Our most frequently asked questions
It’s a small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) or just “drone”, for short. See our Fleet page for more information about each of our photographic/survey drones.
The following are some of the more popular usages for drones:
- Filming TV Shows/Movies and Internet videos
- Making art (e.g. landscape, nature, or wildlife photography and cinematography)
- Aerial photography of real estate or other property
- Journalism and news coverage
- Environmental compliance, environmental studies, environmental research, counting/monitoring wildlife, etc.
- Surveying or inspecting property, infrastructure, or agriculture
- Search and Rescue
- Law Enforcement/Firefighting/HAZMAT Response
- Possibly even food and parcel delivery in the future
Our drones are technically able to fly over several thousand feet high and fly 4+ miles away from its operator. However, we never exceed 400′ above ground level and don’t fly beyond visual line of sight of the operator.
Wind and weather conditions affect flight time greatly but each of our drones can fly between 20-35 minutes before a battery swap is required.
For applications requiring longer flight times, we can fly continuously for several hours with a tether/power cable or quickly swap out the rechargeable battery packs and get our drones back in the air extremely quickly. We also have enough battery packs to keep all of our drones up in the air virtually continuously (while depleted batteries recharge from our solar or gas generator.)
It varies greatly but it’s definitely a very costly undertaking to fly what we fly. Once you add up the cost of one drone and everything else needed to fly it, it can be as costly as a decent sized boat. It’s also as big of a money pit!
The drone itself is such a very small piece of the puzzle and just the beginning of everything else that’s required. For example, many operators spend over $1,000 on just the batteries each year!
There’s some pretty inexpensive (sub $100) toy drones that are fun to fly and are perfect for beginners (or even pros for practice). Please see Where can I purchase a drone? for more information.
Before you think about buying a drone, please get and practice with a smaller toy drone first. Without this experience you’re endangering yourself and others as crashes are guaranteed.
We sell several inexpensive (under $50) great practice/training drones that can take most crashes like a champ. Spare parts are readily available and it’s cheap and easy to repair if you should actually break something. Everything you learn while flying with one of these will be directly applicable to larger drones.
You will need/want at least four spare batteries and you can get multipacks from us for about $20-30. Beware, don’t buy a drone or batteries from Amazon or eBay as there are mostly crudely-made counterfeits and fakes on both sites.
Once you have your practice/training drone fully charge the batteries before use. The drone will calibrate itself as soon as you plug the battery in. So it’s imperative for smooth and steady fight that it be done on a flat and level surface without tilting or moving the drone. That in itself can be a little tricky to do and at first it might take a dozen or more attempts to finally get it right.
Practice with it inside at first and later outdoors (on a calm day) up to 20ft high. Never go higher as they’ll get caught in winds, you don’t feel on the ground, and it’ll be the last time you see it. Start flying close to yourself (10′ max) and slowly increase the distance you go as you gain experience. Try to stay away from walls and the ceiling as it’ll be drawn to them, sucking itself into any surface.
You’ll need to learn how to fly without accidentally bumping or crashing into objects, hitting the floor/ground, or being sucked into walls or the ceiling. Once you can do that and are able to easily fly around and in-between things like multiple objects, while maintaining orientation control (knowing which way it’s pointing/going at a distance), you’re ready to risk flying the more expensive drones. We’ve found that it takes at least 10-30 hours of flight time to fly with confidence and skill, rather than luck. Few can take to it quicker than others but don’t rush it and don’t get overconfident! It really does takes this amount of practice to avoid costly crashes.
FPV Drone Racing is immensely growing in popularity and is loads of fun.
Our local group, the Northern New England Drone User Group welcomes all ages. It’s free to join and is the best way to get help and questions answered. Free flyins, races, and meetups are offered at least once a month. Quite a few members have toy or micro quads at each meet. They’re never looked down upon!
Don’t buy a racing drone and run out to fly without first having some experience with a toy micro quad drones. Don’t skip this step! Luckily, the toys are inexpensive and are built much tougher. They survive pretty much any type of crash without damage. It takes lots of practice to be able to understand how to fly an FPV Racing Drone as they don’t have a GPS or systems which make them easier to fly.
