Queensland Drones – Aerial Photography Specialists

Aerial news footage for ABC television

Anyone can buy a drone and call themselves an aerial photographer because there are no barriers to entry in the aerial photography market in Australia. You don’t need a licence, you don’t need insurance and you don’t need to prove you have any worthwhile skills or experience to advertise yourself as an aerial photographer.

So how should you choose the right aerial photography business for your project? Here are a few questions you might want to ask your aerial photography candidates…

(1) How Much Aerial Photography Experience Do You Have?

Seems a pretty basic question and you’d think it would be the first question anyone would ask when considering spending money (and putting your business reputation on the line) to hire an aerial photographic company. But it’s amazing how often people forget to ask this question, or ask it in a way that allows a candidate to avoid the real answer.

Ask them to show you examples of the aerial photography projects they’ve undertaken for their clients in the past year. If they can’t show you at least 4-5 relevant examples, they are probably amateurs or part-timers. I undertook my commercial drone pilot licence training nearly six years ago, and it still amazes me that not one other person in my class of 12 students is actually working full time in drone photography! They still have full time jobs in their traditional fields (usually IT or similar), but this does not stop them promoting themselves as commercial aerial photography specialists.

Look carefully at the examples they provide, and ask them to describe the client requirements and how their photography fulfilled those requirements. There is a great little service called “reverse photo lookup” that allows you to check and see if someone has “borrowed” another photographer’s examples to impress you. Go to Google Reverse Image Search and simply drag and drop the provided example images into the search box … Google will do the rest for you.

(2) Do You Hold a CASA Drone Operator’s Certificate?

Why would you want to ask that question, when I’ve already told you that it’s possible to provide commercial aerial photography services without a certificate?

Well, it’s like this. A CASA Drone Operator’s Certificate (generally called an ReOC or RPAS Operator’s Certificate) can be a measure to show how serious a drone photography business is about how it operates. To attain an ReOC you need to:

  • Have an RPAS Pilot’s Licence for each of the classes of drone you fly.
  • Have been assessed by CASA (the Australian air space regulator) to ensure you understand the rules of drone use and know how to comply with them.
  • Have operating manuals that describe how you conduct your flights and how you ensure compliance with the rules.
  • Conduct regular and structured maintenance on your drones to ensure they are safe to fly.
  • Prove that you regularly fly the drones you are licenced for, so that you stay current with their specific requirements.
  • Plan each flight to show how you will protect the people around you and operate safely at all times.
  • keep detailed records of every flight so CASA can audit if they suspect you of misbehaving.

Ask for their business name and check it in CASA’s drone operator database to see if they really do hold a commercial operating certificate.

You can operate as a drone photographer without a commercial operating certificate, under a special class established by CASA primarily for people who fly small drones occasionally as part of their job (e.g. surveyors, real estate photographers). This class is called Sub-2kg Excluded Category and it means they are restricted to the same rules as a recreational drone flyer – for example:

  • Cannot fly within any airport restricted zone, even a helipad zone or untowered airport zone (which excludes a large part of most capital cities and large regional cities).
  • Cannot fly their drone closer than 30 metres from people (and not over them at any height) or apply for an exemption to do so.
  • Cannot fly their drone before sunrise or after sunset.
  • Cannot fly a drone weighing more than 2kg.

(3) Are You Insured?

Why should you care if your drone photography business is insured? It’s no skin off your nose if they crash their drone, is it?

Well yes, it certainly can be…

There is a much debated example where an inexperienced drone operator was hired to fly in a drone light show, but lost control of his small drone, hitting a young woman in the face and causing serious facial injuries. The operator was sued, but it was the casino who hired him that paid the biggest price for this mistake.

Is your aerial photography provider insured against injury or damage caused by their drone operations?
A drone struck Monika Nourmand, injuring her in the eye and nose, during a light show in Las Vegas. A lawsuit against Caesars Palace, the Great Lakes Drone Company and the drone operator has been filed in the incident. Courtesy Panish Shea & Boyle LLP.

In another example, a groom faced lawsuits after he flew his small drone indoors at his own wedding and hit two women on the dance floor, again causing serious facial injuries.

So yes, it can be skin off your nose, or that of a friend, employee, customer or passer by. And it can result in you being sued, along with the drone operator, for injuries or damage caused.

Generally, only RPAS Operating Certificate holders can secure Public Liability Insurance to cover injuries or damage caused by something going wrong during their operations. You should ask your aerial photography company to provide a “certificate of currency” for their Public Liability Insurance. It should cover them for at least $10 million.

Why Take The Chance?

There’s a lot more we could say on this subject, but I think you should have the general idea by now…

Queensland Drones is an aerial photography specialist with more than six years of continuous full-time commercial experience. We are CASA-Certified (RPAS Operator’s Certificate #6466) and fully insured ($20 million Public Liability Insurance and $5 million Professional Liability Insurance).

Our aerial photography clients include media companies (ABC TV and Foxtel for example), documentary producers, building designers, architects, property developers, business owners, government agencies, local councils, even professional commercial photographers. They trust us because we have the skills, the equipment and the experience to deliver safe, high quality results every time.

Contact us on 0439 383202 for an obligation-free chat about your aerial photography requirements, or complete our Service Request Form for a fast quote.

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