Drones are absolutely everywhere these days, and this is something that certainly isn’t about to change. When they were first released, most of us saw drones as a silly little gimmick – a glorified RC helicopter. However, in a short space of time, countless business applications have opened up for them. One particular niche is aerial photography in the construction sector. This is a rapidly evolving niche that’s getting attention from the smallest contractors to the largest construction firms. The technology itself, along with the regulations surrounding it, are changing as I write. So, the big question; is it best for your construction business?
We’ll get the driest part of the issue out of the way first: the rules. When a construction company buys a drone, and uses it to take aerial photos of a project site, it’s treated as commercial application, rather than recreational. This means that it has to adhere to certain rules set out by the FAA. You’ll need a grant of exemption issued by the body, and an operator with a recreational or sport class pilot’s license. A drone weighing more than 55 pounds has to be registered with the FAA, and the drone can’t fly within 5 miles of an airport without contacting the control tower. The drone can’t ascend more than 400 feet, and always has to remain in the visual line of sight of the operator. Hiring a drone photography company doesn’t necessarily mean they’re aware of all these regulations, so be sure to ask!
Now that that’s out of the way, we’ll look at how smart of a financial decision drone photography will be. One of the main drawbacks of using drones for aerial photography is the hidden costs. As mentioned above, drones always have to stay within the line of sight of the operator. For multiple projects, you’d have to transport the aircraft from place to place on the ground. Helicopters, on the other hand, can fly as they like, without having to keep landing, resetting and starting. This means that a traditional aerial photographer can do in a few hours what would take a drone operator a few days. Drone photography might be an exciting prospect, but I urge you to get quotes for both services. The time you save is usually reflected in the price with traditional companies.
You may have been reading this article while looking through the pricing options for various drone photography companies. If there’s one common thread with all of them, it’s that they’re pretty darn expensive! Due to this, a lot of construction companies opt for a DIY approach – having someone on their own team operating the drone and taking the pictures. Sounds fun, I know. Just make sure you take the time to consider the relative value of both options. I’m sure you didn’t choose the best construction project management software on its features alone, and this technology is no different. If the project is fairly small, you’re able to take the upfront costs and licenses, and you have someone experienced in using drones, then it could be a very valuable investment. Just don’t assume that you’ll get results anywhere near the quality of a professional drone photography firm. It may not seem like it, but properly operating a drone for construction photography takes a lot of hard work and practice. The decision really comes down to the images you need, which brings me onto my last point…
The quality of the images is a very important thing to consider when browsing drones or photographer’s portfolios. Choose an inexpensive option, and you’re most likely to end up with a drone camera that has a fisheye effect. Couple this with an inexperienced or amateur operator, and you’ll come away with a gallery full of blurred, low-quality photos. Obviously, this isn’t appropriate for any professional progress documentation. At the very least, high-quality equipment is necessary for any drone aerial photography, and a professional at the controls certainly helps. You or I could probably use a drone for the first time, and after some fiddling and mistakes, snap some pretty professional shots. As fun as that sounds, I’m sure you’ve got other priorities that should take up that time. Like anything, drone flying and photography has certain nuances and manoeuvres that have to be practiced. It’s always better to find a pilot with some experience.
Be sure to take these considerations on board when you’re considering using drone aerial photography. If the finances check out, drones can be a brilliant solution to your photography needs.