Sometimes you drive an hour for a shoot. Totally worth it.
Drones. Drones! DRONES!! Seems like they’re everywhere. And, of course, anybody can just walk right in to most big box retailers and get one. Everybody’s a “drone pilot” now then, right. NO!!! Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I try to follow the rules and regulations. Why? Because it’s the law. I’m not trying to be a goody-goody. I just don’t have the money to pay any potential fines that could come with breaking any of the current laws. That’s why it just chaps my a** when others around me blatantly break the rules. Or when others around me disseminate inaccurate information.
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is a big deal in my town. When I first began shooting photography for the festival, I used a drone. Drone (UAS) regulations didn’t exist back then. People (certain specific people as part of a bigger group of people) got bent out of shape and actually posted disclaimers that they were not affiliated with me. I actually got reported and the police shut me down. I have a letter of investigation from the FAA! I should frame it. Just to be clear, this was before any drone regulations existed! I wasn’t endangering anybody and was being as safe as I could be. It was too new, people got freaked out. Oh no, there’s this flying thingy. It’s spying on me! It’s invading my privacy! IT WAS A PUBLIC VENUE DAMMIT!
Fast forward 4 years and now there ARE regulations in place, but it seems that most people just don’t care. Should I give them the benefit of the doubt? Perhaps. But there are channels to check if folks are legit. Most are not. Or at least major parts of their operations are not.
I was told this year that I would be too close to an airport to fly a drone during the Apple Blossom Festival. Nope. Incredibly inaccurate. I fly here all the time and have a working relationship with the airport. It’s class E airspace. We’re not too close to an airport to fly a drone. It’s one thing if a local city/town declares an area a drone-free zone. Localities do that and I would comply. I have before. Laguna Beach in CA has such a declaration so I wasn’t able to fly there. I get it. There is no declaration in Winchester at Apple Blossom. But I was instructed not to fly. Fine, I wasn’t going to fly anyway.
Then I see multiple images from drone flights over the festival. At night! Flights at night are NOT covered by the new Drone certification (license) – Part 107, which is technically CFR 14 Part 107 for folks who don’t know. Flights over people aren’t covered either. You have to get specific permission (a waiver) from the FAA to do those flights. There’s an application process where you have to justify the operations and explain how you’d mitigate the risks involved. The FAA has a website that lists all waivers granted. Guess what, no such waivers exist in this area (at least for the folks who shot the images I saw).
The exception here is if you’re flying for recreation. I never understood this and have never agreed with it. It’s the same airspace – all drones should follow the same rules. All cars follow the same traffic laws. How is this different?!?!?!
WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER?!?!?!?!?!
Rant over, as you were.
One of my workflow tricks as a photographer (now that I kinda know what I’m doing) is to not dive right into my edits right away. I wait a while and edit later. I let some time pass between when I shoot and when I edit. I can’t really articulate why this is, but I just know that if I’m too eager to jump into the edit it’s not as creative as when I wait plus it’s a bonus when I go back through my images and find ones I forgot I shot. Of course, with thos pesky deadlines looming this isn’t always practical.
I always wondered what BFE looked like – now I know. What an awesome place. A bit of a hike to get there, but so worth it in the end. Look for more images like this hitting the marketing material of visitwinchesterva.com.
Ok, now that I’ve done the “heavy lifting” to be allowed to fly a sUAS legally it should be as important for you (the consumer of photography and video) to complete your due diligence. Make sure the person/company you’ve just hired to shoot your video is also legally allowed to perform the sUAS work for hire. It concerns me that anybody can walk into Best Buy or Target or Wal-Mart or hop on Amazon or any number of other online retailers and purchase these flying machines. And young kids these days are seeing the proliferation of drone videos and YouTubers flying with reckless abandon that it seems glamorous and risk-free. It’s certainly not risk-free, but kids tend to simply plow forward without a second thought. It worries me to no end that a very young middle-schooler recently proudly announced to me that he just got a DJI Phantom 4 – a fairly expensive flying camera. Yeah, kids are amazing at video games and technology in general these days, but the decision-making skills are simply not there. It’s comparable to a drivers license. There are reasons that teens go through a process to earn a driver’s license which includes an age requirement. Decision-making skills folks. And I’m certainly not saying that you have to hire me – just make sure the person/company that you DO use is qualified and legally allowed.
Ok I’m done. Enjoy this image of Fall colors knocking on our door.
I was cleared for takeoff this evening. Yep, I filed my first (and second) flight plan. It’s kinda surreal for me that I’ve made it this far. When I got my first aerial camera, it was so new that there weren’t really any regulations for it (which explains all the images in my collection that I can’t really shoot these days). It’s crazy how fast the governemnt moved on this set of regulations. But I’m always about what’s next and that usually spells trouble for me being a gear-head and all. I have to separate myself from the ever-growing community of “dronies” who are basically shooting with the same super-wide-angle-infinity-focus camera that everybody else has. That’s not good enough for me anymore. Not after tonight’s flight.
Not quite official, yet. I still have to be vetted by the TSA, but I’m over the hump to being an officially certificated Remote Pilot by the FAA. At least for the next 24 months. No rest for the weary though. I have to remain up-to-date on everything. Use it or lose it, right?