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Drone safety: how we set up and prepare our shoots

Drone safety: how we set up and prepare our shoots


Drone safety is a hot topic of discussion, and rightfully so. While unmanned aerial vehicles are generally quite small and lightweight, they still need to be piloted carefully in order to avoid injuries or damage to property – which is why if you are in any doubt, it is always best to hire a reputable aerial videography company to carry out your shoot.

Hobbyists are bound by the Drone Code, which places certain safety restrictions on unlicensed operators flying drones: you must keep the drone in direct sight at all times, below 400 ft altitude, 50m from urban areas and crowds, and 50m from any individual people or buildings that are not under your control.

Obviously it is essential to avoid aircraft flight paths – including cruising altitudes, and also lower altitudes near airports – as well as to fly the craft in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and acknowledge your legal duty to operate it safely.

But all of this governs amateur operators, so what added benefits do you get when you hire an aerial photography company to fly a drone filming rig on your behalf?

Equipment and operators

Safety stems in part from using the right equipment for the job, and that doesn’t just mean in the air; we also provide vehicle-mounted filming and steadicam rigs, with cameras mounted on a cross-platform gimbal that allows for seamless transfers to UAV mounts for aerial shots too.

Our heavy lift drones can take any camera with a weight of up to 6 kg, with the gimbal allowing for 360 degrees of continuing motion, and 135 degrees of tilting beyond vertical, with the option of 1080 50i live streaming of real-time footage via SDI-out television broadcast. We have worked on numerous live broadcasts with this set up including Crimewatch and The One Show Liver Outside Broadcast.

We can supply cameras with a single operator with the relevant licences as described below, or for even greater expertise on-site, we have multi-crew personnel packages.

That means you can have a separate gimbal operator – one member of crew for the flying, the other for the filming – or an independent observer or assistant to keep a watchful eye out and alert the pilot to any potential risks.

Your choice of personnel depends on the complexities of the shoot, any potential obstacles to the operator’s line of sight, and the presence of people or buildings in the immediate vicinity.

Whatever you choose, we will always provide professional, qualified operators with substantial industry experience, and the best quality equipment for live television streaming, recorded HD cinematic footage or still photography capture as required.

drone safety regulation

Licenses and permissions

Our drone operators are qualified for day and night operations under the UK Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence, which is recognised by the Civil Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

This means we can fly drone camera rigs even in built-up areas and in places where there may be other aircraft nearby, with the expertise to avoid putting anyone at risk or infringing on flight paths.

We have a successful history of providing aerial photography and drone camera hire in London, including central locations such as over the River Thames and around high-rise structures like the London Eye.

Filming in such densely populated and politically sensitive locations requires CAA permission in advance, and we are able to liaise with the CAA to submit proof of safety precautions, in order to make sure there are no delays in getting approval to film.

There are some locations where permission will not be granted due to public safety concerns, but in general you have a better chance of gaining approval with our help, and at the least we should be able to offer an alternative, such as vehicle-mounted filming or a suitable alternative location nearby.

Take a look at an example of a film permit at the bottom of this page.

Insurance cover

It’s important to plan for all eventualities, including events beyond any reasonable degree of control – and if an incident should occur, you don’t want to be left facing a financial liability because of it.

We hold £5 million of public liability cover for all of our services, so that if something unavoidable does happen, we can claim on the insurance to pay out the costs of putting it right.

Of course, we take every precaution to avoid ever having to make a claim, but having sufficient public liability cover in place provides some extra peace of mind, especially for shoots in urban areas, near buildings and other structures, or in the presence of crowds of people.

drone flying clearance

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