What Not To Do When Conducting Urban Property Drone Shoots

Flying over streets with traffic:
The only time that this can be done safely is if the street is clear of all traffic for the duration of the flight. One to do this safely is to temporarily close traffic in all directions around the area that is being filmed or photographed. This can be expensive, however, as it requires additional permits from the city and traffic control personnel. The other way is to try and do the shoot at a time when there is minimal traffic through the area (e.g. on weekends) or early in the mornings. Timing is key in such challenging locations. Flight times for the photo and/or video captures may also need to be significantly shortened and well timed.

Flying over people:
We always try to keep the minimum required lateral distance of 100 feet from the general public, onlookers, etc. We never fly over any assemblies of people. When having to shoot properties that can have a lot of people around (e.g. shopping malls, parking lots, busy streets, construction sites, etc.) timing of the shoots is again of the utmost importance. As a responsible drone operator you always have to ask yourself: Do I have a safe place to land if I should encounter any mechanical troubles during flight? If the answer is no, then do not proceed with the shoot.

Flying near playgrounds with children present:
Understandably, this can create serious privacy issues if not handled properly. In most cases we avoid flying near playgrounds. If capturing playgrounds is a critical part of the shoot (e.g. if the client designed or constructed the playground and is looking for video footage or some aerial stills of it) and there are children present at the time of the shoot, it is imperative to approach the parents/guardians also present and ask their permission. They have the final say whether the shoot will proceed or not. If there is no one around, the shoot is good to go.

Flying over buildings and properties that are not part of the shoot without their owners’ consent:
For residential shoots we always secure the clients’ neighbors’ permissions to fly near/over their properties, if necessary. In the vast majority of cases people have no issues whatsoever and everyone always appreciates being asked.

Flying from or over city or provincial parks/green spaces:
Additional city/park permits and fees are required here. There is also a significant wait time for the permits of up to 10 business days, with no flexibility of adjusting the date and time of the shoot once the permit has been granted. Given the highly weather dependent nature of our business flying from/over parks and urban green spaces is avoided.

Flying near schools:
This can only be done on weekends when the school is closed. Capturing video footage or photos of schools during school hours would require authorization from the school’s principal. The principal, in turn, would first have to send out notices of the planned shoot to all parents along with an authorization form to fill out and sign. There would need to be a unanimous agreement among all of the students’ parents/guardians for the shoot to proceed.

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