weekly drone myth – they won’t interfere with air traffic

It’s a big blue sky and it’s just a small object. Why would there be restrictions on where a drone can be flown? If you have been in aviation long or even remember the Miracle on the Hudson, you know it is fairly rare but collisions do happen; with birds, other aircraft and even buildings not to mention the ground.  The goal of the FAA and the focus of their regulations on drones in airspace is to keep aircraft from running into stuff. Is it likely a drone will take down another aircraft or fail in flight and severely damage property? Not likely, but not impossible.

drone myth – Drones won’t interfere with air traffic. 

The AOPA has a great article out this week about this exact topic; where drones can fly and how to contact local authorities for authorization (remember, you must be a licensesd pilot to request authorization). It’s not enough to own or have permission of the property owner in order to conduct flight operations on your project.  Or if you are hiring a professional, make sure they have the information on the airspace of your location.  (The FAA just released new maps on where and what altitude drones are allowed to operate in. Some locations may still need prior authorization.)


Know your airspace. Educate your client or company that you may not always be able to get the shot that is in a restricted space using a drone. Understand how and when to apply for waivers or authorization. The regulations are changing quickly as the technology is advancing. Monitor the FAA web site UAS area and get to know your local FISDO office. If you want to succeed, know the rules and regulations first. The sky is the limit!


weekly drone myth – the rules don’t apply

I wasn’t going to touch on regulations 2 weeks out of 3, but this news article about illegal flying this past week in Nashville caught our attention as a case study in what NOT to do.

drone myth – the rules don’t apply to me because ________ (fill in the blank).

What is your fill-in-the blank? Are you a hobbyist that just flies for fun…but happens to be around a building your friend is selling? Or are you flying for a company that isn’t necessarily paying you to fly…but still using the images you take? Or do you think that the product will outweigh the consequences…if there are any?

This gentleman in Nashville found out there are consequences. In his flight, he blatantly disobeyed at least 5 regulations that pertain to both hobbyists and commercial operators. I say blatant because at this point in the game if you haven’t made an effort to find out what the regulations are then why are you flying at all?

for operators: don’t be that guy

I tend to say I am not on a mission to save us from drones but to save drones from us. It’s up to us as responsible operators to know and follow the regulations and to self report. This is the line of defense we can create to help keep us all flying. Once an incident occurs (injury, major damage, even death) then the regulations will come fast and furious and will be out of our hands. Let’s not be that guy….that ruins it for the rest. Safe flying everyone!!





weekly drone myth – they’re cheap!

Like most new technology and automation, UAVs (drones) promise us an easier, faster and cheaper way to complete a task. But like most new technologies, the full cost is often not in the initial price tag. With drones, we are offered a less expensive option to renting planes and helicopters, but the true costs can start to add up.

drone myth: they are cheaper to use and operate than other aerial platforms

Yes…and no….it depends. In getting calls about pricing here at Aerial Innovations, we often hear, “Well, I just need a drone, nothing expensive.” and “Wouldn’t it be cheaper with a drone?” The costs associated with the drone far exceed the cost of the aircraft. The prices you see at WalMart, Amazon and on DJI are for just the initial set up.

For professionals, we need to add batteries, ipads, additional controllers, top of the line lenses. Then there are the man hours. For our helicopter and airplane flights, we share the cost across several clients and finish jobs in several minutes. We have much less costly options for still images because we can shoot in volume and cover a lot of ground

For DIYers, the cost is affordable initially. And it’s fun! But the disillutionment sets in after a few crashes, struggling with frequent firmware updates, frustration in managing large files and videos that need additional expensive programs. And that’s even before you start pricing drone insurance (yes, you should have specific drone insurance.) It can add up. So is it cheaper? Maybe not in the long run.

for operators: don’t get dispelled by this myth, you have costs!

Don’t sell yourself short. Licensing, insurance, training, marketing…it all costs money. Just accounting for your time won’t help you last in the market for long and devalues your product. Price the project to cover ALL of your costs and help your clients understand the value you bring by being a professional (you are a professional, right?)


I got controllers, and their multiplying …am I losing self control?

weekly drone myth – it’s the wild west!

I see and hear them everyday. Drone myths and misunderstandings. Almost everyone at this point has encountered drones, knows someone who has a drone or is savvy enough not to call them drones (they are UAVs or UASs in the biz). Some myths are silly, some are fantastical and others may be plain dangerous. Whats your favorite myth? Let me know in the comments.

drone myth: drones are taking over and it’s the wild west!

This has some validity. Drones are in the news almost daily and their use is increasing. While we are far from a drone on every porch and delivery options in the nano-seconds, drones are still a small & niche part of a larger group of industries. These commercial uses are growing and developing at a rapid pace so it’s easy to get confused by conflicting reports.

And there are rules and regulations in place that are meant to keep it from being the wild west. The main body of control is the Federal Aviation Administration. Almost everything you want to know from licensing to do’s and don’ts are on this page. Currently, the industry is young enough and there is not a lot of data, that the rules are strict yet widely interpreted differently from pilot to pilot and region to region.

for operators: smart growth and safe practices will only help the industry

If you are part of the growth in drones, play it smart. The industry has a long way to go. Emphasis education with your clients and vendors. Lead them to the best option, which may not be a drone. Be flexible, alert and use the buddy system (no, that’s not a rule..another myth for next time!)


A recent shoot with the DJI Inspire 2 at a local nursery

Our Summer Sizzle Reel

This past week we released the Showcase Reel from our recent shoot with the DJI Inspire 2. It was the first time we put the new drone through it’s paces and boy, was it a workhorse!! It was a great opportunity to hire our own company to do the work with great new gear. With a 20 megapixel camera, 2 batteries and numerous intelligent flight modes, this is the drone we have been waiting for.

