Ask Dr. Droneberg!

Got questions about drones or some of our other services? Dr. Droneberg is happy to answer all valid questions.

Our FAQ Page is always evolving you’ve got an open invitation to participate. There’s gotta be some unanswered questions bouncing around in your head .. g’hea, ask away!

Some of the the following questions by producers, curious passers by, and a talking dog and thought it would be helpful and fun to have a publish those questions and answers for your info. If you have any question regarding drones, pursuit vehicle, or our Electric Unicycle please use the form below to submit a question.

The Doctor is in!

How far can drones fly, and how close does the operator need to be to the drone?

It depends on the complexity of the flight and the general interference in the area. DJI official lists the max distance as 5km, 3.1 miles. And I can attest that I’ve flown where there’s no interference past 3 miles, but I was up on a hill and in a sparsely populated area of Mexico where there isn’t a high concentration of cell phones. That’s it’s not at all recommended for close up and personal shots. I did a shot yesterday in Santa Monica where I couldn’t even fly a mile away without loosing signal, but when that happens there’s a return to launch function which has the drone climb to a specified distance above where it’s at then starts coming back. I will cancel that and take over flight once I regain signal. It’s dependent on things like cell towers and population density, even solar flares and being within line of site. A building or mountain will absolutely block signal, trees will impede it. For some driving shots we operators can be in a follow vehicle to stay in proximity to the drone. The general rule: The closer you are, the better the signal.

How High can drones fly?

Legally, you’re only allowed to fly 400′ agl (Above Ground Level) so technically if you were at the top of Mt Whitney you could fly up to 14,905. DJI lists the “max service altitude as 19685 feet (6000 m) but as the air gets thinner you’re going to have less lift, and less control. So if you’re planning on bringing your Mavic to shoot your next expedition to Everest, plan on short flight times. If your lungs are having trouble, so will lipo battery driven propellers.

What are common flight times?

For the two drones we use mostly and that are what 90% of all pro pilots cinema are now using. Phantom 4 pro, and inspire 2, the flight times are approx 20-30 minutes depending on wind or how much maneuvering. Sitting still in no wind = 30 minutes. Hard maneuvering in high wind = 20 minutes. Heavy Lift drones, the ones that lift RED and Alexa’s can vary depending on a myriad of factors. A fully loaded Alta 8, with camera and fizz control can have 15-20 minutes. A Matrice 600, because of the unique 6 battery configuration can fly as much as 45 minutes with an X5 camera on it.

Can you fly indoors?

Flying indoors is relatively safe. Of course it depends on the experience of the pilot. I recently completed a project for Hyundai Translead where I flew inside 3 of their manufacturing plants. Since GPS doesn’t usually work indoors, the modern drones have sonar on the bottom which keeps them stable. However DJI in all their infinite wisdom has limited the altitude when no GPS signal is present to 27′ which required adaptation. When planning on shooting indoors you need to consider there’s a fair amount of noise and a column of wind beneath the drone so you can’t fly over a desk stacked with papers or over top of someone without messing their hair up. It does however come in handy on a hot day. 🙂

Can you fly in high winds?

Yes … to a degree. When winds get over 25-30mph it’s not advisable. If the wind is moving faster then your drone can fly you’re in a loosing position. I have flown in very high winds winds and it was dicey. In a couple of instances, I was full throttle into the wind and the drone was flying away from me. Experience tells you, keep calm and keep flying. Once that gust slows down bring ‘er in! But if the drone is getting bounced around, so will your footage. Be aware, flying when there’s a Sharknado in the area is a very bad idea.

Should I just go buy my own drone?

It depends on what you’re goals are. You could certainly get some up high establishing shots, and straight down shots and on smaller projects which would be good enough. But drone manufacturers make them seem like a toy and that anyone can do it, and you can, but it’s going to take some time and dedication. The bottom line is Drone companies goal is to containers of drones. I sold one of my used drones to a guy who thought he was going to go out the next day and get some great shots. Do you think that happened? Nope! He crashed into a tree when I was training him how to use it.

If you are serious about doing it, and are willing to dedicate the time, go for it! But think of it this way; A drone requires a lot of skills that are happening all at once, and the technology changes every 6 months, so you’ve got to have deep pockets for the first year or so, or have enough work to make it worth your while to stay on the cutting edge. Not to mention liability insurance, a part 107 license and having a back-up drone. When there’s a crew watching with actors and people who’s time is valuable, the last thing you want is a newby fumbling with the controls or crashing. There’s a lot of pressure involved making all those things happen at once. Put pressure on someone who can’t handle it, or they freeze at the wrong moment, and you have a potentially dangerous situation on your hands. Crash a $10k drone and you’ll be sorry you “cheaped out.” Not only are you calling your insurance company, but you’ve missed the shot. Someone who flies all the time it will be second nature to them and they wont choke…in theory.  :).

Do drones come in bacon snausage flavour?

No, and stop sniffing my butt, It’s distracting when I’m flying.

Is it hard to get the Part 107 licence?

The Part 107 test is harder than most people are expecting. It’s essentially 3/4 of a light sport pilots test and you’re sequestered in a monitored room, so there’s no chance of cheating, and it can be rather intimidating for fear of failure. There’s questions about airspace, reading a sectional map, and all sorts of questions which have nothing to do with drones as they’re directly off the pilots exam. Not sure if they still have the E6B questions, but that alone is very hard. On the other hand I had to learn to fly a plane, along with the hefty price tag it came with, so compared to that a Part 107 test is downright easy.

5 Person pursuit vehicle?

Yup. We have a Toyota Sequoia, a large SUV that has a 3rd row of seats and can be configured with speed rail to mount a camera. This gives a typical production 1 more person, and everyone rides in comfort. Our featured remote head is the Intuitive Aerial Newton attached with a Cineflow Black arm. Controlling the Newton is the Dominion controller which is noted for it’s super smooth action and intuitive interface. Our remote head tech, Eric Bergez is also an expert remote camera operator and local 600 member. Some directors want to control the camera, some don’t, we give you the choice.

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