Droning in Cities: The Ultimate Guide


We get a lot of people asking us about aerial photography in cities, including things like the best way to guarantee safety and what kind of permission is required to do so. Obviously, aerial photography to capture city pictures carries an inherent risk - rather than your expensive camera sitting quietly in front of you on a stable tripod, it's whizzing about in the air above you, snapping photos at a distance. However, whilst risk exists, there are ways to minimize it to ensure that you are piloting your drone in a way that doesn't endanger yourself or others. In this post we've outlined the complete list of things you can do before and during your drone flight that will help you achieve the results you want with your aerial photography, in a safe, responsible manner.

Little disclaimer here: Beyond Visuals takes no responsibility for your actions. As our devoted readers we love you deeply, but we're prepared to pretend we don't know you in the eventuality that you do something silly. Now, let's get stuck in.

Photograph of Hong Kong City From Above

Key Tips for Droning in Cities:

1. Familiarize yourself with local rules and regulations: Always do your research. If you're interested in getting city shots, you should be aware of the local drone rules and regulations, including no-flight zones, drone requirements and penalties. Certain countries will require drone registration before you arrive, a process that could take a couple of weeks - make sure to leave enough time to do this before you arrive.

2. Location scout for drone friendly spots: Be selective with your take off points and definitely plan in advance. Google maps is an excellent resource to look for elevated or secluded areas where you won't disturb others or be disturbed. Try to choose areas that won't have any obstructions to your line of sight, are close to unpopulated areas and won't have much signal interference. 

3. The early drone catches the dawn: Just a fancy way of saying go for dawn instead of sunset. If you're trying to capture city images, the risks are reduced when flying very early in the morning and there are less people around. Ensure that you check sunrise times and plan your journeys accordingly. 

Picture of Hong Kong Ferris Wheel taken at dawn

4. All about those pre-flight checks: Batteries, props, gimbal, signal issues, firmware updates. Make sure this is all done before you take off to minimize any issues you may encounter mid-flight. 

5. Don't neglect those composition rules & techniques: Despite being more guides than rules, it's helpful to bear in mind that these composition techniques can help you get the shot you want, especially when you're wrapped up in piloting your drone. Take a moment to breath, relax, and line up your shots to get the best out of your city shots.

6. Don't forget about your return to home altitude:  A rookie mistake, but one that many people have made. If your drone loses signal, you're going to want to ensure that it will elevate to an appropriate altitude before returning home. 

Aerial view of Tower Bridge at sunrise

There you have it! Hopefully you now feel more prepared to go and get some amazing urban photography masterpieces for your portfolio. Remember to check back here for the latest tips and tricks to take your photography beyond visuals, and we'll see you in the next post!


The Beyond Visuals Team 

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