The Cost of Drone Cinematography


Drones. They’re everywhere today. The kid next door has one. Your dad has one. Amazon are even trying to deliver your parcels with them. But what about your wedding videographer? Does he have one?

Drones are quickly becoming the norm amongst wedding videographers – every wedding film features a drone shot. Sometimes they’re used tastefully to set the scene, sometimes they’re overused to the point of looking ridiculous (nobody needs to see your drinks reception from above – it actually just looks like a load of people holding glasses of prosecco and pointing at the sky). Either way, the chances are that drone cinematography has been a factor in deciding which studio to hire to film your wedding.

But do you know the cost of using a drone in your wedding film?

dron filming a wedding couple

Firstly, they’re expensive. Your average drone costs around £1000. That being said, they’re definitely worth it; the technology they pack into those little things is phenomenal for the price you pay.

Secondly, they’re dangerous. They can fly FAST, they weigh a fair bit, and their propellors are enough to take your finger off (maybe, I haven’t actually tested that one out, although I have cut myself pretty badly). Back in 2013, before drones were even that commonplace, one photographer went viral after his drone hit a groom in the head. Just a couple of years ago, a groom in America was sued by his own wedding guests after his drone spiralled out of control and hit them in the face.

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 18.31.47

As a result of being dangerous, they’re now becoming more and more regulated, meaning that you now need what’s commonly referred to as a license to use drones for your wedding films. It’s not really a ‘license’ as such, but more permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (the same body that regulates airplanes!) to use a drone for ‘commercial operations’. In other words, if you’re making money out of using your drone, you need permission.

So how do you get Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO)?

Firstly, you need to attend ground school: a course about everything from ‘how drones work’, to safety practices and privacy concerns. The course runs at anywhere from £700-£2000 and tends to last from two-four days. It’s pretty exhausting, to be honest. The one I attended was a two day intensive course running from 8:00-18:30. At the end of it, you’re given an exam made up of both multiple choice and written questions. Once you pass this, you have to undertake a flight assessment which is, in all honesty, quite easy if you’ve ever flown a drone before.

Okay, so now you’ve spent all that money on your drone, you’ve attended ground school, and passed your exam and assessment. Hooray! You’re done… right? Wrong. Now you have to put together what’s called an ‘Operations Manual’ – basically a book about how you’re going to fly your drone, what you’re going to use it for, and the measures you’re going to take to ensure it’s done safely. And when I say ‘book’, I mean it – mine is 40 pages long. Luckily, the company you do your ground school with will likely help you with this, so it’s not too difficult!

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 18.57.49Photo by Taylor Made Videography – www.taylormadevideography.com

So one you’ve got your drone, been to ground school, passed your exam and assessment, and done your ops manual, you can fly your drone… right? Wrong. Now you actually need to apply for your PfCO from the Civil Aviation Authority, which costs another £173 and can take over 28 days to come through.

But once that PfCO comes through, you’re all set… right? Wrong again! You need to make sure you have the necessary insurance, and before each flight you need to conduct a risk assessment, and then you have to keep track of every flight in a flight log. Oh, and next year you’ll need to renew your PfCO, which costs another £130. And EVEN THEN, there are still rules you have to follow. For example, you can’t fly higher than 400ft, and you can’t go within 50m of people, cars or buildings that aren’t ‘under your control’ – in other words, you can’t fly close to people/buildings and cars of people who haven’t consented to it. In wedding terms, this is problematic because, believe it or not, vicars aren’t actually that keen on having what is essentially a speeding, flying destruction machine  anywhere near their steeples, let alone inside (so no, we can’t get an aerial shot of your first kiss, I’m afraid – besides, nobody wants what sounds like a billion bees buzzing through their ceremony).

To conclude, the reality is that drones are expensive, dangerous and, to be frank, a paperwork nightmare. But are they worth it? Hell yes.

So next time you’re wondering why the wedding videographer you’re looking at is charging extra to include drone cinematography, you’d better tell him that you understand completely, and that, actually, you’d like to pay him even more just for the trouble he’s had to go through! No? Oh well, it was worth a try!