The view from above

Aerial photograph of Swanbank Reservoir

Shooting aerial video

One of the aspects of drone photography I most enjoy and will continue to pursue even if my commercial interests take me elsewhere is aerial video. There’s something incredibly satisfying about planning an aerial videography route, thinking about what I’m going to capture and then comparing that to what I get after I’ve edited and compiled the raw videos … and that’s often a whole lot more than I expected when I shot it. So today I want to discuss what you need to know to shoot aerial video.

Know the regulations

The last thing you need is to be shooting great video only to find a police car or a ranger’s truck or a security guard pulling up and telling you that what you’re doing is illegal. Or even worse perhaps, to publish your great aerial video online and have CASA knocking on your door with an $8,500 fine because you’ve broken the UAV laws.

UAV use in Australia is regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) under CASR 101 (Part 101 of CASR 1998) and a host of linked regulations and rules designed to keep airline passengers and the public safe. If you want to know exactly what these regulations restrict, check out 101casr.pdf.

The UAV laws in Australia may seem complex, but in fact we have a lot less laws here than in many other countries. This is my take on those laws, having now obtained my UAV Controller’s Certificate:

  • You cannot fly over 400 feet (about 120 metres) in altitude
  • You cannot fly within about 5km of an airfield or aerodrome
  • You cannot fly within 30m of people (think of a dome with a 30m radius)
  • You cannot fly over crowds or populous areas (e.g. city or suburban streets)
  • You cannot fly in restricted military or security areas including ports
  • You cannot fly beyond your visual line of sight (usually about 500m)
  • You cannot fly into a cloud or other visual obstacle
  • You cannot fly at night (or later than 10m before last light of the day)

Beyond this, CASA will come after after you if your flight appears to have put people or property in danger of being harmed. There are some exceptions to the above rules in certain circumstances, but to discuss those here would distract too much from the main purpose of this article.

There are a few more things to think about, however, before you plan your aerial video flight:

  • If you fly on or over private property you really need the written permission of the property owner (land owner rights extend to the air space above their land as well) or you might be charged with trespassing.
  • If you fly in a way that causes people to be concerned about their privacy (if you appear to be spying on them) you could also find the law on your doorstep. While it’s often hard to get a successful prosecution of privacy breaches with drones, you really don’t need the hassle of having to fight a battle like that.
  • You can’t fly using your mobile device screen unless you have someone with you who is controlling the UAV by sight. This doesn’t impact you all that much if you plan your flight correctly so you capture motion video while flying from point to point, then pan while stationary. It’s all in the editing.

Read More »Shooting aerial video