Posted on October 5, 2015
The above image is a screenshot of the all the airports in my area and the 5 mile radius that surrounds them, taken from Airmap.io which is a website that allows operators to visualize the airspace around them to determine where they are permitted to fly.
When I first began flying my drone I thought I couldn’t fly it anywhere near my house because I live within 5 miles of a small local airport. I assumed that I would always have to drive far away way to fly but I eventually learned that is not the case. Once the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) posted more specific rules for UAV pilots it became clear that the 5 mile airport radius wasn’t a full-fledged no-fly zone. On the FAA’s website it states the following:
“Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying”
The language from the FAA specifically states “unless you contact the airport” (for the record when I first started flying the rule use to be 3 miles). So the next time I went out to fly I contacted the control tower before I took off and this is how the conversation went:
Control Tower: Good afternoon Riverside Control Tower.
Me: Hello, I just wanted to ask permission to see if I could fly my UAV about 4 miles from the airport.
Control Tower: Well, you don’t have to ask permission but I will say we really appreciate you letting us know you’re flying in the area. Can you please tell us where you are flying exactly, what your max altitude will be and how long you’ll be flying?
Me: Yes of course. I will be flying 4 miles away (I provided the exact area), under 200ft for about 15 minutes.
Control Tower: All right, sounds good. Thanks for letting us know.
Me: Thank you.
This is how most of my phone conversations go with the control towers in my area, except I now don’t ask for permission. I just let them know. Sometimes they ask me to call back once I am done flying but this request varies.
I have had numerous calls with various control towers in my area and each time I am pleasantly surprised by how kind they are.
Initially I assumed they would be annoyed with me bothering them but based on my experience each control tower controller has been very kind and happy to hear that I am being a responsible UAV pilot following the rules, helping them to better control the skies in the area.
So if you want to fly responsibly within 5 miles of an airport always contact the airport control tower first! To get a control tower’s number check out Airmap.io, the free Hover smartphone app, or try Googling it. I have mostly had to call the general airport number and then ask the operator to connect me to the control tower or kindly give me the direct number. I now have all the local airport numbers saved in my phone so I can have quick access to them. Before you call the control tower be sure to have your exact location, planned max altitude and flight time info ready for them so they can quickly process your flight. Also, be sure to check an airport’s operating hours. Most of the small local airports in my area aren’t even open on Saturdays or Sundays.
I personally don’t fly very close to any airports, I like to have a spotter to help me stay aware of any nearby air traffic and I don’t fly very high (usually under 200ft) just to play it extra safe since planes and helicopters come nowhere near this altitude except during landing. I highly recommend you establish some guidelines like mine for where you are going to fly and how high and don’t forget you must always fly your drone under 400ft no matter where you are.
I hope that this serves as another way to encourage drone pilots to be responsible and show others that the majority of us follow the rules and fly responsibly. If you want to learn more about all of the FAA’s drone rules then check out my post Drone Rules: Everything You Need to Know Before You Fly.
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This week I’m featuring photographer Sam Moore’s video “A Postcard from Croatia.” Sam and his girlfriend recently took a trip to Dubrovnik and Cavtat, Croatia, which are two beautiful towns along the coast. Sam didn’t have high expectations for capturing much with his drone but he took it along anyway and as you’ll see he ended up capturing some really unique angles of the seaside landscape. He told me that once he got in the air and saw the crystal clear water he knew he had captured something special. From the emerald waters crashing on the pale rocky cliffs to the orange glow of the sunset, Sam captures the beauty of Cavtat, Dubrovnik and it’s surrounding areas. Read More
Randy Scott Slavin is the founder of the New York City Drone Film Festival and he recently announced that submissions have opened up for this year’s event which will be held in New York City in early 2016.
The NYCDFF was the first drone film festival that I ever heard about and it ended up selling out after all the amazing press it got. Last year’s judges included Adam Savage of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters and Eric Cheng, Director of Aerial Imaging at DJI to name a few. In some fun related news, one of my dronie films ended up becoming an official selection which was an honor (you can see it a the :25 sec mark in the video above).
The drone categories this year range from landscape and narrative to architecture and extreme sports. If you want to submit one of your drone films you can get more information by clicking here. If you would like to check out some of the amazing official selections from last year’s festival then check out this link here.
Be sure to scroll below to hear Randy answer some questions related to this years festival as well as his answer to my question about what he thinks goes into making a great film.
Q & A with Randy Scott Slavin, founder of the New York City Drone Film Festival
What exactly is the NYCDFF and how did it come about?
#NYCDFF is the first film festival exclusively dedicated to drone cinema. It came about when my video “Aerial NYC” went viral. I was looking around for a film festival to submit it to but there were none… So I decided to create one.
