Drones, Drones, Drones (UAVs)

Amazon Prime Air

Amazon Prime Air

According to Natalie Sommer, an associate producer at 60 Minutes, before Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ushered Charlie Rose into a secret room at Amazon’s corporate headquarters, he offered the reporter half of his fortune, and a trip to Las Vegas to spend it, if Rose could tell him what was in the room. Well, Charlie Rose is still working for CBS and PBS.

On a large, polished, wood table sat two 8-rotor drone helicopters emblazoned with an Amazon Prime Air logo, the vehicles of a futuristic concept to deliver your Amazon order, assuming it isn’t a heavy appliance like a television or toilet, to your home within 30 minutes after you place the order. That’s only half the running time of an episode of the CBS Sunday night news show.

This segment and its many followups in national news media presented the scenario of thousands of drones home-delivering everything from a tube of toothpaste, if you are caught short mid brushing, to your Domino’s pizza with its cheese still bubbling. Bezos cautioned that it may be a dream deferred, subject, of course, to FAA approval and regulation. But he was optimistic it would only require a few years and affirmed that Amazon will be ready to “fly” by next year.

The devil is in more than the FAA details, Mr. Bezos. It’s in the not unrealistic fact that the skies above our very heads might become more crowded than the runways of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport on a Friday evening. And what if the payload on the drone is not the latest Clive Cussler best seller, but a GoPro Hero3 on a DJI Phantom Quadcopter with a 3-axis gyro, piloted by a pimply-faced teen, and hovering outside the window of his girlfriend’s bedroom? Lots of cans of worms!

2. phantom-2-vision-feature

DJI Phantom 2 Vision with proprietary onboard camera

In fact, recent news stories (not just Bezos’ publicity-driven fantasy) suggest that the FAA is not going to be the only federal or law-enforcement agency to have a full plate of legal issues and lawsuits to dine on in the coming decade. Competition over air-space corridors might be the easiest to legislate. Thornier yet are certain looming questions of privacy rights, sexual “Peeping Tom” infringements, aural and visual harassments by drones buzzing around in public spaces, and the very real danger posed by malfunctioning, mis-piloted or mis-programmed drones — including higher-altitude (but still amateur) drones that already have nearly caused midair collisions with commercial jets.

Is even the decades-long history of boys flying model airplanes in jeopardy? Will fixed-wing craft or ones without video cameras be exempted?

Google and YouTube searches easily supply dozens of news stories and videos of all the situations I allude to. I didn’t give much thought to the Amazon delivery stunt until I received an email from my camera operator, Ben Spek, with the header “drones, drones, drones,” with links to news stories of a Seattle woman who was frightened by a hovering camera drone outside her window as she was dressing. I found videos of out-of-the-box amateur drones taking to the air (even as their new owners were still reading instructions) and crashing into high rises in midtown Manhattan, then falling onto the street below, nearly injuring a pedestrian.

Two U.S. national parks, Zion and the Grand Canyon, had already banned drones as a menace to tourists. Here’s a drone fail in the Grand Canyon.

Yosemite is another park that banned drones after they were seen tracking climbers up sheer rock faces. And now, drones have been temporarily banned in the entire National Park system pending safety studies.

Even more alarming is the deployment of amateur drones in a kind of real-life video game, with “fighting drones” being designed to withstand fire or a shotgun blast, even using their cannons to launch paintballs on victims below. The mind reels at how “open carry” states might deal with this.

Game of Drones

Game of Drones

The Los Angeles Times even reported the unexpected decision by the LAPD — never thought to be especially cautious in its zeal for surveillance — to place its two drones in the hands of Homeland Security until clear guidelines regarding their deployment can be determined.

The FAA, however, has authorized tests of drones in several locations in Alaska, an area with much less crowded skies. Drones’ potential for crucial topographical surveying and wildlife counts is explained here. Maybe Alaska and North Dakota are ideal places for Amazon Prime Air, though one can’t imagine a close enough “fulfillment center” as launch pad.

So what makes this more than an item of passing interest to cinematographers like me? Here is a personal point of reference: after recently finishing principal photography for the film A Walk in the Woods, our production formed a splinter unit to photograph scenics in four Southern states, well known places on the Appalachian Trail. We included aerials from a camera drone. All the sites were chosen within existing guidelines, were distant from other people, and were piloted by a professional team with substantial experience. The drone was no out of the box amateur rig but an ingenious DIY model.

