Don’t fall in love with drones

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Drone videography is becoming ubiquitous in our world. For stunningly low investment you can fly a small helicopter or quadcopter with a high definition camera. What started as an expensive filmmaking tool has trickled through the market and commoditized into an accessible tool for any enterprise. Business Commercials, City Services, Landscaping, Real Estate, Agriculture; basically you think of the business it is very likely that someone is out there sending a drone into the sky to film something for it. The problem is you should not be doing this yourself.

No one needs to remind you how resources for a small businesses are limited, but the itch to fly your own remote controlled helicopter is pretty enticing. But before we get to the budget breaking potential of even consumer grade drones, there is a dirty little word you have to deal with: regulations, as in Federal Aviation Authority.

If you are flying a drone, or “unmanned aerial system (UAS)” as the FAA has deemed them, for any commercial purpose or even intend to use footage shot from a drone for any commercial purpose the pilot of that drone must have an FAA Part 107 certification. Beyond the ugliness of red tape, Part 107’s involve a $150 test fee and -if you’re smart- weeks of study to prepare for the intensity of the test.

Now should you get your certification and decide to jump in for professional looking footage, you could squeak by with a drone in the $500 to $1,000 range. But costs don’t end there; you need batteries, monitors, props, storage equipment, editing software, and of course time to get it all done. By the time you’ve jumped through all the FAA hoops, bought all the necessary pieces for safe flying, and of course shot and edited your footage you’ve probably spent close to $2,000 and a few dozen hours of your life. That is not smart business.

If you can’t shake the drone bug, hire an Part 107 certified drone pilot and have them shoot the footage for you. It’s still your business and you can be present when it’s being recorded (as well as take the controls if the 107 certificate holder is present). There’s really no reason to dump a few grand on a passing fad, especially when you’ll only get up in the air a couple of times for work before your drone begins taking up valuable closet space. Long story short; drones are a great lesson in contracting work.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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