Aerial Videography, Earl Studios, and the FAA – NH Video Production

Aerial Videography, Earl Studios, and the FAA – NH Video Production

I will admit, when we bought our DJI Phantom 2 last fall, we had no idea the ride we were in for, and if we knew it was going to be such a challenging road I am not 100% sure we would have gotten into aerial videography.  Aerial videography is not a “plug and play” type of situation, no matter how easy they make it out to be on tv and the interwebs.  There’s essential gear you need to get, and install yourself which at times requires a BA in electrical engineering.  There’s lens hoods, ND filters that you need to get for the camera, gimbals, batteries, the list goes on and on.

I assumed it would all be worth it though, because once people saw the amazing shots we could get, they would be knocking down our door, but the reality was far different.  Most were afraid to use it.  “What if it fell out of the sky and killed someone, what if it blew up, what it became self aware and started shooting laser beams from its eyes and eating our souls?!?!?”  I actually did have one insurance company quote me an unbelievable rate for insurance because, and I quote “what if it fell out of the sky and killed someone”.  I was just so confused, here is my baby, the latest and greatest tool for creating unheard of cinematic shots for such a small company, and people where scared it would kill?!  Luckily we had the amazing team at Crotched Mountain, show saw its potential and let us put the helicopter to use at any opportunity, which has resulted in some of the most amazing films and footage we have done to date.

Alot of the confusion and misinformation was the result of the discussions underway by the FAA on how best to regulate commercial drone use.  So many different scenarios swirled around the media and internet.  At one point it was speculated that drone videographers and aerial videographers would need to secure a commercial pilots license to fly, which comes in at a cool $10,000, which is over 10 times the cost of the helicopter.  Even if we did that, we would still have to petition the FAA for a variance of the “regulations” to allow us to use the helicopter for commercial videography.  If you have ever submitted federal paperwork, you know what a confusing and convoluted process this is.  We applied for the variance months ago, and have not heard back, but I can tell you it took half a day just to figure out how to do it.

So people were apprehensive to use it and some feared secret FAA squads dressed in black would swoop in and arrest us all if they caught us flying our drones commercially.  But recently the whispers from the FAA started to be spread among the twitters and facebooks, proposed new guidelines had been outlined deep within a financial meeting document, and the news was music to all of our drone pilot ears.  Despite the previous scuttlebutt, the FAA had taken a much more favorable stance on drone use for aerial videography.  Very fair and easily enforceable guidelines had been suggested which are things that us responsible aerial videography drone pilots had always been doing anyway.

  • maintain line of site with drone
  • do not fly over people not involved in video production
  • do not fly at night
  • do not fly around airports
  • take a certification test every 2 years at around $300

So there it is.  Finally the word had come down from the man himself, and its all good.  So what happens now?  A lot of people that owned drones for videography before had sold them and gotten out of it because of the “crackdown” by the FAA, and most people that did own them didn’t get out alot to use them.  I know we are one of the few that is still actively doing aerial videography with the drone.  Our first step is to find out where and when these certification tests are, and get on that asap. Until then we plan on getting out at every opportunity to get back to flying the drone and becoming more proficient with it every day.

About The Author

I'm Jeremy Earl Mayhew, the owner and creative director of Earl Studios. The "Studios" represents both my love of film making but also my ability to accomplish all aspects of film making, from script writing, directing, cinematography through to editing. I am a studio of one.

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