Wayne's Drone

Homemade Octocopter for A WALK IN THE WOODS

Just like the Steadicam before it, these small 4-rotor and 8-rotor drone helicopters mounted with HD cameras, from GoPros to  Canon 5Ds, are quickly changing the scale of imagery that can be photographed for feature films. Many productions that have been unable to afford traditional piloted helicopters with sophisticated camera-stabilizing systems can now engage a two-person ground-based crew of pilot and operator to shoot sweeping images that “open up” a film. But that is only a small part of drones’ potential as a new camera system.

Last winter, watching director Nabil Ayouch’s Horses of God, the Moroccan entry for the Academy’s foreign-film Oscar, I saw a shot that took my breath away. A group of boys are playing on a dirt soccer pitch in the Casablanca slum of Sidi Moumen. Everything is photographed at ground level, with long-lens panning shots intercut with wider-angle close coverage on the Steadicam to build up the action sequence. A very low-angle shot then follows several boys chasing the ball — and suddenly sweeps past them, rising above their heads to reveal the intricate warren of passageways in the slum beyond. The camera continues up higher for an overview of the slum and of downtown Casablanca. It is a stunning moment because it comes at the end of an eye-level sequence. It also sets up the disjunction between these still innocent, poor children playing soccer in a trash-ridden, dusty lot—- with the indifferent modern city nearby. The film climaxes with a sequence set years later, in May 2003, when these same boys, now trained suicide bombers, simultaneously blow up several buildings in downtown Casablanca, killing themselves and 33 people. This single camera move, made with a small HD camera on a drone, set up the visual and narrative flow for the rest of the film.

Here is the trailer. There are several brief cuts of the boys on the pitch early on, and a very brief overhead drone shot tracking though the slum at 0.44:

The film ends with another aerial rising above the slum at sunset, hovering as the scene dissolves into night.

Not every film can hope to make such stunning use of this new technology, and the possibility of filmmakers continuing to use it may be in grave danger, thanks to hotshot hobbyists and the merely curious who have $1,000 to buy a Star Wars-y Phantom Quadcopter and a GoPro. If local and federal legislation becomes a hornet’s nest of permits and restrictions, it will weaken the ability of low-budget filmmakers to afford this extraordinary technology. (Mainstream-movie producers will, of course, be able to negotiate the permit pathway.)

This is the first time I can think of a promising technology adapted for filmmaking being put under such potentially devastating scrutiny. The issues are real, of course. Public safety and privacy are matters of great consequence and may finally override any beneficial application to motion-picture production. I hope this is not the case.  The drone footage we shot at sites along the Appalachian Trail is stunning, and I’m confident of how much it will add to the finished movie.

But I worry about what may come next. As if addressing my concern, Ben sent me a story of a recent blog post by Martha Stewart. It includes several photos of her farm made by a Phantom Quadcopter. Her post reads:

These drone-like, radio controlled aircraft are lots of fun to play with and they take extraordinary photos. However, controlling them takes practice and getting used to. Since my farm has lots of open fields, Dominic thought it would be the best place to get acquainted with this new toy. The results were amazing!

Martha Stewart's farm as seen by a Phantom Quadcopter.

Martha Stewart’s farm as seen by a Phantom Quadcopter.

Will the use of  camera drones by celebrities, real-estate agents, and amateurs (who consider them “toys”)  in this gray area between recreation and commercial promotion obstruct or help support the case for their continued use by serious filmmakers?

There’s real urgency to act for those who see this technology as a tool to expand cinematic style, and not just as a hip delivery system for Amazon.  Too often, it’s corporations through their lobbyists who become the decision makers when a new technology emerges, not the artists. Sony’s insistence on 16×9 (1:78) as the HD video format, when 1:85 had existed as the standard for decades, is one example. If camera-drone technology has a real future for filmmakers, especially for indies and documentaries, it’s time to step up to the plate. What do you think?

A 7-year-old pilot

A 7-year-old pilot (from a CNN story). Consider the possibilities.


A late footnote: Amazon has just formally petitioned the government for permission to test  its Amazon Prime Air program. 

About John Bailey, ASC

John Bailey, ASC

John Bailey’s cinematography career encompasses such mainstream Hollywood films as Ordinary People, The Big Chill, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, Groundhog Day, In the Line of Fire, As Good as It Gets and A Walk in the Woods, and such offbeat fare as Tough Guys Don’t Dance, That Championship Season, Swimming to Cambodia, A Brief History of Time and The Kid Stays in the Picture. He lives in Los Angeles and New York.


