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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Come Fly With Me

Turns out flying a drone professionally is more complex than you think...

For one, you’ll need two people if you want to properly capture footage.

IMG_0657 A commercial drone which would cost roughly €8,000.

IN THE PAST year alone, the popularity of drones has exploded.

From interest in the devices for businesses to those purchasing their own for flying, drones – or to give their proper title Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) – are going to be big business, and their presence is only going to grow as more companies move into the space.

For SkyTec Ireland, one such company based in Cork, capturing footage requires two people to carry out the operation. Steve Slade, who is an ex-pilot, flies it while Byron West controls the camera.

Each one has their own set of controls and screen so they can see what’s happening. The controls for the camera has its own covers so they can make out the final image clearly.

Drone footage 2

But for those who may have flown their own personal drone, what’s it like flying one designed for commercial use? West gives a straightforward answer.

It’s a lot harder than it looks.

The multi-rotor drone in question costs about €8,000 including the camera and mount according to Slade, although he mentions that excludes the cost of training and insurance, two major requirements before you can consider taking one to the skies.

If you’re flying a drone commercially, you must apply for permission from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to fly one in specific area.

While flying the drone is tough in itself, capturing footage with the camera is another story. You’ve very little control over exposure or focus when you’re up in the air (which is why a second person controls it) but provided the conditions are good, West says that it’s about 10 to 15 minutes per flight once it’s up in the air.

On site, it would probably be up and running within 20 minutes to half an hour… Depending on what you need to do, you could have the whole thing done in one flight. We’ve never needed more than five flights.

Drone camera

Educating the masses

Skytec Ireland was in Lucan, Dublin as part of the Unmanned Aircraft Association of Ireland’s (UAAI) open day, the first to promote and educate both businesses and the general public about the sector.

While the EU is proposing new legislation for the operation of drones – the consultation period for it will end late September and come into effect in November – Ireland is one of six EU member states that has legislation governing the use of drones.

The director of safety regulations at the IAA, Ralph James, told the open day was to get the different interest groups together to discuss the sector as well as raise general awareness with the public.

“It is a growing area”, says James. “There is great potential and Ireland… is well poised to make a significant impact on this area”.

Drone controlls The controls for the camera. The cover is to help keep the screen view as clear as possible so they can get the best shots.

The latter is especially important considering just how more people are buying their own drones. The majority are for recreational purposes instead of commercial but people might not be aware of the regulations that surround it, or what to do when things go wrong.

For example, flying over built-up areas like towns or cities is a no-no as well as flying in areas around the major airports, but if you’re flying in a rural area and you have the landowner’s permission, then you’re operating within the legal boundaries.

To simplify it, if there’s little to no chance of someone being harmed or property being damaged if things go wrong and you have permission to fly over that area, then it’s generally ok.

“They [the general public] wouldn’t be aware of their own responsibilities that the drone operator is responsible no matter what”, says James. “Just like the rules of the road, there are rules of the sky.”

The other idea that is being considered is the introduction of drone-flying zones, which is at the concept stage. James mentions that they don’t want to focus on what you can’t do, but say where you can fly and identify the types of areas where this is possible.

Read: Explainer: What are the rules and regulations surrounding drones? >

Read: The world’s biggest GIF site is taking on Snapchat to get your selfie moving >

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