Not hiring a professional drone pilot can be an expensive lesson
It does me good to see this in “print”. In the good ‘ol days having a drone was unique. I got tons of calls and people were happy to pay someone who knew what they were doing. But as the industry has bent over backwards to sell more of their products, they’ve created a beast. Rather then hire a professional, people think they’re going to take that money that they’d spend on a qualified pilot and buy their own drone. “It can’t be that hard, can it!?” Sure you can push a button to make it take off and land (in the old days we had to program a switch for Return to Launch), but the problems that arise are probably not at that part of the flight. It’s “out there” where the big cash register in the sky is. Suddenly that money that you thought you saved has disappeared, or smashed and you lost the prior shot that was on the card, and you are done for the day. As a professional, I travel with a back up and it’s been a real long time since I have had things go wrong. Why? Practice and persistence. And now, there are tons of “no fly zones” (I got bit by one last week) and the rumor is FAA approved pilots will receive a code to over ride this feature.
But here’s my big question. Would you go out and buy a $40k camera and go out then next week and DP a shoot? Do you think somehow you have the innate skill to go purchase an Indy car and enter it into a race? Of course not! So why on Earth would you take what can be some of the most compelling shots of your production and trust them to someone with almost no experience. But even more importantly, the danger of having the equivalent of a blender in the sky flying around your talent, or above crew members heads. I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but drones have changed the film business, and gone from “replacing the helicopter shot” to a fast and easy way to get some extremely dynamic shots. It’s been a process and a few of us have been here for a long time participating in the development. Check out a video of drone crashes, every time one of these hits the ground it’s thousands of dollars, and these are just some of the ones that were captured. Most of the time a crash results in a loss of footage as well.
So if you’re serious, keep moving forward and spending lots of money, but if you think you’re going to jump into the business and start making the big bucks by buying an Inspire, it’s probably not gonna be as easy as DJI and Drones R US wants you to think it is…Craigslist and eBay are littered with parts from people who learned the hard way. I have seen a glut of DJI Inspire 2’s on eBay lately when people realized that getting a part 107 and spending $10K on a drone doesn’t make your an aerial DP, there’s skill and balls involved, and no shortcut to getting that skill.
I am going to be doing a series of blog posts and a video on “questions every producer SHOULD be asking drone pilots before they hire them”, there will be some valuable information for all line producers and directors which will be helpful next time you’re filling in the blanks on the call sheet.
Rest assured that the FAA is looking at this industry with mucho scrutiny, things will continue to change, of that I am sure.