weekly drone myth – airspace? what airspace?

ever wonder what airspace your project is located in? would you know how to find that information? once you know the airspace classification, do you know where a waiver is required? for awhile, these questions were somewhat murky especially to those new to aviation. flight charts are notoriously confusing and if there is overlapping airspace, it may be very frustrating. here is your weekly bit of drone wisdom from your friends at Aerial Innovations of TN, Inc.

drone myth – airspace can be confusing

so this one was not a myth until now. recently, the faa has been rolling out a new gis mapping system to help clarify where drone operations are allowed based on proximity to airports. instead of class B, C, D interpretations, these new maps  simply give a maximum altitude allowed in certain 1 square mile blocks. from 0 feet to 400 feet, 0 meaning no flights without a waiver, then 100, 200 & 300 blocks that show maximum altitude allowed without a waiver. 400 ft max altitude is allowed remaining areas. these altitudes are crystal clear on the map in any area you are operating in. (some airports areas are still being updated so check back frequently)

for drone operators:

save a quick link to the faa maps and cross check your flight location before you do any quoting or operating. if your location is within a “0” square, know how to apply for a waiver (usually takes up to 90 days) and charge for your time, this is a service you are providing. if you are working under a limited altitude like 100-300 ft., maintain the proper altitude and watch out for air traffic. doesn’t it feel good to be in the know?

Drone photo of a beautiful sunset taken by Aerial Innovations of TN.




weekly drone myth – vertical rut

this past week peta pixel published the best drone photos of 2017. this was a entry contest with a panel of judges. There was a very strong theme running through all of the winners; the same vertical angle was used in all but one image. (vertical in land based photography describes a format or ratio while in aerial photography, it is an angle taken straight down.) and it’s a very good angle, we have galleries of stunning verticals including abstracts  but there are so many other ways to make a great aerial image.

it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and shoot the same style or subject without experimenting. we are able to create a multitude of angles mainly because we have a 2 person set up when doing drone projects; pilot and camera operator. the DJI inspire series also allows us free-camera movement so we can look out to the horizon, play with the angle of the sun, incorporate clouds and shadows and close-up abstracts. for our clients, we take a wide variety of angles. always the ones they request but often several more that are interesting to us or complete the story of the project.

for those choosing images (editors, jurors, marketers) mix it up. choose various angles, involve others in your selection process. stay out of the vertical rut….unless it’s a key shot.

Vertical aerial image taken by Aerial Innovations of TN.

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 licensed 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.)

drone operators

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!

Photo of a plane on a runway by Aerial Innovations of TN.

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!!

Drone image of mid-town Nashville at twilight. Photo by Aerial Innovations of TN.




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?)

Dual drone controls at Aerial Innovations of TN.

the equipment keeps multiplying

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!)

Photo of a drone DJI hovering over a nursery in Tennessee. Image by Aerial Innovations of TN.

A recent shoot 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.