Don’t fall in love with drones

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There is a dirty little word you have to deal with

Drone videography is becoming ubiquitous in our world. For a stunningly low investment, you can fly a small helicopter or quadcopter with a high-definition camera. What started as an expensive film making device has trickled through the market and commoditized into an accessible tool for most any enterprise. Business commercials, city services, landscaping, real estate, agriculture — most any business you can think of likely has someone out there sending a drone into the sky to film something for it. The problem? You should not be doing this yourself.

No one needs to remind you how resources for a small business are limited, but the itch to fly your own remote-controlled helicopter is enticing. But before we get to the budget-breaking potential of even consumer grade drones, there is a dirty little word you have to deal with: regulations, as in Federal Aviation Authority.

If you are flying a drone — or “unmanned aerial system (UAS),” as the FAA has deemed them — for any commercial purpose, or even intend to use footage shot from a drone for any commercial purpose, the pilot of that drone must have an FAA Part 107 certification. Beyond the ugliness of red tape, Part 107 involves a $150 test fee and, if you’re smart, weeks of study to prepare for the intensity of the test.

Should you get your certification and decide to jump in for professional looking footage, you could squeak by with a drone in the $500 to $1,000 range, but the costs don’t end there. You will need batteries, monitors, props, storage equipment, editing software and, of course, time to get it all done. By the time you’ve jumped through all
the FAA hoops, bought all the necessary pieces for safe flying, and shot and edited your footage, you’ve probably spent close to $2,000 and a few dozen hours of your life. That is not smart business.

If you can’t shake the drone bug, hire a Part 107 certified drone pilot and have him or her shoot the footage for you. It’s still your business, and you can be present when it’s being recorded (and take the controls if the 107 certificate holder is present). There’s really no reason to dump a few grand on a passing fad, especially when you’ll only get up in the air a couple of times for work before your drone begins taking up valuable closet space.
Long story short — drones are a great lesson in the benefits of contracting work. ♦

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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