park at the corner but there are lots of trees there. I need to find an open area and while I can't find a designated drone parks there is a bigger park a few miles away near the St Johns river. My friend still has a drone for me but the 2 drones he bought are still in the box. He wants us to learn together. Meanwhile I am looking at the the free drone course and I think there are enough resources available that I will be well prepared for the FAA 107 without paying for instruction.
Bradford, from my experience with my first drone which was nothing like this drone I have now I was very cautious about where to take my first flight alone as I never took a class. What I discovered was that with the GPS navigation and all the fail safe technology that is going into these drones now you will be surprised how quickly you will get up and flying.
The GPS flying even though I don't have obstacle evasion sensors really makes it possible to fly in confined areas even where there are a lot of trees. Checking to ensure the GPS calibration and signals are good will allow you to fly safely. I took it very slow distance and height wise to ensure I had no signal loss, I also tried my return home function several times (ASAP).
What was scary about the return home function, the first time I tried it is that rather then it flying to me it started to fly away from me, straight up! Well it's supposed to do that as it has a default on the app to raise it to 200 feet in elevation before it tracks and finally begins it's way back. :-)
The other thing I found a little challenging at first is that when you orient the drone and turn it flying towards or away from you, the joystick direction controls when flying FPV are reversed depending on direction the drone is facing (toward or away from you) unless you are in headless mode. That took a little getting used to, the ascend and descend controls though are not affected by that, lucky for me. :-)
I just downloaded the FAA app powered by kittyhawk B4UFLY It's fine as as a free tool to get a general feel to see if the air space you intend on flying is not restricted but the app and FAA have a lot of waivers they make you agree to in their terms of service so it's not something I would rely on if I were flying in any commercial aspect. It does give you a heads up and tells you it's safe to fly but ultimate responsibility even if they give you bad data is up to the pilot, for recreational flying I guess it's ok, not a substitute for aviation maps.
Today it was a bit windy but I took the drone up anyway, it was within the safe limits but it was more difficult to keep the drone steady in the confined space in my back yard. I still shot video but I just realized that my video quality is not what I expected.
The reason is that even though I'm recording @ 4K UHD 3840*2160 resolution 30fp I haven't figured out yet how to upload and process my video in 4K format from my SD card. I mean I have uploaded the window card data to my laptop but I think I am processing everything at 1080p. Even If I get software to edit in 4K I cannot playback 4k video directly from my laptop?
So here is the crappy video quality I'm stuck with until I figure this all out.
Thank you Bill, you are correct the stability is spot on and the drone hovers really nice. The gimbal angle can be controlled by the remote to angle the camera shot while flying. I haven't gotten into trying the different modes like panorama, way points, line flying, orbit and tracking yet. I want to be in the larger park rather than my back yard for that.
All in all the drone is feature packed and the quality seems to be there as well, one could easily spend another thousand or two for the exact same features on some of the other better known drones, but at $450 out the door with 3 batteries, carrying case and extra spare parts this drone hits all the marks for me and it flies really,really nice.
Now if I could just see some of the 4k UHD video I shot without having to jump through to many hoops. :-)
I snapped a photo or two but I didn't really give them a good look over. I will try to take more next flight and then see what they look like. For me it's the video that fascinates me from that perspective way up. Where I live there is a good amount farmland with cows and horses, I'm going to keep my eye out and might even contact some past customers who have ranches and see if they would allow me to fly over there cows and horses.
So here is one image I took Bill a did a little post editing with contrast,exposure,clarity,and color. I don't really know how to professionally access if it constitutes a high quality photo or not, but it doesn't look to awful to me and it was close to getting dark out when I took the image used the default settings the camera was set to and I did not stage the shot I just snapped the shutter.
Come to think of it I just checked the file info on this image and it's shot at 60fps, so this image is a capture off the video I was shooting not a camera shot.
