Could your brand benefit from getting some spectacular aerial footage? If the answer is yes, what exactly do you need to know about drone photography? On this episode, Frank Datzer, director of photography and licensed drone pilot for DCP Video, shares his expertise.

About Frank Datzer

Frank has been involved in videography and video production for 35 years. He spent most of his career at U.S. Bank and later G.E. Medical. He owned a DVD Duplication Service before getting back into video shooting and production with his own company, DCP Video. He’s also done two, feature-length, independent films on Amazon called “Mister Scrooge to See You” and “The Return.”

Commercial Drone Photography Requirements

A drone license is required for anyone interested in making any money shooting drone footage. According to Frank, the test is not as easy as you would think. It is not about your skill as a drone pilot, but rather your knowledge of weather, how to read a Tack Chart and how airport traffic is handled. In the U.S, the test is a standardized FAA test, which is basically a junior pilot’s license consisting of 600 questions. You only need to answer 60 of the 600 questions, but you never know what those 60 questions will be. You must have knowledge of everything on the test, if you hope to pass. Frank says there are some background pieces available online that can help you prepare for the test. Internationally, licensing varies greatly, so you need to do your homework before doing anything outside the U.S.

Drone hobbyists do not need a license, but there are still some rules to follow. There can be no monetization of any kind without a license and if caught, fines can be as high as $10,000.

Things to Consider Before Scheduling Drone Photography

  • Ask for credentials from drone pilots
  • Every location is different so do your homework before setting anything up
  • Get permission wherever you are shooting
  • Allow two weeks’ notice for permissions
  • Make allowances for inclement weather conditions
  • Drones are typically not allowed to fly near airports
  • Drones can’t fly above 400 ft. (Frank says low-level drone shots at 20-to-25-ft. can be very dramatic and beautiful, especially in a warehouse)
  • Drones must be kept in your line of sight
  • Night flying can be done one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset
  • Flying over people, sporting events, emergency response teams and stadiums are prohibited
  • No drugs or alcohol are allowed while flying

Why Hire Pros?

Four reasons:  safety, quality, experience at getting the best shots and ultimately, the end product.

If you are concerned about price, drone photography is less than hiring a helicopter. And, you may want to consider hiring someone like Frank who uses drone photography as a value-add. His drone camera is just another tool he uses like lighting or a second camera.

If you are considering getting into drone photography, Frank recommends purchasing a DJI Mavic Mini at around $300. Cheaper models typically don’t handle as well. Then, go to a park with no trees, start by flying low and keep practicing.

Connect with Frank


LinkedIn: @frankdatzer

Instagram: DCP_Video