DJI is the best ‘off the shelf’ brand. The Phantom 3 Advance and Phantom 3 Pro are a great entry level aerial photography drones and the best for the money. The difference between the Advanced and Pro is just the camera and charger. The Pro can also shoot 4K video and maybe worth the extra dollars. The Phantom 4 is a great upgrade if you don’t mind it’s higher price tag.
Unfortunately, no photography drone is crash proof or as easy to fly as the marketing leads everyone to believe. It takes lots of practice with a toy micro quad drones first. Don’t skip this step! Luckily, the toys are inexpensive and are built much tougher. They survive pretty much any type of crash without damage.
To be guaranteed of getting the latest/updated version, I only recommend buying DJI products direct from DJI or directly from us.
There are two great local user groups and we’re active members of both.
The New England Drone Users Group is for anyone with any interest in any kind of drone.
In additional to traditional photography events, Vermont Photography Meetups regularly holds meetups specifically for enthusiasts/operators of aerial photography and cinematography drones.
Vermonters with an interest in Drones are welcome to join the Vermont UAS Drone Operators Facebook Group.
Everyone interested in flying should also join the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). The AMA is an association of modelers organized for the purpose of promotion, development, education, advancement, and safeguarding of modeling activities. They’ve become the national voice for its membership, providing liaison with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and other government agencies. AMA Members also receive liability insurance for the operation of their model aircraft.
When joining the AMA, they’ll ask for recruiter details. You may provide the following details:
Recruiter Name: Steve Mermelstein
Recruiter AMA #: 544166
I’m often contacted by folks, newly interested in drones, wanting to meet to pick my brain or watch me fly. Unfortunately, my time is severely limited. The only way I can do this for free is if we do it at one of the meetup/user groups I regularly put on.
Private (or video conference) meetings/consultations are only offered in the following ways:
- Attend one of my private or group workshops;
- Pay me for my time;
- Or, meet over a meal at a restaurant of my choosing, where you agree to pay the check and tip.
For options 2 or 3: please email me a short bio and briefly explain why you want to meet and what you hope to accomplish. Please be sure to also include your full name, address, your cell phone number and a link to your web site or social profiles. If I’m available to meet, I’ll reply with a list of times and dates so we can schedule it.
Sorry, no. Our insurance doesn’t allow anyone but our experienced pilots to operate our drones.
Some of our drones are capable of flying upside down, doing loops, and other tricks but we will not perform such stunts while cameras/lenses are attached or when the drones are in proximity of other people.
Please see our Fleet page for more information about each of our photographic/survey drones and what cameras we use.
Yes, we use the latest in technology and have a live HD video downlink which allows us to perfectly frame each scene and watch the footage as it’s being captured in real time. The video can be live outputted to HD monitors, tablets, mobile phones, FPV goggles and even live broadcast to YouTube, Facebook, and other live broadcast sites.
Yes! We always setup a monitor outside our safety zone so you can see exactly what our drones are seeing.
It’s for your safety. Flying a drone requires the full attention of its operators. Looking over our shoulders or asking questions can be very distracting and even dangerous. So please don’t disturb us while any of our aircraft are in flight. It is against Federal Law to disobey or interfere with flight crew. Flight crew interference incidents can result in up to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000!
Yes, we use the latest in technology and have a live HD video downlink which can be live streamed over a cellular data connection to Ustream, YouTube, and other live broadcast platforms. This allows viewers to tune in and watch the flight live from anywhere in the world!
As responsible operators, we only operate in conditions which are completely safe for us to fly. We have drones which can operate in nearly any condition except high winds, during rain or heavy snow. We now have several which can even operate in up to 20 MPH winds.
Yes, as responsible operators safety is our priority. We satisfy or exceed all industry accepted safety standards and procedures.
For example, before each and every flight we thoroughly inspect our drones, as well as all our control and safety equipment. We also perform a detailed preflight checklist to ensure nothing is accidentally overlooked or forgotten.
All our equipment is regularly tested and inspected for faults and defects and receives all service prescribed by the FAA and/or manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule. We only use OEM parts or approved parts that meet or exceed OEM specifications.
Yes, civilians and corporations may own/fly drones just by following some common sense FAA guidelines.
No! We absolutely don’t use drones for surveillance, spying, or snooping. Our drones also do not have the capability to do any of that.
It’s incredible how these irrational and unsubstantiated fears, uncertainties and doubts have been spread.
