What to ask your Aerial Provider

We know you have many choices when choosing a professional drone service provider.  Here are some important things you need to ask them before doing so.  

1.     Do you have your legally required FAA 107 license? Is your drone registered with the FAA? If the answer is no, STOP HERE. They are flying in violation of federal law. Anyone operating an unmanned vehicle between .5 and 55 pounds in weight for commercial purposes must have their FAA part 107 Certification. While it is no longer legally required to register their drone with the FAA, professional and responsible drone pilots still continue to do so. Commercial use of a drone is defined as exchanging flights or services for compensation of any type.  Always ask to see a copy of an aerial provider's 107 certification and registration to verify that the person you are hiring is flying legally and not putting you or your company at risk for fines or other legal trouble.  

Only hobbyists are exempt from obtaining a 107 certification.  The FAA defines hobby flying as for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire.” This means that any time a drone is used to obtain images or video for a purpose that will generate revenue (such as taking pictures to assist in the selling of a home, taking pictures as part of a photography package from a wedding photographer, etc.), this becomes commercial use and a 107 certification is legally required.

Propellerheads Aerial is FAA Part 107 certified and fully compliant with all FAA registration and licensing requirements for commercial sUAS operations. We hold additional waivers which allow us to fly during hours of total darkness, and we can also obtain additional waivers for unique missions should they be required.  

2.     Do you carry full flight liability insurance? Any person flying a drone for commercial purposes needs to carry flight liability insurance. No exceptions. This protects them and the client(s) in the event the drone crashes and damages property. Flight insurance is very different than general business liability or professional liability insurance, and it is exceedingly rare that a general business or professional liability insurance will cover the flying of or any damage done by a drone. A reputable aerial photographer will not hesitate to provide you with a copy of their flight insurance binder upon request. Depending on the scope of your project, a basic bare bones liability policy may not be enough. 

Propellerheads Aerial carries full flight liability insurance and will provide a copy to our clients upon request. Our drones and equipment are also fully and individually insured with hull insurance, and our work vehicle is fully insured. We will also obtain an 'additional insured' document for your organization if required, and can obtain an increase in the amount of liability insurance we carry should the project warrant this.

3.     What training and experience do you have when it comes to flying drones? Any good drone pilot will be able to provide you with an extensive background of flight training, (up to and including private/commercial pilot flight school), number of years they have been flying, hours logged in the aircraft type, etc. Be aware that there is no FAA regulation of the private drone flight programs in the US. While some programs do offer extensive and excellent training over the course of several weeks, some are nothing more than a brief online video.  A class is not qualification, and only a current FAA issued 107 license is a reputable indicator that the pilot meets federal minimum requirements to legally operate a commercial drone.  

Propellerheads Aerial has over 15 years of experience in flying, building, and repairing drones and other forms of remote controlled aircraft, including operations as a combat photojournalist with the US Air Force. Parker has also taught drone courses with the ASMP, provides teaching and mentoring services to the Department of Defense and all branches of the military, and has been a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities. He also has private pilot’s flight training and holds a current FAA Part 107 pilots license for commercial operations.   

4.     What is your photography/videography experience?  Owning a drone and camera does not make someone an aerial photographer.  Not everyone out there that claims to be an aerial photographer actually HAS any photography or videography experience. If you are planning on hiring an aerial photographer for something as important as your wedding or a multi-million dollar construction bid, you want to make sure that the person you hire is going to provide you with exceptional and amazing images. It’s important to look at the portfolio of an aerial photographer before hiring them.  Has your provider actually done a flight like the one you need?  Can he/she provide examples or links to similar work? Does he/she actually know how to perform the mission being requested?  What is his/her familiarity with post-production software? What is his/her familiarity with current drone and camera technology?

Propellerheads Aerial has over 15 years of award-winning, nationally recognized photography experience. Parker’s work has been featured by Consumer Reports, Wired, Professional Photographer Magazine, Reuters, Associated Press, Air Force Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and dozens more. During his time in the Air Force, he won multiple awards including Air Force Photojournalist of the Year.  Our amazing cinematographer is a four-year graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, and his work has been featured by ESPN, BMW, Nike, The History Channel, and more.  

5.    Can a drone fly over the location where I would like you to take aerial images? An aerial photographer MUST always verify that a client’s location is in clear airspace and not in one of the FAA mandated ‘no-fly zones’. Places such as airports, state parks, government buildings, etc. have multiple restrictions regarding drone flight or images, and a reputable aerial photographer will always verify whether or not the location you provide is legally able to have a drone fly overhead. Never assume that any location is clear because the FAA can place a temporary flight ban over an area at any time.  Drone operators are prohibited from flying over crowds without a waiver, and unless they have a night waiver from the FAA, they cannot fly between the hours of civilian twilight and dawn.   

