Ask Drone Girl: How do I fly my drone over an event?

Photo screen grab from The Drone Dudes

Here’s the next installment of Ask Drone Girl. Got a question for her? Send your email here.

Question

Hi Drone Girl,

My name is Laura and my son and his cousin started a droning business in Michigan about a year ago. Recently they were asked to drone a festival in our town, Lake Orion, and they readily accepted needing the exposure. I have a question…have you ever filmed a festival or in an area with large crowds. How do you launch your drone? Do you cordon off an area or have a launch pad? We’re worried about the thousands of people milling around the area and the danger of the blades of the drone.

Thank you,
Laura

P.S. the boys company is insured.

Answer

Hey Laura,

This is a great question, and I’m glad you have safety first in mind! Flying over people is tricky. Take the exposure, and give exposure to safe drone flying practices while you’re at it.

I have filmed in large crowds, and it’s tricky! People love to come up to you and talk to you about what you’re doing, and while it’s easy to want to be friendly and have a chat, you also need to focus. I photographed a crowd with a drone flying over Crissy Broadcast in The Presidio for The San Francisco Chronicle. Luckily at this event there weren’t too many people, so I was able to stand away from people in a grassy area to launch, without having to cordon off an area. Most drone injuries happen during takeoff and landing, so it’s important that you don’t do these steps near other people. If your event is going to be wall to wall people, you’ll definitely want to cordon off an area where you can launch.

It’s great that you’ll have what sounds like two people there. One should be piloting with their eyes on the drone the whole time, and one should be the spotter looking out for other things in the sky (or coming at you on the ground too). You may even want a third person to control the drone’s camera, depending on what kind of gear you’re using. The great thing about cordoning off an area is you don’t have to worry about people coming up and asking questions while you’re in flight.

As for flying over crowds, it’s tricky!  The FAA recommends not flying over people, but if it’s over public property for non-commercial use, you have a right to. If you have any slightest doubt about your piloting abilities, don’t fly over people. If you are 100% confident, then I think I feel comfortable advising you to go for it.

One of my favorite drone videos ever from when I first started reporting on drones was from The Drone Dudes. They fly all over the crowd, but that’s obviously risky. Use your judgement.

And of course, happy flying!

Disagree with me? Particularly those of you who say, ‘absolutely no flying over crowds’? I’d love to hear from you; leave a comment below!

5 thoughts on “Ask Drone Girl: How do I fly my drone over an event?”

  1. It is not safe or legal to fly over near large groups of people. If your running high powered transmitters. You need a license with the federal communications commission. If your fly your helicopter out of sight this is also illegal.

  2. I have my 333 and I avoid flying over crowds like the plague, Skirting around the edges? Sure. Though even that makes me uncomfortable.

    A few months back I was doing a job, much as you say filming a small festival when someone, I assume in the crowd took a potshot at my UAS. They winged it, but I was able to maintain enough control to rtb. Still, had I not been so lucky, through no fault or lack of skill on my behalf we could have been looking at a serious incident for the hobby/profession.

    1. For sure, flying over crowds is really intense. I’m not sure I would do it. Also scary they would take a potshot at the drone. I’ve never really thought about how to handle that scenario!

  3. I’m sure by now you know it is a FAA no-no according to the new Part 107. You can not fly over nonparticipents (maybe with a waiver) and participants need to be undercover.

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