filming high and low: drone flying - legally

posted by Julia Bates Nov 15, 2016

Filming aerial footage with a drone is a really engaging way of showing big spaces and getting views that wouldn’t have been possible without a big budget a few years ago. You can show scale, capacity, and get perspectives and those “wow” shots that would be very difficult otherwise.

Filming with drones adds amazing production value but it needs careful planning with all of the legal and health and safety angles covering. Our drone filming is always legal, but flying drones also gets into the news for all the wrong reasons and there are quite a few regulations to follow if you use a drone for a business purpose.

What is possible with a drone? And how do you stay legal?

Drones come in a wide variety of sizes, with the larger ones able to use a full size DSLR camera for high quality outdoor filming up to 4K images. This makes high level filming easy and accessible and gives fantastic results.

There are also smaller drones with an inbuilt camera or a mount for a GoPro, for smaller spaces and for smaller budgets.

We have had great results with controlled drone flights inside locations to create some impactful shots and add that extra production value. These shots are more complicated and require additional health and safety considerations, planning and coordinating but are really worthwhile.

The use of a drone raises some obvious health and safety issues, so your pilot needs to be trained and regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority.

When flying there are regulations from the Civil Aviation Authority to follow.

A few examples:

  • A drone can’t fly closer than 50m to any person, vehicle or structure that is not under the control of the person in charge of the drone
  • You need permission from the landowner for where you land and take off
  • You can’t fly directly overhead or within 150m of any congested area of a city, town or settlement


There are more details about competency for a pilot here.

Flying a drone is also wind and weather dependant, so if it’s a one-off event, or a situation that will be difficult to re-organise, it's always best to have a backup filming plan and to pencil a contingency day to get the best weather and the best results. Keep an eye on the weather leading up to the shoot, as wind speed and rain can easily stop any flying in its tracks!

Here's an example of MEDIAmaker drone filming… showing an aerial view of client premises: