September 26, 2017

5 Kind of Boring (but Super Important) Things to Remember About Flying a Drone

These tips aren't sexy, but neither are mangled drones.

On the list of "Top Things Filmmakers Want to Learn About Flying Drones," the following tips would probably be somewhere at the bottom. Drone safety is admittedly pretty boring, but anyone who's even remotely responsible will agree that it's absolutely necessary to protect others, yourself, and your drone when you're out zipping through the sky.

In this video, Matti Haapoja of TravelFeels takes us along as he captures some breathtaking aerial footage of Geiranger, a Western Norwegian village in the Sunnmøre region of Møre og Romsdal, all the while offering up some great advice on smart droning.

Again, you're not going to learn how to do a sweat corkscrew dolly zoom or anything, but you will learn several ways to shoot smarter and more efficient drone footage.

  • Check out the area before flying: Before you take off, make sure you know not only the layout of the area but where potential obstacles are as well. That way you'll be able to focus on flying to all of the spots you like rather than focusing on avoiding powerlines, trees, and other hazards.
  • Have a spotter: Having someone there to keep an eye on your drone as you fly is super helpful because, while you're focusing on framing and camera movement, you'll have an extra set of eyes to make sure your drone isn't getting too close to a potential crash.
  • Use ND filters: There are lots of reasons to use ND filters, but perhaps the biggest one is that they allow you to keep your shutter speed low enough to avoid capturing a lot of the "micro jitter" that you typically see in drone footage.
  • Plan your shots: Not only does this save you time, but it also frees you up to capture some fancy experimental shots with the leftover battery life. (But get your important shots done first!)
  • Save some battery life for landing: This might be one of the more important tips on the list. Give yourself plenty of battery to pilot your drone on its return. If you try to push it too much you might end up with a drone that dies in midflight and plummets to its doom.

What are some other tips for drone users? Let us know in the comments below!     

Your Comment


Great tips... But, the place is really beautiful, woww...

September 27, 2017 at 8:51AM, Edited September 27, 8:51AM

Sameir Ali
Director of Photography

Some other things to consider when it comes to flying near airports.

In general if you're five miles or more away from an airport, your flying is unrestricted as long as you keep it below the maximum altitude mandated by the FAA. I can't remember what it is, but it's well above what you'd likely be flying anyway.

If you're between two and five miles from an airport and it's a controlled field, you have to notify the airport's control tower before your flight. It's not a request for permission, it's you telling them what you're going to do.

If you're inside of two miles from an airport, you have to coordinate with the control tower in advance, and I believe they can turn down your request.

It's easy to do, there are apps that can handle a lot of the work. I've got three apps on my iPhone that help with this and provide other useful information (sunspot activity level, for instance, which can interfere with your remote control). The apps I have are:

B4UFly (the official FAA app)

September 28, 2017 at 7:46PM


Lest we forget that if you're doing commercial/compensated work of any kind, you need that Section 333, part 107 license!

It should also be noted that if you're within that 5 mile ring (at least in the USA) you need to issue a NOTAM (a NOtice To AirMen), which can be done at There are a handful of videos around that can explain the process, but it is ultimately there to save you.

Often when you call the tower, they'll want to know that there is a NOTAM. If not, they can ultimately decide that it is not safe to perform those maneuvers, and that's when they can send out FAA reps to come after you if you don't have that paperwork in line. It's easy (once you understand where to go), it's quick, and it has saved me more times that I expected it to.

Happy flying!

October 2, 2017 at 1:51PM

Max Sjoberg
AC / Gaffer / Aerial Cinematographer

Here's a tip that would have prevented me from losing my first drone. In the area I was flying there was one tree that stood much taller than the rest and I didn't take that into account when I set the height for the auto return home setting. It lost the signal and started returning like it is supposed to. Just as the drone reconnected I saw the tree branch and then it was over. It hung up and I couldn't get to it before rain came and smoked it. Make sure you check every possible obstacle and set your return height to clear any possible obstacle.

October 2, 2017 at 10:45PM