Understanding and using an aeronautical map is also a prerequisite to obtaining a UAV license from the FAA.


Drones are In! No doubt about it!

If you don’t know this, then you must be living with your head in the sand. The most popular Christmas gift last year was a drone. That said….owning a drone does not a drone photographer make. I know a great many people who are flying drones who don’t know the first thing about being a good photographer, or a good drone pilot.

Licensed Drone Pilots are NOT the same as your neighbor with his/her drone toy.

Airspace classification mandatory for licensed UAV pilot

Airspace classification and regulations are mandatory for licensed UAV pilot

Also, let me add here: It is just a matter of time – I would say in the next 2 years -before the FAA requires everyone who flies a drone to be licensed. This statement is due to the recent news headlines all over the U.S. regarding the interference of recreational drone owners who are flying these UAVs without any knowledge as to FAA regulations, laws, common sense, etc. These drone amateurs are creating hazards to search and rescue teams, firefighters, and manned aircraft including everybody on board a plane. Just as nobody is allowed to operate a motor vehicle on our roads without a driver’s license and learning the necessary laws and regulations, so should it be for drones. The amateur drone flyers out there (I won’t call them pilots because they’ve had no pilot training) are giving a bad rap to the rest of us responsible drone pilots and the entire aerial photography profession.

The FAA also requires licensed drone pilots to study aeronautical charts, weather patterns, and controlled airspace procedures and regulations in order to pass the certification exam and receive a UAV pilot license. This is to ensure the safety of all the manned aircraft pilots and their passengers who are flying hundreds of thousands of flights every day all over the world. If you actually looked at an aeronautical chart (and knew what you were looking at), you would be amazed just how much of our airspace is occupied by airports and manned airplane space. It’s far more space than is not occupied by planes these days.

Now that I got that off my chest. Let’s discuss just a few things a drone can do for you and your business.

Aerial photography has been catapulted to the uppermost limits since the invention of the consumer-level drone. Now we are seeing drone photography being used in just about every industry for innumerable benefits and uses. Such as:

Agriculture – for crop damage insurance claims, crop analysis, and monitoring, land management, pest and weed control, watering system analysis, etc.
Construction – to monitor building progress and send to clients, for site inspections, site logistics/phasing, for surveying, etc.
Real Estate – nothing sells a nice property faster than a drone video of the grounds along with the house and what is
surrounding it.
Wedding Photography – drone wedding photography gives new life to an old, exhausted profession.
Retail – from interior drone video of showrooms and warehouses to unique shots for commercials and advertising.

Aerial Photography: What Does it Take to be a GOOD Drone Photographer?

A drone pilot has to be part meteorologist to fly and is also required by FAA

A drone pilot has to be part meteorologist to fly and is also required to be by FAA

As mentioned above, every idiot with a recreational drone thinks just because they can fly it that makes them a drone expert. NOT. Anyone who is a licensed drone pilot, (such as myself) will tell you that all the FAA rules and regulations regarding commercial drone use are put in place for everyone’s protection. And we responsible commercial drone users are more than happy to spend the rigorous hours studying for the FAA UAV exam, going through all the paperwork hassles, and paying the licensing and registrations fees because WE respect the regulations the FAA has put into place for EVERYONE’S protection. Very few recreational drone users get that. Hence my comment earlier that the FAA should make it illegal to fly a drone unless you are licensed and have read and studied all the FAA information. Flying a drone should not be taken lightly. It is very easy to put more than your life at risk with one. Furthermore, drones are not infallible. There can be fly-aways, dropping out of the sky for often unknown reasons, and a multitude of functional things that can go wrong with a drone. Recently the FAA has been working with DJI to create a parachute for drones that will deploy automatically in the event of functional failure. That tells you just how often it happens: VERY.

Anyway…the above are all the things a drone pilot has to consider just to fly the darn thing. Then there’s everything to consider to be able to take good photos and video with it. A drone is essentially a flying camera: That you cannot control as well as a regular camera in regards to exposure settings, downloads, and composition. The drone is your eye in the sky and you cannot always see on the controller what it sees up there. Unless you have a great deal of experience interpreting the two.

Understanding and using an aeronautical map is also a prerequisite to obtaining a UAV license from the FAA.

Understanding and using an aeronautical map is also a prerequisite to obtaining a UAV license from the FAA.

I have found that having over 35 years of prior photography experience helps a great deal in getting your mind right about how to use a drone. Basically, like I said, a drone is just a flying camera, and if the pilot has prior photography experience, they can pick up on the best ways to use it for optimum photographic and video results. After all, a drone is just another piece of photography equipment, all you have to master as an experienced photographer are the controls and how to make them produce the results you want. Without photography experience, it will take years to master how to use a drone for good photography, and that person may never get it if they don’t already have an aptitude for photography.

Madison Photographer and Licensed Drone Pilot in Madison, WI and surrounding areas including Baraboo, Sauk City, Richland Center, Reedsburg, LaCrosse, Middleton, Fitchburg. Will travel farther for a small travel fee. Contact me for details.

And I’m sure the FAA already has something in the works regarding changing their recreational drone user requirements. They would be stupid not to – given the multiple warnings from safety and rescue teams, firefighters, and other pilots regarding the hazards already popping up due to recreational drone users. And let me be clear, I am only addressing the recreational use of drones in this article. Those that have not had any formal drone pilot or FAA training. The big push will be when someone gets seriously hurt or killed due to some bozo flying their drone where it shouldn’t be. It’s just a matter of time. It will happen. An in-air collision with a manned airplane is inevitable at the rate drone usage is growing. And according to firefighting slurry bomber pilots, near misses have already happened because they and drones fly just above the tree lines.

You can’t drive a car without a license and you can’t get a license without the proper training first. The same should be true of flying a drone. After all, they are traveling in the same traffic as other pilots, and for everybody’s safety, they should absolutely know what they are doing. The FAA has been far too lackadaisical in recreational drone use thus far. It’s the equivalent of if the DMV were to let people drive cars without a license as long as they are only driving for recreational use. What? Their lack of proper regulatory measures addressing recreational drone use may have been okay when there were only a couple hundred drones out there, but now there are hundreds of thousands in the air. And companies like Amazon want to use them on a daily basis to deliver packages? Soon our skies will be more crowded than our streets. We’ve already witnessed the hazards of unmanned, automated cars crashing. Well….drones are unmanned, automated cars in the sky!

Anyway…the above are all the things a drone pilot has to consider just to fly the darn thing. Then there’s everything to consider to be able to take good photos and videos with it. That skill is discussed on my page on Photography and Video Services.

Can you read and understand the aeronautical map at the top of this page? If not, then you have no business flying anything, including a drone.

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