  1. Dave

    The issue that never seems to be mentioned with camera or goods carrying drones is the very short flight times. My 6 rotor with GoPro is really only useful for under 10 mins. Large machines with RED’s or similar heavy lift gear are looking at 3 mins. This works fine in a shooting situation where you plan your shot but useless otherwise.

    I doubt that with current battery technology we will ever see even 60 mins without payload.

  2. John Bailey, ASCJohn Bailey, ASC Post author

    John’s Note: I recently received an email from someone who prefers to remain anonymous but who has inside knowledge on the issue of UAVs and the permitting process. Without any comment from me, here is the text:

    The FAA has deemed the use on commercial UAS as illegal on the mainland US. Therefore they are uninsurable and illegal for commercial use.

    Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t apply for a permit and lists either a drone or remote controlled helicopter as part of the shot. UAS is a term that should be used, I believe, to describe these vehicles, because a drone gives it a military connotation.

    The CA Film Commission created a production alert that was shared with 399 – location manager’s union, producers, etc. about the status of UAS on state property. And though broad in its terms somehow people assume the issue is only confined to State property. But the FAA quote is for all COMMERCIAL UAS use on the mainland of the US. So of course, national parks forbid them, they can’t allow them without the FAA’s permission because they regulate the entire airspace on the mainland.

    Yes, the MPPA has filed an exemption for commercial use for the industry…and the latest from the FAA is they hope to comment by late fall (2014) or early 2015. That said the industry safety committees, guilds, unions and insurance companies will need to get together on this to ensure crew and cast safety and I think that’s the fundamental point of my comment. As an industry we embrace new advances and technology – we’re junkies we live for this stuff.

    But we shouldn’t race in and instead set the standards (I hope) for all industries to follow behind us, hoping to use this technology putting safety first and the coolness factor as a secondary concern.

    I’ll let you decide if you want to add my comments….but I felt I needed to put it out there that every article, letter, news story, etc. I see never addresses the fact that its the FAA that says they are illegal no matter WHERE you are in the US…its not this little town or city its the entire US mainland.

    Thanks John !

  3. Tom Hallman

    You all raise very good points. There is no question that UAV’s (please don’t call them drones) are great tools to get new and interesting perspectives in the art of filmmaking and at a cost savings over manned aircraft. They have been in use for decades in various forms. The only thing that has changed recently is that the barriers to entry in both cost and skill sets to fly them have dropped significantly in the last couple of years. When anyone with a thousand dollars and ZERO training or certification can fly a UAV, anyone will. That is what we are seeing now.

    As pointed out ad nauseam in the media, the safety and privacy concerns are real, and mostly just common sense. No one questions if, just when a major accident will happen, and I think we’ve been lucky to have not seen one yet on a film set. That is why the FAA and MPAA have cracked down on their use on sets. To be clear, there is no grey area. You cannot legally use UAV’s for commercial purposes in the US. Therefore you cannot legally use them on set in the US. You can argue the wisdom or legal loopholes to this point all you want, but just ask the legal department of your studio for permission or ask for a film permit with one listed and see what they say. But lets face it, lots of people are being creative and using UAV’s everyday on sets from the smallest indie up to and including major features. The temptation is just too great, and associated risk relatively low. It’s the Wild West out there and something needs to be done to reign in and control their use in a safe and sane manner.

    That is why Pictorvision and six leading companies specializing in UAV’s for filmmaking purposes have been working with the MPAA and consultants in Washington to come up with standardized operating policies and procedures, very much like we do now with manned helicopter filmmaking. Getting seven very competitive companies to agree on anything is no easy task, but we collectively saw the wisdom of establishing rules and regulations to make unmanned filmmaking even safer than manned aerial cinematography, and I believe we address all the major concerns of the FAA, MPAA and public at large, while still allowing us viable business models.

    These policies and procedures have been submitted to the FAA for an exemption that will allow the seven companies to use unmanned aircraft legally for commercial purposes, but only on “sterile” closed sets that are locked down and in total control of the production. No sports, news, concerts or flying aimlessly looking for B-roll. Therefore no public privacy or safety concerns would be in play. The flights will be preplanned with all the appropriate safety measures taking place, and the crews will have safety meetings before their use. We will also be required to file specific flight plans and get pre-approval from the FAA before each shoot, just like we do today with manned aerials.

    In addition to the on set requirements, we are expecting the FAA to require very high standards for the UAV operators. We expect a licensed pilot to be required along with specific training requirements for the rest of the crew. Extensive maintenance records well beyond the habits of the average hobbyist will be required and reviewed regularly.

