Choosing a Drone Aerial Service Provider

ChecklistWhen it comes to selecting a drone service provider for your aerial media needs it can be a daunting task.  The industry is in the very early stages of growth so reliable recommendations and reviews can be hard to come by.

With drones becoming cheaper the barriers of entry are low and many are jumping in to the game putting out their Drone Aerials shingle with little to no previous experience. As a result, pricing alone is not always the key determining factor for selecting the best provider for your needs.

The true measure is in value provided and getting an end product that meets or exceeds your expectations and is done safely.  Not all aerial media is made the same, low quality visuals can directly impact your brand and image.

As with any outsourcing you need to choose wisely who to work with and who you want to develop an ongoing relationship with.  The following are some key factors to take into account before hiring an aerial provider.

Within Canada all commercial drone use is regulated by Transport Canada (most other countries have similar regulatory bodies, such as the FAA, CAA).  Operators must follow these regulations to operate legally.  In most cases in Canada this requires the operator to have what is knows as a  Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).  If the provider does not have one (or doesn’t know what it even is) then you should avoid using them as you could potentially be liable in the event of an accident while on your property.  It also indicates their general lack of knowledge on the regulations or a decision to ignore them completely. (In some instances an Exemption can be used, however these apply mainly in very rural locations so most often cannot be used.)

If the provider does not have what is called a Standing or Blanket SFOC (these are open long term certificates) already in place and relies on operation specific certificates then you could have to wait for 20 days up to 3 months+ for approval for your specific work.  Those holding Standing SFOCs are generally able to work with very short notice as no further processing by Transport Canada is required. Be sure to ask what sort of SFOC the provider holds and what if any lead time may be required before the actual aerial work can be done.

Also SFOCs are regionally granted, so ensure the operator you are looking to hire has one for your specific location as there are multiple regions across Canada. (more…)

Medium vs Message: Drone Aerial Media Quality or the Lack Thereof

A few weeks ago I sat in the doctors office waiting for an appointment, on the wall was a LCD display showing information and ads of local businesses. One ad caught my eye as it featured aerial imagery of a golf course obviously shot with a drone.  What really stood out however was not the golf course itself but the poor quality of the aerials – jello, unlevel horizon, jerky camera movements, fisheye, and general amateurish look to it all.  The video didn’t so much highlight the golf course as it made obvious the use of a drone, which in the end is not the message I suspect they wanted to send to potential customers.

With the rapid growth of drones that are easy to fly by almost anyone we are also seeing the rapid increase in the adoption of aerial imagery in to advertising campaigns.  These systems now put aerial media within the budget of almost any business allowing them to give unique new views of their properties, projects, services.

While it may seem the “cool” thing to do to add any sort of aerial footage to your marketing campaign, the fad phase is quickly coming to an end.  With so much drone based media out there it has less of the “wow factor” it did a year or even a few months ago.  In that early phase the medium became the message and the use of a drone alone would attract attention and eyeballs.

As things evolve however the focus is less on the tool and more on the resulting imagery that it creates; as such the quality of the footage is becoming increasingly critical. It needs to highlight the product/project/brand and not the device itself.  Potential customers aren’t looking to buy a drone from most businesses, they are looking at the products and services themselves and that needs to be the focus of the resulting use of the drone footage.  If the footage looks unprofessional then so will the product or service you are trying to promote.

Much like the early days of website development when anyone that new some HTML became a “web developer” so to has been the case with drones, with hundreds of  aerial businesses popping up from everyone that owns a DJI Phantom or similar systems and overnight becomes an “aerial video professional”.  As with any profession owning the tools does not make one a skilled professional in using them.

Companies looking for aerial footage need to choose wisely.  Most people would probably not choose a doctor or dentist based on who is the cheapest despite their experience and credentials, the same applies to services like aerial imagery.  You get what you pay for in the end in most cases. The quick cheap route may end up producing footage that negatively impacts the brand and overall image.

Throw in the fact that many of the cut rate providers may also be operating illegally and a company could potentially end up with liability issues if something were to go wrong doing an aerial shoot.

The same applies for companies that buy their own drone thinking its the cheaper and easier route to take.  Being proficient and producing high quality footage takes skill and experience, it is not simply a matter of buying the tool, you need to know how to use it effectively, efficiently, safely, and legally. (See our article on Inhouse vs Outsourcing)

As the use of drones grows we will see more and more aerial imagery making it into the mainstream of many company’s marketing plans,  those that use it effectively will be the biggest winners,  those that use it poorly could tarnish their brand.

DJI Shows Off Phantom 3 4K Drone at NAB 2015

In this episode, the Roswell Flight Test Crew visits the DJI booth at the 2015 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, to check out the Phantom 3. The new quadcopter is available in two models. The Professional version features a 4K video camera, while the Advanced version utilizes a conventional high-definition (HD) video camera. Both feature an integrated Lightbridge video transmission system to send back live feed from the aircraft to the pilot’s Android or iOS device, as well as a new optical flow system for precision position hold even in environments where GPS lock is unavailable, such as indoors. Both aircraft are powered by a new four-cell Lithium-Polymer battery capable of delivering 23 minutes of flight time.

DJI@NAB 2015 – Phantom 3 vs Inspire 1 discussion

Day 1 of NAB just finished and we wanted to address some of the differences between the Inspire 1 and the Phantom 3. This is a video message from DJI to all our current and potential aerial cinematography partners about how the P3 and I1 can fit into your aerial toolkit. Please comment below and DJI aerial cinematography specialists and the social media team will try their best to answer customers and create a positive discussion. Looking forward to day 2 of NAB!