Drone Technology Opening New Doors in Video Production

Posted by John Haslam

New advances in drone technology were among the most highlighted spectacles at CES 2014, the internationally-acclaimed annual Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Particularly of note at the show was the Parrot Jumping Sumo Drone, which is controlled by a smartphone app and allows users to take videos with an included 720p camera. This gadget provides a user-friendly, affordable experience, effectively bringing drone technology into the home.

Many other drones–most of which fly rather than roll–have recently been created for the sole purpose of taking high-quality aerial shots. Take, for example, the DJI Phantom 2. Equipped with a 14 megapixel still camera and a 1080/60p video camera, this drone has helped to take video production to new heights (literally) by capturing breathtaking videos of the Niagara Falls–the likes of which have not been seen before now. Still other drones, like the SteadiDrone, feature capacities for heavy video equipment paired with extreme stability for clear, stunning aerial shots.

Currently, the FAA has strict regulations on the use of drones, requiring that users obtain a special permit before sending the devices into airspace; however, many have disregarded these restrictions and proceeded with their productions. According to Ben Miller in this article, “Turn on your TV and pay close attention to major sports events. You’ll see that in many cases they are getting aerial shots using a UAS (unmanned aerial system). I would venture to say that if you’ve seen an action movie in the last five years, chances are that a UAS was used.” Congress has enacted a law that will allow drones to fly permit-free in September of 2015, but until that time, their use is technically illegal.

What do these new developments mean for video production companies? On one hand, they can greatly reduce the cost of production for aerial shots. According to Damon Lavrink of Wired, helicopter rentals “can easily run tens of thousands of dollars after insurance, fuel, pilot costs and airspace approval,” while the use of the drone will only set you back a few thousand dollars for purchase. And now that these devices are more affordable and come with higher-quality cameras and improved stability, production companies may start considering options to purchase. On the other hand, however, should the FAA discover your use of drone technology (at least before September 2015,) you will face severe fines and even potentially losing your business.

Overall, drones, like many other technological advances, are still in their fledgling stages. As they continue to develop and become more widely accepted by government ordinances, they just might prove to be an important tool that a video production team can utilize.