Once you have decided you would like to have aerial images done for your project, you must make the decision as to who you should hire to take those images for you. Prices for aerial imaging have become very reasonable due to the sUA (drone) revolution. Aerial cameras that come with these new drones are remarkable and provide extremely professional images. In the “old” days, you had to hire a manned aircraft and a professional photographer that could be quite pricey, to say the least. Even now with the use of drones, prices can vary significantly. Certainly, no reasonable drone aerial photographer would charge the prices that a manned aircraft could demand, but, there are some companies that will do just that. Additionally, there are restrictions on who can fly a drone commercially. So, who should you hire?
- Hire a professional. That is, a drone pilot that has passed the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test and who is certificated as a Remote sUAS Pilot or has a private pilot’s certificate that has successfully taken the Part 107 course required by the FAA. Ask to see their pilot’s certificate!! A certificated pilot will be happy to present this documentation to you. Only certificated sUAS pilots can fly commercially in the United States under current FAA regulations. Once you have established the pilot’s credentials, you can have some assurance that he/she has some knowledge of the regulations, is familiar with the National Airspace (NAS), can read and interpret aeronautical weather reports, sectional navigational charts and has some experience flying unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and is committed to safety on the job. Rogue or non-certificated pilots are the biggest threat to the industry today. Certificated pilots are taught not to be reckless and are very much aware of sound aeronautical decision making models. Beware: hobbyists are not permitted to conduct commercial drone operations in the National Airspace and should not be hired to conduct an operation for you or your company.
- Make sure your pilot is insured. An aerial pilot-photographer should carry $1,000,000 in liability coverage for his/her operations. The professional drones now on the market are extremely reliable and safe…the days of fly-aways are rare except in the case of inexperienced and non-certificated operators. But there is always that rare occurrence where something may go wrong and some property may get damaged, and in these cases, you are going to want to have a pilot that has the good sense to be insured. Typically, when accidents do occur, the damage is restricted to the aircraft and damage to personal or real property is minimal. Request that your pilot-photographer present his/her proof of coverage.
- Ask about the equipment that will be used. An aerial photographer/videographer should be equipped with the aircraft and cameras that will provide the highest quality images, are technologically superior in all aspects, are capable of advanced autonomous flight and are safe. You do not want to hire a pilot that is using a “toy” to produce high quality images for your project because these aircraft are simply not capable of producing that kind of imagery. Most pilot-photographers are using DJI or Yuneec aircraft and cameras. These two companies, based in China, hold the greatest market share in the current sUA industry, with DJI holding the greatest of that share…and for good reason. I have flown all of these companies’ aircraft and a lot of other companies’ products, and am thoroughly convinced DJI and Yuneec have the highest quality aircraft and cameras on the market today.
- Post-production. Make sure your pilot-photographer is capable of post-production services. Most photographers/videographers are able to use Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere for video post-production and Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop for photo editing. Ask your photographer what post-production software he/she uses. There are many other post-production software packages available that provide excellent results in post, so be open-minded when it comes to post-production services.
Hawkeye Aerial Imaging Solutions is my company that provides not only aerial photography and videography services, but also does ground photography for most of my clients’ projects. I use state of the art aircraft, aircraft cameras and ground cameras and I am an insured FAA certificated sUA pilot. I would be more than willing to show you my credentials and proof of liability coverage. I have in excess of 1,000 hours of sUA flight experience. Additionally, I hold a FAA approved COA (certificate of authority) to conduct night operations. This permits me to shoot some incredible aerial night images that, without the COA, could not be obtained. That COA is also available for inspection.
For safety and situational awareness, I utilize a co-pilot/visual observer, for most projects. Under FAA regulations, the pilot-in-command must keep visual line of sight of the aircraft. A visual observer supplements this requirement of VLOS and is a requirement for all night operations. Safety is one of my greatest concerns when conducting aerial imaging operations and should be one of your concerns when hiring an aerial photographer.
My aircraft hangar consists of a DJI Inspire 1 ver 2 equipped with the Zenmuse X3 camera, a DJI Inspire Pro Black that utilizes the Zenmuse X5 camera, a DJI Phantom 4 Pro equipped with the latest professional camera from DJI (please see my blog about the DJI Phantom 4 Pro) and a Yuneec Q500 4K that has the Yuneec CGO3 4K camera. I have also pre-ordered the newest edition to the DJI series…the DJI Inspire 2.
Lastly, I use Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Photoshop for post-production editing services for videography and photos.
Please visit my CONTACT page to submit information about a project you might be planning or have an idea for and I would be happy to give you a quote for the services you have in mind.