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 pilot license? Is your drone registered with the FAA? If not 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 and have registered their drone with the FAA. Commercial use 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, and we hold additional waivers that allow us to fly during hours of total darkness. We are also able to obtain additional waivers for unique missions.  

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.

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, as is our work vehicle. We will also obtain an 'additional insured' document for your organization if it is required.

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 pilots license is a reputable indicator that the pilot meets federal minimum requirements to legally operate a commercial drone.  

 Propellerheads Aerial has over 14 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, and provides teaching services to the Department of Defense and all branches of the military. Our drone pilot 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 does not make you a 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, 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 provide examples or links to similar work? Does he or she actually know how to perform the mission being requested? 

Propellerheads Aerial has over 14 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 many 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 also prohibited from flying over crowds without a waiver. 

 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 suprises 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.  

5.     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, or NASA after years of constant commercial flight operations. We take safety very seriously, and perform multi-point 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. If conditions prohibit safe flight, we will contact you as soon as possible in order to reschedule.

6.     How much will images or video cost? I don’t see any pricing on your website.  No two clients are the same, so we base our pricing on specifically what each client requests and requires and the distance we may need to travel for the service. This allows us to tailor charges based on just the services you need. When it comes to aerial photography and videography, you will find that costs will vary quite a bit 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.  

Please don't assume you cannot afford us, we consistently hear from our clients our rates are HALF of our competitors.  Propellerheads Aerial takes pride in providing every client with the most exceptional imagery possible at an affordable rate, perfectly tailored for each clients individual needs. If you are not happy, we are not happy, and we will do everything within our power to make it right.  

7.     When and where are you able provide services? 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 weeks notice for scheduling, but if the same day or next day is open, we will be happy to deploy a team immediately.   In most cases, we bill at local rates and will handle all travel costs on our end.  

Our aircrew maintains current passports for immediate deployment, and our flight liability insurance provides coverage regardless of location.  We also call upon our military background to package and prepare our equipment for worldwide use with little advanced notice.  

8.     What services do you provide? 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, real estate listings, surveys, zoning, 3D mapping, 3D imaging, architecture, weddings, special events, television, film, documentaries, immersive video, agriculture, mining, 360 degree images, mosaics, indoor flight, real-time video feed, demolition, research and development, land management, forestry, chase vehicle, and much, much more. We also offer the capability of lifting heavy cinema systems such as theRed Epic or Alexa Mini cameras, drone flight education and training, speaking engagements, and more.  

In addition to the traditional aerial services available above, Propheads specializes in indoor, close proximity and closed set filing 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.  

9.     What equipment do you use? There are many models and types of drone, camera, and video equipment on the market. The name brand is not as important as the quality of the equipment. A good photographer keeps their equipment in tip-top shape as well as technologically up to date.  Remember, a poor craftsman blames his tools. 

 Propellerheads Aerial almost exclusively flies the latest DJI products, including the Matrice 600 Pro, Inspire 1 Pro Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic and a wide range of custom vehicles for unique applications. We also have the expertise to build additional drones for special or sacrificial missions.  Our camera equipment includes the Zenmuse X5 (Panasonic GH4), Sony A7S II, and  Sony A7R II. Our flight hardware and mission execution software is updated on a continual basis to maintain industry standards for reliability and performance. 

10.  When will I receive my images/video?  Depending on what services you request, 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. 

11. How many images are provided during a flight session?  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.  

Propellerheads releases all rights to the imagery to you upon delivery at no additional charge, and there are no hidden fes. And we will take as many images as it requires to document everything you want to be shot or filmed.  An average session results in 30-45 professional images from nearly every available angle, but larger jobs or close up inspections may produce thousands of images.  Please make sure to specify particular areas we should focus on when discussing the requirements.