    We believe that this very measured first step while working with close FAA supervision will generate the data necessary to slowly start opening up the use of UAV’s in other less controlled situations, as well as for the entertainment industry and it’s various organizations such as Local 600 to develop cohesive safety and training requirements. We look forward to becoming involved with that.

    The precedents we hope to set with the FAA exemption will have lasting implications for the film community. We know that, and take it very seriously. We believe we have found a very reasonable compromise to provide the safety and security requested, while giving the filmmakers the creative latitude they want, and still at an overhead cost that is reasonable. But also remember, this is just an exemption, and one that can be revoked if we miss-behave or the FAA feels they made an error in judgment. This is not opening the skies up to flocks of drones capturing your every move. It’s just a very small first step that will finally allow their legal use by the professionals who invest the time, effort, and resources to bring the same level of safety, quality, and professionalism as we currently do with manned aerial cinematography.

  4. Matt Moriarty

    Great discussion, John. As a licensed, instrument-rated pilot, a cameraman and an occasional an aerial supervisor/DP, here are my thoughts:

    1) The MPAA had to seek exemptions because all commercial UAS operators are already regulated by the FAA. The moment you take a fee for the use of your UAS, you need an airworthiness certificate, you are bound by the “pilot-in-command” responsibilities laid out in FAR 91 and you are required to adhere to the rules of our national airspace system. I completely agree with Thomas Wall that UAS operators within the motion picture industry should be heavily regulated and I furthermore agree that the IATSE/Local 600 should be ALL OVER THIS JOB CLASSIFICATION at the next negotiation. There are too many $500 brushless motor kits for sale on the internet and UAS operators are popping out of the woodwork and some greenhorn is going to give Tom Cruise an accidental haircut.

    2) Speaking of UAS operators popping out of the woodwork — most of them will fail at the shot you hire them to do. I just finished an action movie in Vancouver and prior to filming we tested three different UAS platforms. Every one of these outfits failed miserably. It was embarrassing. I know there are mom-and-pop outfits who achieve nice stuff every once in a while when the winds are calm and they have good line-of-sight on a Tuesday with temps near standard. But the UA systems we dealt with on our movie had about a 50% overall dispatch reliability and a zero % success rate on the shots they were assigned. Producers want even more of these bozos to choose from? They’re only hurting themselves if that’s the case.

    Want great aerials that add value to your movie? Use an AStar with a Cineflex and a real pilot. I directed all the aerials for the movie Draft Day. Pat Longman and I used 4 different choppers and 4 different pilots in roughly a dozen cities across the country and we didn’t have a single mishap or missed photo opportunity and spent exactly one hour waiting on a thunderstorm in Houston. We received a waiver to fly around a packed football stadium (a total no-no since 9/11) and we did shots that were so ratmatazz, they didn’t even belong in the movie. How did this happen? Because everyone involved was a pro with thousands of hours, the equipment was great and production paid what everyone was worth.

    The notion of “smaller, faster, cheaper” needs to give way when you’re talking about things with sharp moving parts inhabiting the sky above flesh and blood humans.

    JOHN’S REPLY: Thanks, Matt. My understanding is that the IATSE Local 600 is active in recruiting drone operators. This will promote a base of oversight.

  5. Thomas Wall

    On 2 June, seven aerial photo and video companies formally requested exemption from the FAA’s blanket prohibition against commercial use of UAVs. The Motion Picture Association of America spearheaded the exemption request. According to the FAA press release, “The firms are asking the agency to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates. They are also asking for relief from airworthiness certification requirements as allowed under Section 333”.

    I am (was) a glider pilot. Few people who aren’t pilots know how changeable and unpredictable air currents can be, especially at low altitudes and around buildings. It’s easy to go from smooth stable air into up- or down-drafts of 1000 ft/minute over the course of just a few dozen feet, just by moving over or around the sunlit side of a black-top roof or parking lot. As soon as a UAV moves out of close visual range, a “pilot” on the ground loses the ability to judge its actual motion through the air (or even which way it is facing), and the narrow field of view of on-board cameras makes it difficult to judge even when tracking live feeds. None of the smaller UAVs transmit information such as altitude – neither barometric nor above ground level – or rate of climb/descent to their operator — all things every licensed pilot learns to depend on. It takes very fast reaction times to compensate for a sudden drop or climb of 15-20 feet per second or a wind gust that requires a 20-degree roll input to maintain/resume a relatively straight course over the ground. And those sudden changes in air flow affect the aerodynamics of an aircraft, too — i.e., they affect the lift or drag of the airfoils that are keeping an aircraft in the air, even when those airfoils are spinning blades.

