As you will know, aerial film footage was exclusive to movies and television shows up until just a few years ago. However, this has all changed thanks to drone technology which enables more and more events to be covered in this way.

I am a qualified drone operator and I’ve put together this guide of things you should know before booking a drone to cover your wedding or special event.

What is a drone?

Also known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV, a drone can record high-definition video and take photographs from a unique perspective. If a venue has plenty of space and isn’t within a restricted area (like local airspace near to a busy airport!) , an aerial camera can capture spectacular images of your wedding day.

If you’re planning a wedding and considering hiring a drone wedding photographer, the following information will help you understand what’s involved.

1) Drone wedding photography may be an add-on service

Depending on your photographer use of a UAV as part of the coverage may be an add on service so it’s worth checking whether this is the case. Operating a drone commercially is expensive because it involves an investment in equipment, training and insurance. Depending on the equipment some drone operators also require an assistant which can add to the cost of the service.

2) Use of drones is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)

Anyone using unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial purposes in the UK must now have the approval to do so from the CAA. The process involves gaining the CAA’s Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) certificate by going on a 2-3 day course. As a result, it is illegal for a person to offer professional drone wedding photography if they don’t maintain their CAA approval. This is not a one off and providing the service means the drone operator must maintain an up to date operations manual, insurance and renewal fee. You should check whether your photographer has a PfCO and insurance if they are proposing to operate a drone at your wedding.

3) Not all wedding venues allow drones

Safety and the potential invasion of privacy is an issue when filming with a UAV. There are strict guidelines on how close drones can be flown next to crowds and buildings which the venue will be keen to ensure are adhered too. It’s worth checking with the venue before booking a drone wedding photographer just in case there are restrictions that don’t allow them. You may need to show evidence of insurance from the drone pilot to obtain permission to fly. It’s also important to be aware that drones have restrictions in areas that are close to airports, prisons and military bases. It is the drone operator and clients responsibility to ensure these restrictions are not breached.

4) Let your wedding planner know you’re hiring a UAV pilot 

It is likely a specific time for drone wedding photography will need to be scheduled into the day. Discuss this with the drone operator and your wedding planner if you decide to use one. If this service is being provided by your photographer they will be able to manage the schedule as part of the day in any case. If they are a part of a separate team then they will need to speak to the photographer or videographers before the day itself. For example, large group shots work well with a drone, so the drone will need to be ready to fly when these shots are being set up.

5) Plan the parts of the day you’d like to use the drone 

Aerial photography isn’t suitable for every part of a wedding, so think about the elements of the day you’d like covered. For intimate moments like the wedding ceremony, it’s best if the drone stays on the ground. An experienced drone wedding photographer will be able to suggest ideas and tell you what’s possible. Guests arriving at the venue and socializing after the ceremony can be very effective from an aerial perspective. Group shots and shots of the venue at the start of the day are ideal of course. Discuss these ideas with the drone operator / photographer beforehand so you know what to expect from the day.

6) Drones can be a distraction

High-powered motors are needed to keep a UAV in the air, and some drones can make a lot of noise. This does vary depending on the type, model and size of the drone and many are now being sold with ‘low noise’ rotor blades to combat this particular problem. This sound may attract attention and could make drones a distraction, potentially spoiling the atmosphere of an occasion like a wedding. Most drones have lights on the fuselage to communicate with the pilot and sounds that warn of issues like low battery power or a weak GPS signal, and this can make them hard to ignore. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend using a drone to cover an outdoor ceremony for instance.

7) UAVs can’t fly in adverse weather

Weather is the biggest variable on whether a drone can be used at your wedding. High winds, rain and fog are hazardous conditions for drones. Most aren’t waterproof, so rain and snow can cause serious damage to the motors and electronics inside. For any wedding, particularly if you’re planning a winter wedding, bear in mind that the pilot won’t know if it’s safe to fly until the day.

In summary

Drones can capture incredible images of your wedding days when flown by an qualified pilot and with the co-operation of the weather of course. If you have the budget and your venue will allow them, it’s a great addition to the coverage of your wedding day.

If you’ve got any questions about drones then please get in touch with me.

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