Operating Drones Professionally in Urban Areas

Doing drone shoots within city limits is much more challenging than shoots in rural areas.  The three biggest challenges facing these types of jobs are vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic, and privacy protection.

These are the steps that our company takes upon arrival to a property being shot to address each of these challenges.

Upon arrival at the property, we do a thorough site inspection to identify any flying hazards such as nearby trees, street lights, power/phone lines, vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic, sun angle (are we going to be shooting into the sun, will the sun glare be an issue seeing the drone, etc.), wind strength and direction (any turbulence, sudden wind gusts to watch out for), visual obstructions around the property, etc.

Next is the selection of a suitable set up area for drone take offs and landings.  The selection of the set up area is always dependent on a) having an unobstructed view of the drone at all times, b) nearby obstacles/hazards, such as street lights, trees, power lines, parked vehicles, etc. which need to be kept at a safe distance, and c) not being in the way of the video footage or photo stills of the property.  For commercial property shoots extra care must be taken when flying around heavy machinery, especially when it is moving (e.g. large cranes).
While it is possible to do an entire shoot from a single set up location, in most cases it is necessary to change locations at least once for one or more of the above reasons.

Prior to flight permissions must first be obtained from the owners of the properties on which the drone intends to take off from and/or land on.  This is generally much easier for residential property shoots, but can be a more lengthy and formal process for commercial property shoots.

Permissions must also be obtained from the owners of neighboring properties over which the drone intends to fly as part of the shoot.  For residential shoots this generally involves securing permissions from neighbours 3-4 houses on either side of the house being photographed or filmed, 3-4 houses directly across, and if necessary 3-4 houses directly behind.  As a general rule of thumb we always try to secure the required 100-foot perimeter around our take off and landing set up area.  The number of neighbors’ doors we end up knocking on therefore depends on the relative sizes of their properties.

Only after we have secured all required permissions, found a suitable set up area, prepared a mental plan of the flight paths around the property to be shot and ensured that our area of operations is clear of vehicular and pedestrian traffic do we begin the shoot.

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