So I feel I'm a little more familiar with my drone now that I've taken it on 2 flights total of some 90 minutes of air flight time. So I though it would be prudent to get a better understanding of the law. So I started looking into the laws, both federal and state and local and what I found is that it's not black and white! I read until my eyes got blurry, I read from opinions of lawyers specializing in drone laws and from the FAA and from some local state laws and even some county laws.
The bottom line is that it's very complicated and that is putting it mildly. So my approach is going to be some what cautious but I'm not going to take it to the extreme in caution because if I do I would have to refrain from flying any where and taking any photos and videos because the laws can be construed to make you in violation.
You can not fly from a State Park but you can fly over a state park, yes, very logical! Only the FAA can issue and enforce air space laws, but local governments can and do try to anyway, the FAA has warned some against this.
My strategy is going to be that I will look for isolated places and get up high but within legal heights 400 feet or less and shoot my video and pictures quickly and then get out. I want to take video of the beaches where I live and I want to take nature videos and since I am not looking to harm or bother anyone in the process.....well you can guess what they can KISS if they want to stop me or deter me with all these overly prohibitive and in many cases vague and all encompassing laws . :-)
So my strategy for doing this is to keep a very low profile, seek out isolated places, check my air space using maps and the FAA app for restricted air space, then I will just get up , straight up and high because this gives me the opportunity to quickly deploy and return with minimal effort. This will give me good time up filming like 20 to 25 minutes per battery.
It's a beautiful sunny day so I'm hitting the road, as I want to film some water areas. I will have my FAA registration with me, just in case.
Thank you for the image samples. It looks quite capable for the price. After reading what you have posted and also reading some reviews it looks like you made a great choice on your purchase. Congratulations. Or should I say BRAVO?
Today was the day I had the most fun with it. I went to three different locations ranging from 5 to 15 miles from each other. The first location had swamp water and it was pretty isolated but it had an air boat ramp and there were like 2 trailers and vehicles so I knew people might be heading back in. I took a chance and did a flight there anyway but it was pretty breezy 5 to 10 mph so I didn't go very high and before my 1st battery ran out my sd card got full.
I didn't have an extra sd so I left to go to walmart but on the way I saw a Office Max and stopped there to pick up a new card at $20. it was twice what I paid at walmart but such is convenience. I went to my second stop which is our only public beach. I was a little uncertain about flying there so I ran the FAA app and it said your go to fly safe. That's all I needed to hear.
I quickly got up in the air from a nice clearing off the side of the beach where there were no people directly below but the beach had plenty of people so I avoided flying directly over it. The wind again was breezy and I didn't want to go higher where it was likely going to be worse so I took it to about 30 or 40 meters high. It was a perfect place to fly. I didn't want to hang around to long so I took my video footage draining the remainder of the first battery and left.
The third destination was the authorized drone park I flew the first time and there was nobody there, I had the park to my self, kinda. I put in my new battery and started flying right off the bat, trying to make the whole process fast and inconspicuous as possible. Not because I was not supposed to be there but as training for when I find another spot that's questionable or can't be identified readily with the app, I can take my shots if safe to fly and begone very fast.
This time I felt more confident and decided to take it upto the 400ft altitude limit or I think I went to 96 meters. While flying up there my heart was really beating and it started beating even harder when to fast flying huge vultures not only approached but were circling the drone. I wasn't sure what they were up to so I brought it down. I did another flight and they came again flying above me and encircling. I has afraid they would actually attack the drone so again I landed.
They finally left and I used up the remaining of battery 2 and called it a day.
I used mostly the creative video mode in panoramic shooting which allows me to set the speed in time and angle in degrees 0 to 360* and the craft will spin in either clockwise or counter clockwise position as it records, this is also available to shoot still images in a series as the drone turns. Really nice feature.
After I get my grilling going I will see if I can edit today's video and photos and maybe post some of today's adventure.
And I could not resist taking it out again to use up the 3rd battery so I did another flight over my house at 400 ft., that's pretty high and it gets my adrenaline really going. Even in windy conditions this drone is very stable and I hit the come home command from 400ft up and it gets very close to a dead center landing.
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