HomeHow To Film With Your Drone Safely

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Halifax lawyer David Fraser has wowed thousands of people with his spectacular footage of the city from the sky, but he is cautious about when he sends his drone into the air.

Fraser is a privacy lawyer, and the irony of someone in his field using a drone isn’t lost on him. Many of his peers have poked fun at the connection.

But Fraser’s background has given him a unique perspective of how to properly use the device as he films scenic views of the city. Here are some of of the rules he’s set for himself:

Avoid the clouds

As a hobbyist, Fraser doesn’t have to follow Transport Canada’s regulations because his aircraft weighs less and 35 kg is used for recreational purposes. But follows the guidelines. He has to be wary of is not flying into clouds in case there is a plane or other type of aircraft. He always checks the forecast, and doesn’t take the drone out on foggy or cloudy days.

Keep it in sight

While his drone can fly up to five kilometres away, Fraser never lets it out of his sight, and even deploys his 12-year-old son as a spotter to make sure it’s safe. “I would never take that risk,” he says of simply trusting his view of the camera.

Check the skies

Fraser checks EHS LifeFlight — the air ambulance — and looks to the nearby military base 12 Wing Shearwater to make sure there are no other aircraft in the sky. While his drone is small, he doesn’t want to risk causing any interference.

Practise your piloting skills

Fraser bought a cheaper model drone to learn how to fly. His drone has GPS built in so it can hover and stabilize in precise locations.

“I want to do it safely. You want to not have to rely on [the computer] doing the thinking for you. You get muscle memory, the same way things become instinctive when you drive your car, if something surprising happens, you want to be able to react quickly.”

Have a back up plan

Fraser’s drone has a feature that will return it to the point of takeoff if the connection between his remote and the drone is broken. But Fraser is always ready to flip the machine into manual mode if something goes wrong. “I would sooner drop it into the harbour than allow it to hit anything.”

Don’t be creepy

Fraser knows all about privacy concerns over drones, but says so far it’s mostly theoretical. “It doesn’t have a zoom lens. It would be hard to use it for creepy purposes,” he says.

Batteries on drones currently last only about 20 minutes, he says, further limiting its potential for “creepy” uses.

Fraser literally focuses on the big picture, rather than individuals. But he does worry that as drones get better batteries and zoom lenses, they could cause privacy problems.