The upgrades to the Inspire 2 solve a lot of problems we were struggling with. Mainly, how do we compete with full size DSLRs and the quality they produce? The answer is the Zenmuse X5s lens. Another problem was time. How do we create epic shots when we are continually worried about battery life? The Inspire 2 works on 2 full batteries and has a flight time of over 20 minutes on most days. Another issue many camera operators dealt with on the Inspire 1 was a lost link to the video. DJI has upgraded to a Lightbridge 2 platform and the problem is solved.

It was a fun day and an epic shoot. Stay tuned for additional behind the scenes footage, but for now, enjoy this summer time fun time reel!

Click here to view the entire Showcase Reel 

Winds of Enthusiasm

Today is life – the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.  – Dale Carnegie 

I was the client for my company this past weekend. By that I mean, I hired our crew to shoot an aerial sequence with our multiple drones. The end goal is to put together a marketing reel for our new equipment. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the easiest client but I’m definitely sure I hired the most professional team for our project.

The team was flexible, handled obstacles with ease, came up with solutions and great new shots on the fly all while having fun. Normally we would be ready to call it a day after 7 hours but I think most of us could have stuck around and shot some more!

This enjoyment comes when you are prepared because you love what you do. Many of us at Aerial Innovations of TN., are photographers or pilots because we started out as hobbyists and enthusiasts and pursued it as a career.  That translates into a level of professionalism that makes work seem easy.  We care enough about our industries to do our work right and do it well.

We look forward to digging through all of the footage we shot this weekend and pulling out some great clips to share.  As for now, we made the most of the day and finished up with smiles and a beer!


Trying to Fail

Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.              Paulo Coelho

To some, professionalism means being prepared. But prepared for what? Prepared for failure. At Aerial Innovations, our preparation is connected to what we have learned about failure. What can go wrong on this project/shoot/job? How do we prepare to over come that? Most of the time that means having a backup. A backup plan, a backup battery, a backup piece of equipment, a backup day in case of weather.

Last week, while preparing for a shoot at Bates Nursery, we planned for everything that could go wrong. Did we have the right equipment? Was everything updated and prepared with batteries & cards? The backups we brought proved useful. In the greenhouses the space was too small for the larger Inspire 2 UAS, but we have the lower profile DJI Mavic to use. We even got on plant carts to use as a dolly for lower views with the osmo…always have a backup.

Professionals are paid because they not only do a great job, but they get the job done through preparation. Because failure is not an option…at least not a very good one!


The Process as Reward

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. – Amelia Earhart

When we finally figured out that Aerial Innovations of TN’s Value Proposition was our process….well, it didn’t light a creative fire under us. Is that what really set us apart from other photographers and made us unique? In fact, it took several days and weeks to let it sink in and then came the issue….how do we sell at process? 

Turns out, we didn’t have to sell the process, the process sold us. Time and again, clients would tell us, “Everything turned out great and it was so easy working with you!” We communicated well, knew their expectations and had the knowledge to deliver quality images. That was all because we have systems and processes in place.

This past few weeks, we have been working on creating and entirely new process for aerial video capture. We have the knowledge from several years of working with various systems and have filled in the gaps with new technology. It is exciting to watch the birth of a process, see where it gets streamlined and sculpted down until everyone can enjoy the final reward….easily creating a quality product that we are proud of. Never gets old. 


Quality is Learned

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” – Henry Ford

This quote reminds me to never stop learning. I also know that to truly understand something, you must be able to teach it. Developing knowledge into understandable and actionable items means you have to unpack all that you know about a subject, fill in the holes and create a way to transfer the knowledge easily.

Many times businesses fail to pass on the knowledge of how to make their product or perform their service because those managers or teachers may not understand the process or easily explain it to new employees or contractors. One of the core activities at Aerial Innovations of TN is to continually improve our systems and make sure everyone understands it enough to then show another person. We call them systems but they contain the knowledge on how to perform our service with the quality and excellence our client’s expect.

Never stop learning and never stop teaching. To hold onto knowledge without sharing it can hobble your team’s progress. And to believe a system is perfect and can never be improved upon will leave you with a frustrated team.


I-65 adjacent to Standiford field


Committed to Excellence

The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen filed of endeavor. – Vince Lombardi

It’s been difficult keeping up with changes in technology. Those lucky photographers who “grew up digital” had instant review for image viewing, automatic settings, a camera in every device, no need to change film AND preset filters! Lucky dogs. Those of us trained in darkroom techniques with manual cameras have to continually learn new and better processes.  Every year there is another new camera, an upgrade in software or a new program to master . Change and learning is hard, it’s painful at times, frustrating at times…but can be rewarding in the end! 

As you know, we have been committed to excellence since we set aside our Pentax cameras and adopted digital over a decade ago. That took some time until we were confident the pixels would rival the grain. We then became the lab, so we committed ourselves to learning Photoshop then Lightroom. Now we have a variety of UASs (drones) to compare to our DSLRs. The quality between them is not quite equal yet, but we are committed to providing excellence from any platform we use.  

Don’t get us wrong, we do love & appreciate the quality and ease with which digital photographic processes let us create stunning aerials. It’s up to us to find the best platform without trading the quality. The traditional platforms (helicopters, cranes, fixed wing) are best when paired with professional grade cameras. We are also adding a more professional grade camera to our UAS fleet, the DJI Inspire 2 with Zenmuse X5s lens. Over the next few months, you can journey with us as we add another quality platform to our arsenal. Stay Tuned!