    There is a technology solution to these things: inertial motion detectors (MEMS devices, along with GPS tracking) and computer flight controls. Every capable UAV uses them, and the programmable controls that go along with them. They also allow things like automatic return to “home” when the (very short range) radio signal from the operator’s controller is lost — which can happen by just flying around the corner of a building. They can also keep a UAV ‘copter from becoming inverted, for example, due to pilot error. But people who want to do aerobatics maneuvers just turn them off, and their proper operation needs to be checked and verified before each flight — which almost nobody does. Of course, these things also increase the price of the UAV, and they can fail, too – both the hardware and the software.

    Anybody who has spent any time flying these things has stories about how many times they have crashed them. There are more than a few RED cameras, as well as numerous 5Ds and GoPros, that have been destroyed in octocopter flights gone wrong, even with all these things in place. For professional, commercial uses, the “barnstorming” days of toy, homegrown UAVs and unlicensed operators needs to come to an end.

    It always amazes me that most people with an ideological bent against “government interference” would nevertheless go into a tirade if unlicensed drivers crashed their unlicensed, unregulated experimental sports cars into their house, much less if an unlicensed pilot crashed their unlicensed/unregulated aircraft carrying several hundred people into a football stadium (or office building). Nobody can deny that the FAA is a god-awful hidebound bureaucratic agency; it’s just that we’re much better off with them than without them. The FAA certifies both pilots and the aircraft they fly, and their maintenance as well. There needs to be a pilot/operator certification program for various types of UAVs, just as there are licenses for pilots for various types of aircraft. Just as you need to be certified to be able to be a scuba diver — e.g., before you can get your air tanks filled — every UAV pilot/operator needs to be able to show that they have passed both written (knowledge) and proficiency (skills) tests, and that they are current — these skills and abilities decay rather quickly if you are not practicing them regularly. But the UAV you are flying also needs to be airworthy and (relatively) safe, and there needs to be a way to certify that as well. Then IATSE can build on that base with additional safety requirements specifically for filming, both on and off of movie sets. IATSE can’t and shouldn’t do the first part — it’s too far outside of their scope. But IATSE could help push for its establishment, and then make those certifications mandatory.

    JOHN’S REPLY: Thomas, you make a compelling case for certification. Inevitably, as motion picture units enlist larger and larger drone copters the present situation will inevitably become even more dangerous. Thanks so much for your insights.

  6. Jason Cochard

    I agree with George. The temptation will be too great to use a cheap drone to get an irresponsible shot when on a very low budget. I see many dumb mistakes in the future that will further regulate us. It’s the flip side of the fact that it’s getting very cheap to build a cinematic quality kit. Small, efficient groups suffering from filmmaking “summit fever” and armed with the knowledge of how to make things look beautiful, but with no Hollywood safety discipline, will be able to underbid a sane, safe alternative — and agile enough to never get caught — until something tragic happens.

    On the other hand, if agility and efficiency mixed with technology is what created this current dilemma with drones, those factors are also at play in the wider industry. I think agility and efficiency are a good thing, given a trained crew in safe contexts. I put this to the test recently, as I recently shot a short film that was shot mostly at morning & evening magic hour in a loft with big windows that we found on Airbnb for $150/day. I told the producer that I wanted to use zero crew except a focus puller, in exchange for the shoot being 5 days instead of 2. I was co-directing while shooting handheld and basically cutting in camera as the scene evolved and my interest changed. The other co-director ran sound and she also did the actors’ makeup. The actors commented that they loved the approach, and have never felt so free on a film set. And their muscle memory was so fresh that as I told them “go back three steps and do that again,” they would repeat the action perfectly and the scenes cut like butter without a scripty. Our long downtime each day was used to rehearse the next scene in depth, giving us a very specific and fresh point of view on the scene. When the light was finally perfect 360, we were prepared for all setups to be captured in the nice light. It was very high output for very low work hours, amortized over a higher-than-usual number of calendar days but with insanely fewer man-days required. Granted, the story was slightly abstract and warranted this approach, but the bottom line is that we ended up with something very very beautiful, shot with no film lights or even bounce cards.

    Small groups doing things like this are the future, because technology now allows it and economics will adjust to all but demand it. We just have to stay safe, especially during this neo wild west phase.

    JOHN’S REPLY: Hi Jason. It’s great to hear such an articulate perspective from a young cinematographer. Your generation is facing many challenges, technical, logistical, legal and, of course, aesthetic that my generation has been exempt from. It’s becoming apparent to see just what a hot button topic drones are— and will be.

