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Posted by on Feb 24, 2016

Finding Places to Fly and Photograph with your Drone

Finding Places to Fly and Photograph with your Drone

Got your new video/photo drone? Check!
Read the Manual? Check!
Run the flight simulator program or practiced with some toy quads? Check!
Made your maiden flights at a large open field (school or similar field) to test the setup? Check!

Now it’s time to find some more varied places to fly and take some stunning still pictures and videos. Don’t be tempted to use your front and back yards and local neighborhood as regular flying grounds – they probably aren’t that interesting and you’ll be quite embarrassed if you need to retrieve your new machine from the neighbor’s pool. Worse yet, you could damage cars, property or injure people.

Finding some more suitable grounds is easy for some…but more difficult for many. Here are some hints and tips which may help you find some safe – and photogenic – places to fly a camera drone.

Know Where you Are!

Study local maps carefully – ideally on Google Satellite view. Once you become familiar with your locale, locate large open (usually green) areas. During a recent trip to Florida, I noticed that a large fairgrounds was just a few blocks away. This area provided a great view of the city and surrounding area and was very safe for flying.

Example of Google Map Sat. View with Potential Flying Areas

Example of Google Map Sat. View with Potential Flying Areas

Walking or Biking around an area can often locate some additional places to fly. I founds some large abandoned areas near some railroad tracks which provided an amazing view of a local park as well as the center of town.

Consider your Contacts

Do you or your friends know the owners of the local golf course? How about those who may own a local pick-your-own farm or orchard? These are often beautiful properties with great views of the local area. You can offer them some free photos and video in return for permission to fly.

Real Estate which is for sale can also provide flying grounds. In our area there is one particular Realtor that lists many of the properties in a semi-rural area. An offer to give them some photos could easily be swapped for permission to do some drone flying on these private properties. The same goes for some larger Farm Markets or Nurseries – they may desire to have aerial views. You may even get some free plants or fruits and veggies from the deal.

School Properties and Conservation Land

Many school properties are vacant or very lightly used on weekends – and so can provide a place to take your aerial photographs. Many towns and counties have so-called “Conservation Land”, which are properties that allow public access for activities like hunting, hiking, etc. As with any other flying grounds you’ll want to check them out first and make certain your activities won’t disturb others.

Local Government

Many parks are off-limits to R/C (radio controlled) aircraft. However, those who make the rules can bend them. If you contact the local Parks and Recreation department they may have interest in nice views of their facilities. All you’d need is an email from them stating that you are allowed to fly in the particular park.

Advertising for Places to Fly

Local Church and Park

Local Church and Park

I’ve recently found additional places to fly in the following manner:

I contacted the admin of a local botanical park and offered to take video sing these and photos on their 10 acre grounds.

I noticed a nice shot of a local church in some of my pics, so I sent a copy along to the church (found their web site) and also offered to shoot some other pics for them. They really liked the pic and invited me to take pics and video on their property anytime. From that flying location I can photograph the local skyline, some parks and even the coastline and bay.

I placed an ad on Craigslist in the photo section – offering free services. One respondent wanted some pictures of their lot on a barrier island – here is a picture taken on that foray.

 

Photo from Private Lot

Photo from Private Lot

 

Volunteer

Many areas have Land Trusts which funtion to preserve valuable farmland, wilderness and other open areas. I shared some of my photos and videos with one such ground locally and now have volunteered to help them on an informal basis. They will assign me a couple places to photograph and arrange, if needed, with the farmer or land owners in question.
Here is a sample video I’ve done for the Aquidneck Land Trust (RI, USA).

You may be able to find some local land trusts at this URL:
http://findalandtrust.org/

Be creative and you can likely find plenty of safe, fun and beautiful places to fly. As a bonus you will also likely have a wider audience for your photos and videos, as these organizations will often post your work on their web site.

It’s easy to get “pilots block” and think that there is nowhere decent to fly or photograph. Yet as you can see in the examples above, the possibilities are almost endless. Keep this list handy and refer back to it when you run out of ideas!

Fields/Fairgrounds
Abandoned Properties (not posted) such as old RR Tracks, etc.
Land Trust properties, Botanical Parks and similar facilities.
Historic Properties (with permission – trade for photos and videos).
Private Properties with Permission – Real Estate for Sale, Farm Markets, Nurseries, Horse Farms, etc.
Large Church or Monastery Properties (with permission).
Municipal Parks (with permission if they are marked as not allowing R/C).
Golf Courses (with permission at off-hours).
Craigslist and other ads…for free Private Property photos.
Construction sites (with permission – or abandoned, non-active).

  • Adam Booth

    Thank you for the great article. I live in a relatively densely populated area in Alaska and sometimes it’s hard to find a place to shoot that doesn’t have tons of people around or other such hazards. This has given me some good ideas about finding places closer to home that are relatively easy to shoot. Alaska is a very beautiful, scenic place but I am not comfortable shooting when there are more than a few (sometimes any) people around.

  • Patrick McKay

    Finding places to fly is a lot easier in western states with lots of wide open areas and few trees. Here in Colorado, there are plenty of open space parks, vacant lots, or even the sides of rural roads which are great places to fly from and give you access to a lot of great scenery. Up in the mountains there are plenty of overlooks along high mountain passes or empty meadows on National Forest land.

    But I’ve also lived in the east (specifically the Virginia Beach area) where it was very densely populated as well as thickly forested, which made it very difficult to find places to fly. Out there you’re pretty much limited to school sports fields and city parks, which may or may not allow you to fly. Probably why I know a lot more people who fly FPV drones out here in CO than in VA.

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