Quadcopters, multicopters and other remotely controlled model aircraft aircraft have long been enjoyed by videographers who envision capturing stunning aerial video. Since the military has devised the highly effective drones for use in the war, these more innocent hobbyists aircraft have attracted new attention.
Let’s start by defining some terms. The term drone is most properly applied to a military weapon. But the word has been erroneously applied to radio controlled model aircraft flown by hobbyists. Drones are for the military; RC aircraft are for hobbyists. OK?
First Person Video (FPV) is captured by a camera that is mounted on the aircraft. This video makes it appear that the pilot is in the aircraft, but the pilot is remotely controlling the plane.
Visual Line of Sight (VSOL) refers to the practice of keeping the aircraft within sight at all times. Should the aircraft fly beyond the pilot’s sight, people and property may be endangered.
Aerial Filming and Privacy
The right to privacy is not mentioned in the Constitution, but the Supreme Court has said that several of the amendments create this right. Many states have laws or legal precedents which grant a right to privacy. Rights to privacy may apply where a person, their home or property is being filmed. So the same releases we use for ground-based video should be used. These releases grant permission to the videographer or filmmaker to legally use that footage. An aircraft can see a lot more of the earth and people so numerous persons or property owners may be affected.
Some states are passing bills like Texas House Bill # 912 to ban any aerial filming from remote controlled aircraft. Similar laws are being debated in Oregon and other states. To keep up to date with such legislation, see The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Government Relations Blog
The AMA is the largest model aviation association, representing more than 150,000 members who enjoy the hobby of flying model aircraft. The group provides liaison with the Federal Aviation Administration. It is the F.A.A. which has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation including radio-controlled model aircraft. The most current FAA Advisory Circular is important reading for everyone who flies model aircraft.
FAA is crafting new rules about model aircraft and how they may be used. This new version is due out before the end of 2013. A more complete set of guidelines is available from the AMA Guidelines for Radio Controlled Flight.
Here is a summary of the rules:
- Do not fly above 400 ft.
- Do not fly above a populated area.
- Always fly close enough to see your aircraft also called visual line of sight (VSOL).
- If flying First Person Video (FPV), have another person standing next to you spotting your aircraft so it does not leave your Visual Line of Sight (VSOL)
- Do not fly within 3 miles of an airport.
- Do not fly your aircraft for any commercial purpose.
For videographers, that last one is controversial, but in dangerous times it may not be unreasonable.
Enjoy the sport. Be safe and share your videos. Check these quadcopters for every budget.