Propellerheads will verify airspace viability before we provide you with a quote, and again before we fly the location to ensure full compliance with the FAA. We continually update our crew with the latest rules and regulations on safety, airspace, and privacy from multiple local, state, and federal sources.  We also work closely with local authorities to ensure there are no surprises on the session date.   We will also ensure we are fully compliant with all FAA airspace waiver and exemption requests prior to any operations that would place the session in violation.  

6.     What is your safety record? Have you ever had to file a claim against your flight liability insurance or with the FAA? Again, a reputable aerial photographer will be able to provide you instantly with this information. Every pilot has crashed a drone at some point and should be honest about this, but a skilled pilot immediately recognizes a problem and can (usually) bring a malfunctioning drone down without damaging anything other than the drone itself. This doesn’t result in a flight liability claim, just an out of pocket repair/replace expense for the photographer/pilot. Damage reports from drone crashes are filed with the FAA, NTSB, and/or NASA depending on the location, severity, and dollar amount of physical damage.

Propellerheads Aerial has an exemplary safety record, has never filed a liability claim, and has no safety infraction record with the FAA, NTSB, NASA, or any state or local law enforcement after years of constant commercial flight operations. We take safety very seriously, and perform multi-point flight and safety checks of all of our equipment before and after every flight, as well as a pre-flight inspection of the area to determine any possible flight risks (i.e. trees, power lines, cell towers, etc.). Our crew includes an additional visual observer whose sole job is to track the drone in flight so the pilot can focus on flying the drone as safely as possible. Additionally, we track hyperlocal weather conditions constantly to ensure that flight conditions are within safety limits, and monitor your site's local airspace for any new flight restrictions. If conditions prohibit safe flight, we will contact you as soon as possible in order to reschedule.

7.     How much will images or video cost? I don’t see any pricing on your website.  When it comes to aerial photography and videography, you will find that costs are drastically different between providers. Keep in mind that cheap doesn’t always equal a deal if the product you receive is terrible, and that the most expensive doesn’t mean you are going to get the best possible product, either.  Be careful when selecting an aerial photographer as you don't want one that quotes you one price, but then bills you a different amount due to add-ons or undisclosed charges. When it comes to charging sales tax, know that this is different state by state. Some only require sales tax on physical items such as printed photographs or custom built drones or parts. Some require it on any services provided to a client. Check your local laws if you aren't sure if you should be getting charged for sales tax by your aerial photographer. 

No two clients are the same, so we base our pricing on specifically what each client requests and requires. This allows us to tailor charges based on just the services you need. Please don't assume you cannot afford us - we consistently hear from our clients our rates are HALF of our competitors but our product is twice as good.  Propellerheads Aerial takes pride in providing every client with the most exceptional imagery possible at an affordable rate, perfectly tailored for each client's individual needs. 

It comes down to this - if you are not happy, we are not happy. Propellerheads Aerial will do everything within our power to make it right.  We ask that our clients contact us as soon as possible after receiving their final imaging product should they have any concerns or questions. It is important to us to know that you are pleased with the final product, and if not, how we can work with you to address any issues as swiftly as possible. 

8.     When and where are you able provide services? As with pricing, this is going to be a vast range of answers. Some aerial photographers only work within a specific geographic area, others only do specific types of service.  Some charge additional depending on the location. Some only work Monday through Friday, 9:00am - 5:00pm, others only work on the weekends. A good aerial photographer should offer availability when you need them to be available, even if that means weekends!  

Our crew can provide outstanding aerial imagery services anywhere in the world, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We are also one of the few aerial photography providers in the US with a waiver from the FAA that allows us to fly at night, in total darkness, nationwide.  It is best to ensure we have around a week's notice for scheduling, but if the same day or next day is open, we will be happy to deploy a team immediately. Our aircrew maintains current passports for immediate deployment, and our flight liability insurance provides coverage regardless of location.  Our military background allows us to package and prepare our equipment for worldwide use with little advanced notice.  Even if you need aerial services at the last minute, please give us a call! Depending on your needs we may be able to adjust our schedule.  Best of all, we DON'T add on charges for last minute scheduling.  As with any job that works in the out of doors, there are times when Mother Nature decides that a scheduled shoot won't be able to take place. Because of this (and other unforeseen delays such as temporary flight restrictions, sudden accidents or disasters, etc.), we ask all of our clients to choose a back-up date for their shoot so that in the unfortunate event a shoot has to be rescheduled, the delay is kept to an absolute minimum. 

