Over the past few years Drones have become cheaper and more capable of providing unique aerial photography views. No doubt that this new technology will greatly increase the options for photography of your project. However, this rapid growth is not without its problems.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has increasingly been keeping a close eye on this emerging technology and has currently placed a lot of restrictions on their use within 5 miles of any airport as well as how high they can fly. For instance, if your project is within a 5-mile radius of an airport or helicopter landing area (Hospitals for instance), then Drones are not allowed. For the general hobbyist these restrictions will greatly reduce the areas where they can legally operate.

But the FAA has offered a way for business operators to access these areas where the hobbyist are currently banded. This involves obtaining a waiver from the FAA called a FORM 333. With this form they must follow the following rules:

1) Must have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate.
2) Pilot must be at least 16 years old.
3) Must pass TSA vetting.
4) The drone must be registered with the FAA if it weighs more than .55 lbs.
5) Drone must weigh less than 55 lbs.
6) Pilot must be within VLOS (Visual Line Of Sight) of their drone at all times.
7) Must stay lower than 400 feet above ground
8) Daytime flights only
9) Cannot fly into clouds
10) May not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle.
11) If operating within 5 miles of an airport, they must give the FAA notice before they fly, and must include the time, place of the flight.
12) Cannot fly near National Parks, Nuclear Power Plants, NOAA marine Sanctuary areas, Military Bases, Prisons, Stadiums or other venues where large crowds, and any TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) issues by the FAA.
13) Comply with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulation (14 CFR) Part 107.

The major problem with drone photography includes:
1) If you have a large area to photograph, the drone can only fly as high as 400 feet. This may not allow enough height to get the shots you need. Manned aircraft have a minimum height above ground of 500 feet over a sparsely populated area and 1000 feet over a congested area. In my experience, I have rarely had the need to fly lower than 1000 feet.
2) If your project is within 5 miles of an airport or helicopter landing area then the drone operator must give the FAA notice before they can fly. This notice includes the time, nature of the flight, location and altitude of the flight. If the weather does not cooperate during that time, then they must re-file another request and gain approval before flying again.
3) Must remain within the line of sight of the operator. Again, if your project is large then drone photography might not be suitable for your project.

Manned aircraft have the following advantages:
1) Can cover a lot of area in a short amount of time. This is even more critical during times of the year where weather changes will make traveling to different regions a time consuming task.
2) Aircraft can fly higher and photograph more area than a drone saving you time and money.
3) We are not weight limited on our payload (camera systems) so our photos are a higher quality.
4) We can fly into areas where Drones are prohibited. Even drone operators with a valid FAA Form 333 are currently denied access around major airports as well as sensitive military areas.
5) Manned aircraft are quieter to operate around noise sensitive areas. From our higher altitude, we are able to keep our noise footprint to a minimum. This is a major advantage when photographing around neighborhoods and horse farms.
6) We are able to fly your project quickly at a moment’s notice without need to re-file our flight plan with the FAA.

Drone Photography has the following advantages:
1) Ability to acquire low-level video of your project.
2) Hovering capabilities allow drones to get precise images
3) Very close in shots of detail.
4) Can fly a lot lower to give a more oblique angle of site.

There is no doubt that drone photography is a great tool for photography and we are just starting to see its capabilities. I’ve been asked many times by customers which one is better. Well, that depends on your specific needs. Give us a call and let us know the details of your project and we will be happy to guide you to the right solution.