Here in Los Angeles the commercial drone market is pretty crowded. How do you know what company to hire for your needs? Here are 4 things to consider:
Liability is the one of the top things to beware of when hiring a drone. Many small operators who just fly in their spare time do not have liability insurance. If you hire this operator and something goes wrong during his flight you can guarantee that anyone who is injured or any property that is damaged will be coming after you for compensation. This is a headache and possible financial loss you certainly do not want to deal with. Make sure any operator you hire is fully covered with drone specific insurance. Though most drones are fairly small they can still cause significant injury to people and damage to property.
Second after liability is to make sure the drone operator you hire is qualified for your job. There are many avenues of qualification as well. First and foremost, are they legally licensed to fly by the FAA? In the United States all operators must have a valid section 333 waiver or part 107 license from the FAA. Having this license is important for keeping other people in the air and on the ground safe. Its also important for the job you are hiring for. FAA is known to randomly stop at productions throughout Los Angeles and has shut down drone flights numerous times because the operator was not licensed.
Flying the drone is only one part of being qualified. You will also want to inquire about the operators history with jobs of the nature you need. First and foremost Aerial Photography drones are cameras. What experience does the operator having with photography and video? Are they familiar with formats and resolutions? Depth of field, frame rates, shutter speeds? This knowledge is important for getting good results from the operator you hire.
The number of drones on the market from DIY to off the shelf units is rapidly expanding. Does the operator have the equipment to meet your needs? For many mapping and 3d applications, small drones such as the DJI phantom work just fine. But for higher quality video and still photos you will want something like the x5 or x5r camera from DJI, or Panasonic GH4 or beyond on a DIY/heavy lift aircraft. If you plan to have the operator flying over people who agree to partake in the shoot you will want to consider having redundancy built into the aircraft, such as multiple batteries and motors/propellers like the Freefly Alta or DJI M600. If you’re needs involve long flight times and high altitude you may even consider finding an operator with access to manned aircraft. If you are in need of inspections or crop management you will want to find an operator that has cameras with zoom capabilities, thermal infrared, and NDVI.
Complete production or one step?
Many drone companies will come out and shoot photos or video for you but from their its up to you to edit and arrange the media into something presentable. This can become a headache, expensive since you have to hire multiple companies, and increases the time from the shoot to final product. For smaller video productions and real estate it’s often beneficial to find a company who can handle everything in house. From shooting aerial with drones to interiors with ground cameras and then editing the whole piece and photos together so that you a presented with a final polished piece ready to show to your audience.
We hope that this info will be helpful in choosing a drone company for your next project!