Aerial photography has really taken off (pun not intended) over the past few years with photography drones becoming much more affordable and easier to learn to use. And, while there has been plenty of discussion over legalities concerning drones — should they require any kind of license to use, can the FAA regulate their airspace, and is flying one onto the White House lawn a crime or a harmless prank being top among them — there have also been plenty of articles out there about getting the most out of your photography drone and the best ways to use them. Thus far, we’ve seen them used to capture scientific images such as storms, the night sky, wildlife, and nature from a diverse range of angles and approaches as well as the “cooler” uses of them in saving images of beach scenes (para-skiing, surfing), mountain-climbing, and even school-style photography where some enterprising marching bands use them to capture shots of their half-time shows. However, none of them really focus on the faux pas a drone pilot can commit. So, to help you out, we have a few tips for you to keep in mind whenever you fire up your photography drone so that you can be a good drone pilot, not one that people roll their eyes at.
1) Don’t buzz people, pets, or buildings
Sure, Maverick from Top Gun looked cool buzzing the tower but if you do it with your drone, you’re going to look double-plus ungood. It’s not only annoying to use your drone to swoop down on some unsuspecting person or animal, it can be dangerous. You have no idea how they might react and they could get hurt (which might cause you to run afoul of the law) or they could damage your drone (which could be expensive).
2) Respect property laws
Just because you can fly your drone over gates, barricades, or other blocks doesn’t mean you should. If someone has posted “no trespassing” signs or “private property” warnings, then the general rule of thumb is not to fly your drone over them. If you do, you could be considered to be trespassing or violating privacy laws in the local area.
3) Ask if you’re not sure
If you’re going to a public park such as Yellowstone, you should ask the park rangers or the folks at the welcoming desk what the rules are for using photography drones. There may be some areas that don’t allow it due to the risk of damage to natural sites or wildlife. Fines for violating these rules can be pretty hefty, especially if you’re trying to get close-ups of the White House or Capitol building
4) Just because you’re in public, doesn’t mean you have no privacy
People in public areas don’t have the same expectation of privacy as the same people in their homes. However, that does not mean they have no expectation. If you’re using drones in a park, be aware that there may be rules about photographing families or children. It also means that you can’t use the drone to follow them into places that would be considered private.
5) Be aware of the weather
Drones are very light-weight. A strong, gusting wind can send them off-course very quickly. So, it’s a good rule of thumb to be aware of the weather conditions and the predicted weather for the days you’re going to be flying your photography drone around.
Drone photography can be very fun and can get you some extremely memorable images. Just follow a few rules of common courtesy to make certain you don’t wind up being one of those drone pilots that everyone talks about — and not in a good way!