5 Crucial questions for hiring drone operators – PT 3 EXPERIENCE

(PART 3)
5 Essential questions a producer should ask a drone pilot
(before hiring them)

Hi, I’m Drew Cobb. Dronewrx’s head pilot, and director of UAS operations. The following is part 3 in the series of 5. Thru my experience in this industry with producers who don’t know what they need or the questions to ask, I put together this series to educate you on this relatively new field of film making.

Many producers only know they need a drone, and to put it simply:

What you want is: a skilled and licensed pilot/crew that has the correct camera/drone combination for your production.

Please read the following blog(s) and allow me to impart some of my knowledge and you will know exactly what you need. Or you can contact Dronewrx and we can help you get your production the right drone/pilot for the right price. Need us now? Call 323-899-8400

Part 3: What is their experience?

On August 29th, 2016 the FAA relaxed the laws governing commercial drone pilots and switched the requirement from the 333 Exemption and a required pilots license and the instituted the Part 107 UAV Certificate. Since that day there has been a glut of newbie pilots entering the market. I know a lot of guys who thought that merely getting their 107 would make them a valuable commodity. I’m getting hit up frequently from guys with “$1,000 and a dream” who have bought a Phantom, taken an online class and now of course they think they’re an aerial DP. While this guy is probably capable of getting simple establishing shots, there is more to getting an effective drone shot then knowing how to take off, wiggle the sticks and land. As the craft has advanced, so have pilots and techniques. An experienced pilot can get you dramatic flybys, or close follows which really can enhance your production value. Maneuvering smoothly is the hallmark of a good pilot. As the industry has advanced directors & producers have realized that a drone can be much more then a helicopter shot. I can provide you a lot of different shots in a short amount of time. But the part they are usually lacking is all the paperwork that can potentially be required. POA’s (Plan OF Activity) require knowledge that you don’t learn when you study for a Part 107, and film commisions will ask certain

There seems to be 2 eras of pilots. Guys that had a 333 exemption and an actual pilots license, and those who got in thru since August with the 107. If a potential pilot has a real pilots license, he’s OG yo and has been around since the old days (y’know like 2 years ago) and has learned valuable lessons. I myself have been flying drones commercially since 2012. As in everything in life, experience matters


    Almost everyone can fly a drone when there’s no pressure, but experience and nerves matter when there’s a crew of people watching


    As anyone knows, there’s a certain protocol when working on set. You want to bring someone on who knows the ins & outs of how to behave and present themselves


    You have to know the kinds of questions to ask to see if someone really knows what their talking about. This 5 part series will help you do that.

Lately me and my crew have come across something that never would’ve occurred to me. We’ve been told by productions “these other guys could fly well, but didn’t know how to talk on the coms” this comes under the set-etiquette catagory. There’s an army of younger people who are very good pilots, especially FPV, as they were practically born with a video game controller in their hands, but this is also the generation that only texts and speaking for them is not so natural. So draw your own conclusions from that. Another weird but true bit of feedback I’ve received is many of the younger pilots smoke pot constantly. One pilot on a corporate gig for Ford remarked “I need to get into my zone, dude”.  This is a huge no-no in the corporate world. These are conservative business people and if they see, or smell something like that it’s going to reflect on those that hired them. Again this is a generation that grew up with legal pot, and just as it’s not legal to operate a manned aircraft under the influence of any substance, an unmanned aircraft falls into a public safety thing. You may BE ABLE to function 100% but if something happens, and they check on this, it’s going to spell trouble.

I also get productions who think their DP or cameraman is somehow qualified to be camera camera operator because of his title. And while they certainly know how to compose a shot, drones controls are specific and one move too fast and you’ve blown the whole shot. I once had a client treat my drone like the productions own personal video game. “Hey, Johnny, you want to try it”? While we were 5 miles off the coast!!??

Any qualified drone pilot/camera op have a demo reel and website. Make sure you budget for drones, just as you’d budget for lighting, cameras, or kraft services. If you think about potential uses for it in pre-production you’ll get the full benefit of the most exciting addition to film making since … kraft services!

A sub question to this one is: do they have confidence? To fly a drone effectively you can’t be risk adverse, and many people just don’t have the…balls. Unfortunately lots of guys are full of doo-doo so you’d have to use your own judgement, but if you’re picking up on a timid vibe I’d move on. You also don’t want an ego-manic braggart either. I’ve raced motorcycles, played hockey, surfed and flown an ultralight plane, which has all likely contributed to me being very cool under pressure if I do say so myself.

To continue to PART 4 “Do they have to right drone(s)” Click Here

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