How to Hire a Drone Pilot
HOW TO HIRE A DRONE PILOT
There’s a similar phrase that we come across in the drone industry. “My _______ has a drone." Insert in the blank any relative, friend, or colleague you can name. It seems that drones are taking over the world. With that, comes a lot of skepticism and press, both good and bad. There are only a few businesses that I’ve run in to over the years that are actually playing by the rules and producing incredible content at the same time.
Hiring the right company for your job can be daunting, especially when considering airspace and other drone laws that may come into play. Luckily, that's for your drone pilot to know and it's his/her responsibility to educate you, as the client. There are a few things you should know and ask the pilot before you sign the dotted line.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK WHEN HIRING A DRONE PILOT
Are you Part 107 Certified?
This should be your qualifier. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 Certification, also known as Remote Pilot Certification, enables drone pilots to fly low-risk, commercial flights in the United States. If they’re not Part 107 certified, this means that the pilot cannot legally fly commercially. The risk in hiring someone who is not certified weighs much heavier on the pilot than the hiring company. But, should any accident every happen on a commercial flight by a residential pilot, you, as the business, want to make sure that everyone is covered under the law and insured. There are some incredible pilots out there who are flying recreationally. I encourage you to not overlook this first rule and be jaded by the breathtaking portfolio of a pilot who is selling their services illegally.
Side note: In July 2018, the FAA released some interesting numbers on Part 107 Certificate Holders. I was surprised and delighted to see Wake County, NC listed in the top 15 counties in the US with the largest amount of certificate holders! Why are there so many Part 107 Pilots in Wake County? The answer, unless someone can prove me wrong, must be real estate. It’s no secret that real estate is booming in the Triangle. I’ve heard of many folks who are certified or are getting certified so they can take residential and commercial real estate photos for their company. Which brings me to my next point.
What is your film experience?
Owning a drone is cool, but just because someone owns a drone it does not make them a videographer. DJI drones have become so intelligent that everyone from a 4 year old to 94 year old can figure out how to fly one. However, it does not mean they can get the job done to reflect your brand in a professional manor. Is this just a human with a UAV and a camera, or are you hiring a qualified videographer who has experience in the industry. Look at their portfolio. Is the footage high quality. Does their editing look professional? Crooked horizons, over exposed shots, shaky footage, and jerky camera movements are tell-tale signs of a novice pilot.
What is your equipment?
We’ve been loyal to the DJI family of drones for a while. The DJI Matrice, Phantom 2, Mavic, Mavic 2, Inspire 1 Pro V2, and Inspire 2 have all spent time in our quiver. However, there are other companies in the industry, like Free Fly Systems, who make incredible equipment. Here, the most important question to ask is, “what resolution are you shooting in?” 1080p and 4K are the industry standard. The professional series drones like the Inspire series will have top notch image quality, while the Mavic series and Phantom series, pack quite the punch as well, but are still considered consumer drones. We often use the Mavic series to sub in for the Inspire. Each project is different and you’ll find that most pilots will choose the right tool to get the job done.
Some of my favorite Drone Companies in the Raleigh area and beyond…