Drone cinematography is a wonderful way to enhance your film, but it’s important to know all the rules and restrictions that are in place. You do not need a drone license to purchase or fly a drone, but you do need a license if your footage will be used for any commercial purpose. While it is obvious that rule would apply to film and television production, it is less obvious that it applies to any monetized content on Youtube, TikTok, or more.
So how does one go about getting a drone license? The process is relatively painless. The FAA outlines the process on their website, but the main component is a written test on aeronautical knowledge, with a fee of approximately $175. Once you past the test, you will need to take part in any continuing education programs that the FAA rolls out at least every two years, at no additional cost, to keep your license current.
Once you have your drone license, you will also need to register your drone with the FAA. The registration fee is $5, and as part of the registration, you must give your drone a name. It can be whatever you want, so have fun with it! The drone pilots employed by the Division of Tourism shared that their drones are named Spider, Ghost, Red October, and Bernadette.
Now that you are all licensed and registered up, you are ready to fly, right? Not quite. You have to keep in mind that there are some locations with restricted or controlled airspace, such as airports, military bases, and national parks. A great resource is the app DroneUp. This app contains and interactive map with all the restrictions in place. You can also submit a flight plan, and the app will automatically send it to LAANC, the approval arm of the FAA, for them to approve or deny your flight plan. This process if very quick, and can be as speedy as a matter of seconds.
Compared to other states, Missouri is a relatively easy place to fly drones, as the state is very rural and has few airports. Missouri does contain two military bases, Whiteman Air Force Base in Johnson County and Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County. These two bases have controlled air space, and while that doesn’t mean you cannot fly there, you do need to alert the base and proceed with caution.
Another thing to keep in mind are the conditions when you fly. You should only fly in clear weather, and if you fly at night, you will need to attach a light to your drone that is bright enough to be seen from 3 statute miles. The lights that are built into the drone do not meet this threshold, but lights that do meet this threshold are relatively inexpensive and easy to attach to your drone.
The most important thing to know when it comes to flying drones is that ignorance won’t get you out of anything. Be knowledgeable about FAA restrictions and local ordinances. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to contact local authorities to make sure you are cleared to fly. Fly safe out there!