Drones And Safety – A Sundance 2015 Special Panel

Aerial Mob has created a simple chart to help educate operators on drone safety. Photo credit: Treggon Owens

Drones had their fair share of attention at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Nestled in the heart of Main Street, Canon offered an Aerial Cinematography Workshop focusing on the latest trends in shooting with drones. Off the beaten path, a very different discussion took place at Park Street’s Emerge Lounge. What began as an opportunity for filmmakers to examine drones crafted by companies including Quadrocopter and Aerial Mob shifted into a discussion on aerial regulation and safety.

Just like a steadicam or dolly rig ,the incorporation of gimbles and sophisticated designs affect velocity and the smoothness of movement. Both Quadrocopter and Aerial Mob presented crafts that required a two person operational team: a pilot and a camera operator for optimal results. Jigabot presented their forthcoming product, the AIM-e. A Most Innovative Tech Award winner at the 2015 Consumer Electronic Show, the AIM-e is a drone that responds to and intuitively tracks a tagging device placed on a subject. Unfortunately, multiple failed demo attempts underwhelmed the audience.

To offset the AIM-e’s technical difficulties, a discussion of drone popularity ensued. Quadrocopter revealed over 2,500 drones were sold at the conclusion of 2014. While many professional aerial cinematographers are utilizing drones, their low price point (drones can be purchased for as low as fifty dollars) has opened the market to amateurs and hobbyists. Drones are classified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as Unmanned Aircraft Systems, crafts that are required to be fully compliant with all enforced airspace regulations.

“The FAA is pleased they have made the airspace safer than crossing the street, and they don’t want to lose that,” stated Treggon Owens, owner of Aerial Mob.

Owens described a safety standard created for production companies to comply with drone safety. The guidelines have been forged in collaboration with the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600) who continue to work towards creating blanketed standards for drone usage. Drones must remain 500 feet away from talent, street closures must be in place, and security must be present when drones are in use. Drones must remain 300 to 100 feet away from production personnel, and all crew must be educated on signals and drone safety. Drones can not go within 200 feet of the general public.

Drones have the ability to fly in the same airspace as aircraft including helicopters and recreational aircraft. While manufactures have no regulations in place to ensure individuals purchasing drones will adhere to the FAA’s airspace to protect pilots with larger craft, some, such as Quadrocopter and Aerial Mob, work with the individuals purchasing drones to ensure they are educated on safety and proper handling of the UASs. These manufacturers also recommend those operating drones obtain a pilot’s license.

To learn more about the emerging regulations on drones, please visit:
https://www.faa.gov/uas/regulations_policies/