9.     What services do you provide? The answer to this will run the gamut from weddings only to highly specialized thermal mapping for corn crops. As with the 'when and where' an aerial photographer can provide services, you many need to speak with multiple aerial photographers before you find one that is capable of providing you with the best possible product for your needs. Some providers will tell you they offer a service, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have the experience to back up that claim. Never hesitate to request an example of an aerial photographer's work that best matches with your request. 

Just ask – the sky is the limit! We have the ability to provide our clients with aerial imagery and/or videography for construction, site management and progress, multiple types of inspections (roofing, building, smoke stack, electrical, bridge, etc.), surveys, zoning, 3D mapping, 3D imaging, architecture, competitions, weddings, special events, television, film, documentaries, immersive video, virtual reality, agriculture, mining, 360 degree images, mosaics, indoor flight, real-time video feed, demolition, research and development, land management, forestry, chase vehicle, real estate listings, and much, much more. We offer the capability of lifting heavy cinema systems such as the Red Epic or Alexa Mini cameras, as well as carrying objects like props or flags or even objects to be dropped in a specific location. Propheads also specializes in indoor, close proximity, and closed set flying in high precision environments.  Our pilots cut their teeth in a time before drones flew themselves, so their piloting skills in GPS degraded environments are some of the best in the nation. If it's one of the very rare services we are unable to provide, it is our pleasure to provide recommendations for another aerial photographer that can assist you.

In addition to the traditional aerial services available above, Parker is always happy to provide one-on-one or group drone flight education and training, speaking at an engagement, lecturing on drone safety, or even participating in a school's Career Day.  Would you like a drone demonstration for your avionics club, science club, or Scout Troop? Contact us and we would be pleased to assist. 

10.     What equipment do you use? There are so many models and types of drone, camera, and video equipment on the market. Name brand on a piece of equipment is not anywhere as important as the quality of the equipment and the person's skill level with that equipment. A good photographer keeps both their equipment and skills in tip-top shape as well as technologically up to date.  Remember, only a poor craftsman blames his tools. 

Propellerheads Aerial almost exclusively flies the latest DJI products, including the Matrice 600 Pro, Inspire 1, Inspire 1 Pro, Inspire 2, Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic, as well as a wide range of custom vehicles for unique applications. Our camera equipment includes the Zenmuse X5 (Panasonic GH4), Panasonic GH5, Sony A7S II, and Sony A7R II, DJI Osmo, Ronin MX gimbal, and of course multiple lenses and filters. We have the expertise to custom build additional drones or equipment for special or sacrificial missions, and have the ability to secure a wide range of drone or camera equipment in order to meet whatever your imagery project needs.  Our flight hardware and mission execution software is updated on a constant basis to maintain industry standards for reliability and performance. 

11.  When will I receive my images/video?  The answer to this question is really going to vary wildly between aerial photographers. Depending on the type of service you have requested and the timeframe in which it is required, an aerial photographer can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks to provide you with your images, and even longer for video. This is very important to keep in mind if you have a project that is time sensitive, because things out of the photographer's control (such as the weather or family emergency) can impact when your shoot can take place and how long it takes for you to receive the final product. 

At Propellerheads, images are typically provided to our clients digitally within 48 hours. This allows time for downloading the images, professionally editing them, then uploading the images to a Google Drive folder accessible only by you based on a unique URL we provide to you. We can provide you with raw as well as fully edited and processed imagery upon request at no additional fee. 

12. How many images/what length of video are provided during a flight session?  It is incredibly important to get the answer to this question before signing any contracts for service. Is the drone provider selling the rights to his images or selling a set number of images?  Are you going to end up owing this provider for the product he is selling in addition to his time and equipment? How many edits are included for the photos/video? What about graphics or music - is that a separate or included cost? 

Propellerheads maintains the copyright on the images/video we shoot, but releases all rights to the imagery to you upon delivery at no additional charge, and there are no hidden fees. We will take as many images as required or as much video footage to be filmed in order to document everything you have requested.  An average session can result in 30-45 professional images out of hundreds taken from nearly every possible angle, but larger jobs or close up inspections may produce thousands of images.  Even though you may only ask for six or seven photos, our pilot will take many times that to ensure that you receive the best possible imagery. Please make sure to specify if there are any particular areas we should focus on when discussing the imagery requirements for your project. 

Have any other questions? We welcome your call at 229-548-0020 or email at propheads@yahoo.com