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It’s estimated that nearly 3 million drones were sold worldwide in 2017 alone. This industry has grown so quickly that you probably know someone who has a modern UAS (unmanned aircraft systems), otherwise known as a drone. Today’s aircraft are relatively easy to operate and available at very affordable prices, but becoming a commercial drone operator requires more than just owning a drone. This article will give you a basic understanding of the differences between commercial drone services, how to be certain you’re following the laws, and some ideas for taking advantage of this powerful marketing tool.

How Aerial (Drone) Video is Being Used Today

You may be surprised to learn that agriculture has been the largest market for commercial drone operations. Of course, drones are also being used for inspecting bridges and wind turbines, for product delivery, surveying, wildlife management, and beyond. I often categories drone services into two categories: technical services and creative services.

Technical services include aerial mapping, inspecting tough to reach places, emergency response, and more. Today’s UAS have made many of these technical services much more cost efficient than previous methods. While some operations have a fleet of aircraft for various uses, typically, commercial operators specialize in either technical or creative services. This is why for your marketing purposes you’ll likely want to work with a company that uses drones exclusively for creative image making.

Just as there is a wide range of traditional photography equipment, drones and mounted cameras vary dramatically. Be sure to compare demo reels to ensure that the company your working with is able to deliver the types of shots and level quality you are looking for.

Legal and Technical Considerations

The final consideration when hiring a commercial drone operator is to be certain that they are following all local and federal rules and regulations. States like Minnesota issue a Commercial Operations License to legal operations and provide a list of legal operators online. If there is no state issued license you should request that they provide you with a valid pilot’s license and proof of insurance.

It’s important to note that the rules for operating a drone as a hobbyist are vastly different than those for commercial operation. For example, it is legal for hobbyists to fly at night, but commercial drone operators must obtain a special authorization from the FAA for night flights. Obtaining an FAA authorization can take up to 90 days, which is why it’s important to plan your flights well ahead of time whenever possible.

For best results, aerial video requires a 3-person crew: the pilot, the cinematographer, and a visual observer. Many professional operations will provide a client/director monitor setup and a backup drone in case of a crash or technical malfunction with one of the UAS.

Ways Businesses are Using Aerial Video and Photography

A wide range of businesses can benefit from using aerial video and photography in their branding and marketing campaigns. Take a look at the assets we created for previous clients:

Connect to a Community or Region

COMMONWEAL – 2017 EXCELLENCE AWARD from Open Window Productions on Vimeo.

It’s important to show how you’re connected to a community or region and aerial video can do just that. Hire an aerial team for a full day and send them out with a shot list of iconic locations. These images can become your own internal library of media for use in digital and print work.

Property Images

Aerial View of School

Aerial images of your building or property is great for your Google Business page, social media pages, websites, and more. What used to be an expensive helicopter shot is now made practical with a drone.

Make a Production Seem Bigger 

2016 Advocacy Award – Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness from Open Window Productions on Vimeo.

Adding just a few drone shots to a video can dramatically increase the “production value” without busting the budget.

Product Demonstration 

PIRANHA MINI DREDGE – PRODUCT VIDEO from Open Window Productions on Vimeo.

Aerial shots are crucial for demonstrating many types of outdoor equipment & services. A high quality set of aerial images can be vital product marketing material for a wide range of platforms.

How Your Business Can Use Aerial Video

Now that you know a little more about drones the important question is how to incorporate them into your marketing and outreach efforts. The simple answer is: the sky is the limit. Visual media is more important than ever before as it drives engagement on social media platforms. Aerial pictures and videos are a great way to captivate audiences and increase your CTR.

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Henry Schneider
Producer/Director at

I am a multi-faceted media producer specializing in video production. Operating independently under Open Window Productions I have had the opportunity to work with incredible nonprofits and small businesses for which I have created videos used in marketing campaigns, fundraising efforts, product demonstrations and much more. My greatest strength is understanding client's goals and developing content that assists in achieving those goals.