I Need A Drone Video, Why Am I Required to Hire an FAA Certified Drone Pilot?


I’m a real estate agent and I just need a 2 minute drone video for my property listings; why am I required to hire an FAA certified drone pilot? Why can’t I just buy a drone and do it myself?

We get this question all the time, and by the way, it’s a completely valid question. These days, everyone has a friend or a brother or a cousin that has a drone. Maybe it’s an older Phantom 2, or a newer Mavic Pro or Spark which are great drones. Maybe they fly for hobby, or maybe they take it more seriously. In any case, why pay the rates that a professional drone photography studio charges when I can have someone I know, or do it myself? I want to provide a qualified and objective answer, so I have done some research to combine with my own expertise.

Again, these are great questions, and I am going to answer exactly why you actually want to hire an FAA certified drone pilot. In this blog, I am not only going to explain why this is a requirement, but I am also going to help you understand the benefits of working with a professional aerial photographer and walk you through the steps of finding the perfect partner to work with on your projects.

To giaerial-real-estate-photo-farm-houseve you some background on me and why you should listen to my consolation, yes I meant to say consolation, as well as provide you with some knowledgeable consulting on these topics. I come from a lifelong career as a corporate consultant in technology. I helped organizations develop best-of-breed solutions for their IT infrastructure. These solutions included the entirety of an organizations network infrastructure, the security to the network environment as well as data room server and storage to manage applications and data storage. I know what it means to work within the confines of a budget and maximize profits. However, I also understand that there is a cost to do business. Trying to save a few bucks to cut corners only results in higher costs long term. In construction, they say measure twice, cut once. In a market that is intensely competitive, no matter the industry you work in, it is paramount that you make the best decisions, do it right the first time to maximize the end result. I have stood firm in this philosophy throughout my career, even if it meant closing a deal sooner by cutting a corner to lower the price. After 25 years in business, I can truthfully boast that I never lost a customer to over-selling a solution, but instead I have the trust and respect of my clients for always keeping their best interests at heart.

If you’re still reading this blog, then it’s obvious to me that you are serious about this question, so before I lose your attention, enough about me, let’s get into it!

Why Am I Required to Hire an FAA Certified Pilot?

  1. It’s the law. With drones and aerial photography, the FAA owns the airspace above us. For that matter, we don’t even own the airspace over our own property. This is entirely ruled by the FAA. Drone Pilots who take the time to enroll in courses, invest in the study and pass the FAA exam, are going to care about adhering to all of the regulations for the safety of people and property as well as other aircraft, whether it be unmanned or manned. Commercial flying of drones includes any flights that are for “work or business”, even if no money changes hands. All commercial flights must be done by a FAA certified Remote Pilot (FAA Part 107 or 333). FAA certified pilots are required to read the same aviation charts as do airplane and helicopter pilots. This includes flying over your own personal business in order to make a video for your website. Or flying properties for a real estate broker you are related to. Certification for remote pilots became available in August 2016.  Commercial UAV pilots are required to take a test every two years, and must adhere to all Local and Federal safety rules.
  2. In addition to #1, I break this into two sections to emphasize the point that these pilots also go through intense training to understand aviation sectional charts which show restricted airspace in your community. The last thing you want as a hobbyist is to get caught flying in a restricted airspace. The consequences will far outweigh the few dollars you may spend to hire a commercial drone pilot. Believe it or not, it is more common than you might think that you are near a restricted airspace. Even if you think you are far enough away from an airport or military installation; is not knowing for sure worth the potential consequences? Just in case you’re not sure the answer to that question, it’s NO. An emphatic NO. Just because when you googled asking about fines and read that the laws are not being enforced, I assure you, they are. And for those who have been charged, depending upon the situation – the fines were as little as $400, and as much as $5,500 for the operator  paying the price of stupidity for crashing his drone on the White House lawn.  Fines most commonly range between $1,100 and $2,200.
  3. Drone pilots come in a variety of packages, but primarily they are independent and contracted by the customer or by a photography studio to perform the aerial photography. In industrial organizations, it is becoming more common to employ drone pilots to perform daily aerial functions from survey and mapping photography to a myriad of other functions. In keeping with the real estate industry, your current photographer will either be a commercial drone pilot, have an existing contracted partnership or know someone to recommend. Again, it has become such common practice, that aerial photographers are readily available and can often be bundled in to the price of your photography package.
  4. Last but not least, the answer to “I Need A Drone Video, Why DO I Have to Hire an FAA Certified Drone Pilot?” is simple. Why not hire a pilot who does this for a living, understands and minds the regulations, cares about the craft and specializes in getting you the photo and video footage you need at a price that is reasonable. There’s also the production component that we will talk about further in this BLOG.

