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 opertions. Through my experience in this industry with producers who didn’t know what questions to ask, I put together this series to educate you on this exciting new-ish field of film making. I’ve been flying drones since 2012. I was working in video playback and had a video equipment rental business. When I saw a Phantom 1, with a GoPro 3 on a mechanical gimbal at one of my contemporaries shop (Ryan @ Lightstone Rentals), I knew what I wanted to do with my life and have been doing it ever since. Back then we didn’t have schools teaching drones, the drones we flew didn’t even come with cameras built in or even video transmission built in and there were ZERO FAA regulations. The drones we flew didn’t didn’t even have instruction manuals or online tutorials! When we needed to land we hit it with a club and dragged it back to our cave. Ahhhh the good ol’ days….
Now here’s a YUUUUGE issue that me and my contemporaries see all too often. Productions just know that they “need a drone” and lump all UAV’s into the same category. Now pay attention class ’cause this is important:
What you need is a skilled and licensed pilot/company that has the correct camera/drone/team combination for your production.
Please read the following blog(s) and allow me to impart some of the knowledge I have gained over the past 6 years and you will soon know exactly what you need. Or you can send us an email or call Dronewrx and we can help you get your production the right drone/pilot for the right price:
Is the drone pilot qualified?
This may seem redundant to some, but to fly drones commercially, a pilot must hold a part 107 certificate, or have a 333 exemption with a pilots license. The part 333 was the first commercial drone license, which also required a licensed pilot to be the PIC (Pilot In Command). Yup, the FAA required an actual pilots license in those early days, and a small number of us passionate individuals went out and got pilots licenses. 333 exemptions expired 2 years after they were originally issued and will not be renewed, but any pilot worth his propellers has got a 107, because FAA FSDO’s (Flight Standards District Office) will no longer process the paperwork required to fly under a 333’s guidelines. If a pilot has both, you know they’ve been doing this longer then a few months and someone you’d probably rather be doing business with.
You should ask to see a copy of their qualifications and their drivers license or picture ID, in fact you’re supposed to get copies for your records, and any governing bodies. These are things law enforcement will want to see. In some instances, like flying at a state or national park, you’re going to need approval from the controlling agency, plus a POA. (Plan Of Activity) and someone who knows how to talk to that agency. Most guys who have a 333 Exemption will know how to do this.
However, merely having a Part 107 certificate does not give you experience. There has been a glut of pilots entering the market since August 2016 when the FAA changed the requirements, who don’t have much experience at all and are often willing to work for peanuts. I often end up directing the shoots, or suggesting shots that I work on because I’ve had so much experience with this technology and know what works. More recently Film LA has been requiring all this PLUS a drone flight questionnaire.
Don’t let your ignorance of the law get you in trouble, and just because someone has a Part 107 and owns a drone does not make them a valuable member of your crew. Drones can be an amazing addition to your production, a camera that moves in 3D in the right hands is gold, it’s a dolly, it’s a limitless crane, it’s a helicopter. However, in the wrong hands its a bladed eye-poker-outer flying around your talent.