As a freelance photographer, I've been fortunate enough to combine my passion for visual storytelling with travel to showcase destinations across the United States. Along the way, I have found that one of my favorite new varieties of content to share with followers and customers is drone photos and videos. When it came to traveling with drones, I had some questions on how to bring a drone along and maximize my use of it. Today, we dive into a few of these questions and see the benefits that come with bringing a drone on your next trip. So, strap in and let’s get to it!
1. What to bring and how to get it there
I value mobility when traveling and need to keep my setup nimble since I am frequently jumping between trains, cars, and moving on-foot.
Foldable compact drones such as DJI’s Mavic Pro provide the flexibility necessary to stay light whilst fitting in my backpack alongside my conventional photography equipment. This allows me to get airborne without having to worry about carrying an additional bag with a larger drone. With features such as a 20-megapixel camera featuring a Hasselblad sensor and an array of sensors with automated flight features, the Mavic series of drones combines portability with the quality features I need.
With a drone selected, the next question is how to travel with it. I have found most commercial airlines tend to be accepting of traveling with drones as carry-on items so long as you take the necessary safety precautions to ensure they are packed properly before your flight. I would advise reviewing the airline’s regulations on traveling with a drone or giving them a quick call before your trip to ensure you are aware of their requirements. Battery safety is critical when flying with any lithium-polymer batteries, so I’ve compiled a quick list below to ensure you fly safely.
Li-Po Battery Safety for Travel:
- Ensure your drone battery is discharged
- Ensure the battery terminals are covered (I use electric tape)
- Place your batteries in a Li-Po fire-safe bag to store them during your flight
2. Navigating airspace rules and staying covered with drone insurance
Wherever you travel throughout the United States, it’s important to take note of FAA and state/local drone regulations. This may feel daunting, but luckily there are tools available that help both recreational and commercial pilots stay on top of their airspace. First and foremost, aeronautics charts are available online and can serve as a framework for you to understand what airspace you will be operating in.
For those unfamiliar with reading aeronautics charts, applications such as B4UFLY from the FAA provide real-time airspace maps and authorization via LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability). B4UFLY can inform you whether the area you are planning to operate in is restricted and provides options for automated air traffic control clearance for low altitude operations within seconds. For the safety of other aircraft, individuals, and wildlife, it is incredibly important to exercise responsibility in abiding by regulations when operating your drone.
When flying in parks and natural preserves, be sure to take a moment to observe state and local laws on drones. When in doubt, contact the park or governing agency for clarifications on regulations. Certain state and county parks do not permit drones to be launched or landed within their borders, while some require liability insurance. To save yourself potentially hundreds of dollars in fines, do a quick search before flying. Keep in mind, safe-flight databases in the DJI application can also serve as good points of reference for identifying appropriate flight locations.
Lastly, if flying through SkyWatch.AI's on-demand flight module, you will also be able to receive real time airspace hazards.
Pro Tip: Planning is key. Plan your shoot to ensure you get the most out of your drone’s battery.
Also, be sure to survey your flight area thoroughly before takeoff to avoid potential flight hazards.
When you are out flying, the goal is to safely control your drone and capture the visuals that tell the story of the location. I’ve been able to focus on this with the peace of mind brought by having drone insurance. Monthly drone liability insurance plans offered by SkyWatch.AI have been incredibly useful for frequent travelers like me. Getting covered is convenient and takes only a few minutes in the Skywatch.AI app. With various coverage options, finding the right kind of plan and obtaining a Certificate of Insurance for myself and for any additional insured parties I need to cover can all take place in the field. This enables me to take my mind off of the risks that one can encounter while flying uninsured and devote my attention to what matters most: capturing a compelling visual narrative.
Pro Tip: Launching and landing spots are important!
Find a clear location without trees and other obstacles.
3. Telling a great story
Drone photography shots allow storytellers to convey emotion, establish a scene, or convey a sense of scale. There’s a wealth of possibilities in taking to the skies to provide a bird’s eye view of locations. Whether you are capturing waves crashing on white-sand beaches, geometric structural patterns from above, or sunsets over picturesque landscapes, there is a sense of wonder and amazement that aerial shots convey. This has enabled drone photography to become a mainstay in travel videography and photography. When I return from a trip with a stockpile of footage, I’m able to compile trip highlights that serve as a way for me to connect with my social media followers as well as build my visual portfolio that can live on my blog, my website, or my YouTube channel.
Pro Tip: Respect your surroundings when choosing to fly your drone.
Always ensure you don’t interfere with wildlife or other travelers.
Thanks to the wide variety of portable consumer drones on the market, planning tools that allow safe and responsible operations within designated airspaces, and the ease of staying covered with drone insurance; there has never been a better time to engage your audience with drone footage of your next travel destination. So, pack up, get flying, and go explore!