What Are My Steps To Engage an FAA Certified Drone Photographer

As previously stated, FAA certified drone pilots are becoming more and more readily available. In your market, there will absolutely be resources within a 5 to 20 mile radius. We drone pilots love what we do, we take it very serious, and we will not hesitate to drive a few miles to your location to perform the shoot. I have a great client just outside Nashville Tennessee that calls on us to provide aerial marketing and survey video for their apartment and condominium communities. We have a pre-arranged agreement to provide roof inspection photo and video to give them a high resolution media that they can review and share with their finance resources as well as maintenance contractors. We simultaneously produce a marketing video taking in the facility, the amenities as well as the perfect sunrise over the pool, or the lighted clubhouse at dusk. I share this with you to tell you a quick story. This same organization contracted us to do a property shoot in a very rural area. It was a nearly two hour drive from Nashville only to meet a locked gate. So here I am, with all my gear scaling a barbwire fence only to then have to hike up a near mile driveway to the actual home. The entire time I am flying the drone, I am getting eaten alive by these tiny flying gnats. All the flailing and flapping was doing no good. By the way, I keep a can of off in my backpack ever since! The moral of the story is this turned out to be one of my favorite shoots. The property was nestled in a valley between two mountains and I use the footage on my marketing platforms to this day. To wrap up the point is to say that we love what we do. We will drive, we will scale fences and fight off bugs to get you the footage you need!

Below are some best steps to finding the perfect drone pilot for your needs:

  1. You want a turn-key deliverable. When you are interviewing your photographer, or the drone pilot, be sure to ask about the entire deliverable. A lot of the video I see from other firms is gorgeous, but you can quickly see the lack of skills in much of the content you see online. Do your diligence, ask for samples from their portfolio. You will not spend much, if any, more to get a well-rounded deliverable with good videoography and production.
  2. If you have your own video and photo editing production skills within your organization, feel free to ask for raw footage only. I enjoy the production aspect of the shoot, but I am never offended if the client wants to do produce the content themselves. Just specifiy the file format you require and they should be quick to reduce their price accordingly.
  3. Be clear in stating what you need. Many times a photographers published packages are less than, or more than you may need. Don’t hesitate to specify exactly what you need. When consulting with the client I actually take this upon myself and nearly 100% of the time generate a custom quote that is tailored specifically to their need. And by the way, I always over deliver on the content, simply because it takes no more time to go above and beyond. (pun intended)
  4. Ask about their experience. If you want to really get the best deliverable vs. the cheapest price, don’t hesitate to ask for references. You may not need to actually call the references, but their response to the question is a great indicator to their experience and credibility.
  5. Ask about the equipment. You may not be an expert on drones, but if you ask the question they will tell you. If you have already seen reference content, you can skip this question. My recommendation is that the camera be capable of 4K at a minimum of 60fps. If their gear can deliver those specs at a minimum, then that’s also a good indication to the quality of the content they will deliver. I typically shoot real estate in 3840 x 2160 with various filters to get various depth and color. I always ask the customer their preference but offer to render the production at 1920 x 1080 at 50 to 60fps due to heavy file sizes and common computer capabilities.
  6. Ask about their insurances. If it’s a sensitive property, ask for their current insurance certificate. I carry a minimum $1million in liability coverage for every job I shoot. It’s relatively inexpensive and it protects me as much as it does the client.
  7. Ask about their availability. If you need quick turn-around, keep in mind you will be competing for a slot on their calendar, but equally important, you will be competing against weather as well. We had a shoot in Nashville this past December that took a month to shoot due to weather. A good aerial photographer is going to want blue skies and green earth to get the best footage.

If you follow these guidelines when seeking a good aerial photographer, you should be able to find the best resource at a great rate. You want to find a partner that understands what you are looking for and that goes both ways. I care more about relationship and partnership than I do about a single transaction. I always do my best to provide the highest quality, it’s my passion, but I go to greater lengths to earn your ongoing business for the long term.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for your aerial photography needs. Go to https://galeforcedrone.com/services to see our package rates. We have pilot photographers in Nashville, but also have a broad network of pilots across the U.S.

And finally, if you have read through to the end of this blog, and call me, be sure to mention the code word *BLUESKIES* for a 10% discount. Thanks for your time! GG @ Gale-Force Drone!

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