The fact is, as long as it has propellers (or jet engines) there’s compression and rarefaction of the air, producing motion of air molecules. This movement propagates through the air as pressure waves. These sound and pressure waves can be heard at long distances. There’s no way to overcome this except by flying very high up so that the waves have completely dissipated and don’t reach the ground or individual being monitored.
Science-Fiction is still completely fiction and we don’t have military drones.
At just 100′ high, people only look as good or as large, as an ant from 10′ away. It’s important to point out that our drones are still heard at this distance. For an example see the photo below. Even the most advance military drones (with the most advanced optics and cameras) are still unable to take “closer” photos from a distance where they’re not heard or sensed.
Drones are also unable to clearly photograph or video anyone or anything through a window unless it’s within a few feet. In order to identify an individual or make out any specific details, the drone must fly within 15 to 30-feet of the subject. Thus, making it completely impractical for covert surveillance.
Additionally, all civilian aerial drone copters (including ours) are not capable of “zooming in” or enlarging the photographs/video like you might have seen on TV shows or movies. Those type of dramatizations are completely FICTIONAL and are not remotely like reality. Even the military is still wishing for all those types of capabilities and for the type of clarity that has been depicted on TV and in movies.
The reality is, those “sci-fi” features are just not possible because lenses capable of that type of magnification are very large and long and are very heavy…too heavy for civilian drones. It is physically and optically impossible to miniaturize them and make lighter versions small enough. The lens would also need very complex image stabilization technology to overcome the significant vibration and movement which is intensified by the increased magnification power of the lens.
Engineers and scientists are skeptical that any of these limitations can ever be broken in our lifetimes. So, until some non-existent genius makes an unlikely breakthrough and figures out how to alter the laws of physics and optical science, drones will continue to be the absolute worst and most ineffective way to photograph or spy on anyone covertly.
The truth is, everyone should be far more concerned about what pervs do with covertly placed “spy cameras” or camera phones and cameras with telephoto lenses. When used maliciously they can be/are a REAL, actual threat to privacy. Not just a sci-fi one.
No, we’re not invading anyone’s privacy. We only fly our drones in full compliance with privacy laws and all other federal and state laws.
Our drones cannot identify persons from a distance. If you’re inside we definitely can’t see you. Even if you’re outside, you will look like ants and be unidentifiable.
We are very ethical, responsible, and respectful operators. Our drones will never be close enough to see through any windows.
Please also see: Can your drones spy on people? (In short: No, it can’t spy on your or anyone!)
Our drones can only “shoot” videos and photographs.
No, for the same reasons you can’t stop manned airplanes and helicopters. We won’t enter or fly within your private airspace. We’re always well above it, within the Public, National Airspace. Only the Federal government is able to place prohibitions, restrictions, or regulations on this airspace.
In short: not legally. Attempting to damage or destroy a drone is the same as attempting to damage or destroy manned aircraft. It is a felony and arguably also a federal criminal violation (18 USC 32).
You’re likely to be immediately arrested. If found guilty, you could be sentenced to jail for years or decades. You’ll lose your right to own or possess guns. We can also sue for all damages and legal costs.
- Drones are protected by the same exact laws all aircraft are. So, anyone shooting at a drone would be treated the same as if they shot at a real manned helicopter or airplane. The shooter could be arrested and charged with dozens of very serious crimes. A conviction of any one of these could result in a multiple decade prison term and permanent loss of your right to own or possess guns.
- Property owners have very limited private airspace and for the same reasons they cannot prohibit manned airplanes and helicopters, they can’t prohibit drones. We won’t enter or fly within your private airspace. We’re always well above it, within the Public, National Airspace. Only the Federal government is able to place prohibitions, restrictions, or regulations on this airspace. Even if a drone should enter the private airspace, a landowner does not have any right to shoot at a drone and would still be subject to arrest, prosecution and civil liability.
- If the shooter causes a loss of control and the drone crashes into a person or people, the shooter could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon or even more serious crimes. If anyone should die, the shooter could be charged with manslaughter or even possibly murder.
- Anyone causing damages to a drone would also open themselves to very serious civil liabilities and penalties. Drone operators and anyone else with damages, can actively pursue these damages and all legal costs through civil courts.