Should I Buy It? Drone

Should I Buy It? Drone

Drones are a really awesome tool for getting breathtaking aerial video. They’ve been a game changer for filmmakers worldwide, giving them the ability to capture an incredible range of footage and images. They have changed the scope of story in film, and it has been an amazing development to watch.

As drones become more affordable, more people have the opportunity to use them. Unfortunately, even though drones are cool and have the ability to capture life from hundreds of feet in the air, they also pose several major issues. It’s important to be aware of the pros and (important) cons before rushing out to purchase one of these bad boys.

The Lowdown on Drones

Drones are a lot of fun to play with, BUT they can be really dangerous, and they’re easily broken–and often–due to user error (I’ve crashed three :/). On the bright side, many drones come with a built-in GPS and/or collision avoidance system, which make them much easier to fly.

My favorite beginner drone is the DJI Phantom, starting with the Phantom 3 model and up. You can pick up a standard DJI Phantom for around $400.

When you’re flying a drone, you have to watch out for flagpoles, buildings, trees, baseball fields, and similar things. You’re not allowed to fly over people, around stadiums or sporting events near wildfires, and definitely nowhere near places like Washington, DC.

Buying a drone is a big investment, and actually being able to use it requires a pretty steep learning curve. If you’re going to fly, you have to be very educated about more than just the operation of the drone itself. Which brings me to…

The Red Tape

If you want to buy a drone, you’ll have to learn all the rules and regulations that go along with owning and flying one. Here are some examples of the red tape you’ll encounter when it comes to drones:

  • Even though you’re a hobbyist, you’re still entering the same airspace as planes and helicopters
  • Legally, you can fly up to 400 feet in some locations
  • You’re required to notify the FAA for drone flights within 5 miles of an airport
  • If you’re paid for the photos or videos you create from your drone, you have to register yourself as a pilot and take a special certification test

You can find more detailed information about the rules and regulations here.

Should I Buy It?

Ultimately, you’re the best judge of which equipment you should buy. But make sure, before you purchase a drone, that what you want to use it for makes sense. For example, a drone is great if you own a scenic horse farm, but do you really need it for shots of your house?

Keep in mind that the percentage of drone shots you’re going to use in video will be less than 2%. Typically, the drone shots you’re going to put into a film are mostly establishing shots, to establish where the viewer is. After that, you’re pretty much done with it.

If you still think you’d like to try a drone, I’d highly recommend renting one before buying it. They’re fairly inexpensive to rent, but make sure you buy the insurance coverage when you do. I can’t stress this enough; it’s way too easy to crash these things.

These guys have hooked me up before and are great to work with!

So what do you think? Do you own a drone? Thinking of buying one? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Cynthia Wolf

    I don’t own a drone, but being a photographer, I sure thought about buying one. You’re so right a big investment. If you sell real estate, it would be worth it because you would use it all the time. But I’m an artist and represent artists and had this idea that I wanted to implement. So, 2 years ago I asked a commercial pilot (who also did commercial shots with a drone) to help on a project. I represent artists that paint outside on location and I wanted a drone to start at the easel and fly up and above and get shots of the mountainside and valley that the artists were painting. Cool idea in theory, but amazingly hard to capture what I envisioned. Love to try it again, but I would find an experienced drone operator again to do it. I still have this awesome idea. But you’re right, you wind up using a very small portion of the footage…mostly a lead in for my project idea. And unless you can trade something with an operator, you will be paying quite a for their experience. Now, Gopro….I really want the new Gopro for out on location videos….Thanks so much for all your pearls of wisdom! and

    • Wes Wages

      Cool idea Cynthia! Sounds like it would be beautiful and offer a different perspective. Keep trying to find someone!