Drone technology and the creativity of the community is moving so fast. What makes this year different from last year?
As the aerial cinematography tools get better they enable greater creativity. The NYCDFF is dedicated to furthering the ART of aerial cinematography by showcasing the best drone films in the world and hopefully inspiring others to get out there and push the boundaries. This year will be different by virtue of the fact that this years entrants will have had the luxury of seeing the films and winners from last year. Hopefully this will have raised the bar of aerial cinematography.
What is the most popular drone film genre?
By far it was Landscape and Architecture. These categories are the most common subjects shot by drones. As drones have grown in popularity people are starting to shoot a greater variety of subjects.
In your opinion what goes into making a great film?
A good story will always help. Shorter is most always better. Editing is very important to a drone film… unfortunately many aerial cinematographers focus just on the shooting. Editing is a crucial final step in making a film. There should always be something amazing, special, exciting, unique or new in a film. Making a film is about wowing or moving an audience… what are you doing in your film to do that?
How many films do you anticipate showing this year?
Last year we had 155 submissions from around the world, we showed 35 and gave prizes to 8 films. This year we anticipate more submissions but will most likely only show 30 films. As in my editing comment earlier I need to make sure that the live event doesn’t keep people squirming in their seats for 3 hours.
How can people get involved in this year’s event as a filmmaker and as an attendee?
Get out there, shoot and make an excellent film. Submissions are open until December and I can’t wait to be floored by submissions. Tickets for the live event will go on sale early 2016. We hope that the aerial cinematography community will congregate in NYC for the chance to see the finalists on the big screen and take part in the panels, education and the parties.
For more information on this year’s festival or to submit a film check out the official website here.
This week I’m featuring a video from professional travel photographer, Elia Locardi. Elia captured this video during his 2015 Italy Dream Photo Tour. Elia says, “I try to share my vision with others so they can see things the way I do, full of color and emotion, depth and texture.”
That is exactly what this video does. From the beautiful shores of Vernazza, Italy to the rolling hills of Tuscany to the beautiful architecture of Civita di Bagnoregio, and the Vatican in Rome, the entire video is just breathtaking!
This week I’m featuring a brand new video from the guys over at Flightgeist which is a two-man New York team that consists of filmmakers Corey Eisenstein and Joseph Pickard. They recently went on a trip to Peru and drove from Ayacucho to Cusco, passing through nearly 400 miles of Peru’s most winding and hilly terrain. On the trip they climbed up through the clouds toward snow-capped peaks, then drove down into warm, lush river valleys.
Watch their gorgeous video below, the opening scene gave me chills (!) and then read the short interview I did with them after the jump!
What prompted this project?
Peru actually chose us! Though we love to make aerial videos, we also make a lot of “standard” films and videos with, you know, cameras that don’t fly. In this case, we were hired to work on a documentary project in South America that was not related to our aerial videos. Knowing that there might be some unbelievable sights, we brought along a Phantom 3 to film with whenever there was free time. We weren’t even sure that we were going to get enough footage to make a whole video, the main objective was to capture a few great landscapes. It turned out that there was so much beautiful stuff that we had the raw materials to make a full video.
How did you come across these amazing locations?
The Phantom 3 was always ready to go, and when we were driving from town to town we would often see something unbelievable out the window. That meant it was usually time to pull over for 10 minutes and do a quick flight. A few times we were in a rush and unable to fly, and it is painful to think of some of the absolutely incredible landscapes that we just didn’t have time to drone on this trip.
Are there any interesting stories related to this shoot?
There is a shot at 2 minutes into the video flying through a valley where the clouds dip down close to the ground. During this shot a hawk (or possibly an eagle, we’re not ornithologists) came screaming out of the clouds and sliced past the drone at full speed, missing it by inches. It was a territorial warning shot! We had chosen to fly the wrong valley. We brought the drone back home at full speed with the bird circling overhead, ready for a fight.
What is something you learned as a result of working on this project?
We kind of knew it already, but this shoot confirmed: you basically can’t go wrong with rugged, textured landscapes and late afternoon light. The play between light and shadow makes for a very dynamic image.
What is a tip you have for those looking to shoot amazing aerial videos like this one?
There are a lot of people out there capturing amazing aerial images. The thing we see that holds many people back from making great videos is editing. And we’re not talking about fancy effects, titles, etc. We’re literally talking about editing down your number of shots and selecting only the best for public display. Some people just can’t help but share everything they shot. When you include a bunch of shots in your video that are just “good” it degrades your shots that are “great”. A 2 minute video of mind-blowing shots is better than a 5 minute video that includes all your bad, okay, good, and great material.
What is next for you?
Flightgeist is working on a New York City aerial video. We’ve also got plans to capture the changing of the leaves on the Northeast Coast this fall.