Soaring into the sky, seeing a bird’s eye view of the world – nothing beats aerial photography if you’ve got something spectacular you want to show off.
Filming with a drone allows new creative possibilities. You can create stunning shots that show off size and context – perfect for remote clifftop locations, impressive machinery, and even ancient castles.
Aerial photography is the kind of filming that was once only possible with very expensive helicopter camerawork, but which is now far more affordable and flexible thanks to drone-created aerial footage.
Drones – sometimes known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are essential flying cameras, operated by remote control. They usually use 4 propellers to generate lift and movement, which means they can hover in one spot and smoothly change angles: great for aerial photography.
But as wonderful as drone photography is, there are 6 important things to you need know to keep on the right side of the law in the UK. They’re all based on safety, and violating these rules can lead to harsh penalties.
1. Use a qualified pilot for aerial photography
If you’re using a drone for commercial purposes – such as producing aerial photography for an organization – then the drone operator must be legally authorized by the Civil Aviation Authority.
2. Keep your drone in sight
Your drone must be visible to the person flying it. As a rule of thumb, this means flying it no further than 122 metres vertically and 500m horizontally.
3. Don’t get too close
Your drone can’t fly within 50 metres of a person, except during take-off or landing. It must also stay at least 50 metres away from any vehicles, buildings, or structures.
4. Don’t get too close to congested areas
You can’t fly your drone over or within 150 metres of any congested areas. That includes music concerts, sporting events, town centres – any large group of people.
5. Don’t fly near airports
You must stay at least 5 miles away from airports. If you want to fly closer than 5 miles, you must tell the air traffic control tower in advance.
6. Get the permission of everyone being filmed
Footage you create with aerial photography is governed by the Data Protection Act, just like regular photography.
Bonus tip: check the weather!
It sounds so simple, but checking that you have the right weather conditions is essential for aerial photography. Creatively, it’s not difficult to see how blue skies look better than dull grey in photography. But it’s not just sunshine you need – what you might not realise is just how bad breezy conditions can be for drone filming.
From an artistic perspective, wind is bad because it can move the drone around, causing shaky footage that can’t be used. But much more importantly, a gust of wind can forcibly move your drone, causing it to lose control and even crash. Remember that the wind speed high in the air will be much stronger than the wind at ground level. It’s a phenomena, familiar to pilots, known as wind gradient.
Keeping within the law is simple, and makes a safer working environment for everyone. Now you know the rules, go ahead and produce some beautiful aerial photography for your next video project!