  7. Stan McClain

    When the DJI quad-copter hit the market, Filmtools was there as a leading supplier and we sold hundreds of them. We also had almost as many customers returning their ‘defective’ units asking and even demanding a full refund. Virtually 75% of the owners had crashed their new Aerial Camera Systems.

    The company under-estimated the need for prompt customer service, and we decided to quit selling them.

    So, we know these airborne chain saws are out there and creating imagery. Here is where I have a concern however: I am for a non intrusive government… a much smaller government and most laws strip us of our personal freedoms and liberties. But sometimes common sense dictates when we need to self-regulate freedoms that have the potential to harm, maim, or even kill innocent people.

    We have laws that protect society as a whole, wile diminishing our personal freedoms. It’s a tough decision to make but with these new “tools of the trade” we need to protect ourselves from unqualified owner/operators by creating a Safety Passport Classification for all people associated with the operation of these potentially life threatening buzz saws.

    The IATSE Safety Committee should probably step up, REAL QUICK, on developing safety guides and proficiency training for the use of drones on any movie set. The real helicopter pilots have spent hours of costly training to be proficient at handling their aircraft and they must be well versed in laws and rules regarding their operation.

    The temptation for producers to shave tens of thousands of dollars off of a one-day aerial budget is too tempting to not ignore. Amateurs will be hired to replace seasoned aerial cinematography teams, and someone will be hurt. Maybe not today, but tomorrow is a few moments away.

    Now, anyone with a few bucks can create a sizzle reel with awesome and not so great footage and pass themselves off as a “Pilot- Operator.” Give it time and we will see another “Twlight Zone” style crash.

    I strongly urge Hollywood to first of all, ban these machines until a proper certification system has been developed and approved. I propose that all operators must have a special gold sticker in their “Passbook”, and the rules associated with their certificate of competency need enforcing.

    I don’t like excessive rules and regulations… most of them stink, but without new rules in effect and enforced, we’ll see another senseless “Sarah Jones” incident materialize real soon.

    JOHN’S REPLY: Stan, the issue of safety you raise is of paramount concern to cinematographers. I know all of us feel a personal stake in the death of Sarah Jones. You are right. It may be only a matter of time before we have a “Twilight Zone” incident with drone copters unless guidelines are set up for professional cinematography.

  8. RS

    I HATE the 16:9 ratio because in full-length shots the actors wind up looking tiny and insignificant…which leads me to my point which is that cinematographers will be tiny and insignificant in FAA’s regulatory scheme unless they form a coalition with others who need drones for their work.

    Perhaps you could join with agronomists, archeologists, wildlife biologists, and other serious users of drones to lobby either for licensing of drone pilots for certain industries, or giving professional groups like the ASC the authority to license drone pilots within their membership.
    The other avenue is to marshall the mighty lobbying power of the show business industry to get some kind of waiver or exemption for qualified cinematographers who have completed a certain number of hours of flying and safety training.

    Seems to me it would be a situation where you’re going to have to give a little to get what you want.

    JOHN’S REPLY: Apt observations. I doubt the ASC is the best organization but it may be something for the IATSE to consider. Thanks.

  9. George Feucht

    Many people don’t understand the liability they inherit by flying a multiple pound machine with rapidly spinning blades over people. I’m waiting for the slow ramp-up of accidents: This includes both filmmaking and hobbyists.

    As far as filmmakers, I’m terrified of rookie operators (because they are inexpensive) working on ultra-low budget projects where the director wants the drone very close to the actors. That is a recipe for disaster.

    JOHN’S REPLY: All points well made, George.

  10. James Boyd

    Thank you for the excellent article. In addition to the negative aspects, and over-hyped media stories that come from any new tech, this article could have also discussed many of the positive commercial benefits from drones (e.g. energy service, agriculture and search & rescue). I view my drones as flying tripods, and use them simply as an additional tool in an ever-expanding camera kit that covers earth, sea and air. Looking forward to safely filming the future from this new perspective.

    JOHN’S REPLY: Thanks for your note on the potential of drone technology. Here’s another. Rapid delivery of lifesaving medicines to areas not easily accessible. Yes, lost or injured people if they have GPS co-ordinates, camera drones can be quickly sent before any other service. Of course, my own perspective, James, is as a filmmaker. I think the crucial issue before us is simply whether indiscriminate use by amateurs may endanger access for the rest of us.


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