2015 trends: Expect to see plenty more dramatic, sweeping aerial shots in factual, comedy and drama shows in 2015.

The era of affordable drone filming is very much upon us, thanks to advances in remote aerial platforms and gimbals. The launch in 2013 of the Movi gimbal, in particular, revolutionised the look of aerial shots – allowing producers to acquire super-smooth, filmic shots from the air that didn’t require huge amounts of image stabilisation in post.

For 2015, says Emma Boswell of the Helicopter Girls, the emphasis is going to be less on the aircraft and gimbals – and more on the cameras and what they can do. In particular, advances in wireless lens controllers mean that drone operators will be able to focus more on the quality of the shots. This will allow aerial footage to be better integrated into sequences.

“It means we can go back to the quality of the images rather than just being dazzled by being able to have an aerial view,” says Boswell, whose Helicopter Girls has worked on shows including The Detectorists, Teens and Da Vinci’s Demons using cameras like the Red Epic, Panasonic GH7 and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

The regulations surrounding drone filming also look set to tighten this year, particularly around cities and congested areas, as public concern increases over the number of unmanned aircraft in the sky.

There have been plenty of reports about operators losing control of their drones, including one where a drone fell onto an athlete at a sports meeting in Australia. A widely reported near miss between a drone and an airplane at Heathrow last year also focused attention on drone safety. Current Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules mean that anyone flying the aircraft on a commercial basis – ie for filming purposes – must have the correct CAA permission and be able to demonstrate basic flying skills.

The number of organisations given permits to use drones in the skies over Britain, including police forces and filmmakers, increased by 80% in 2014. The CAA currently authorises 359 operators using drones weighing under 20kg for work purposes.

The signs are that the CAA is becoming stricter in enforcement too, monitoring TV and internet footage for evidence of illegal drone filming. In 2014, it pursued two successful prosecutions over illegal drone flights, including one of a man who pleaded guilty to flying a quadcopter over rides at Alton Towers theme park.

At the moment, unmanned craft cannot be flown within 50 metres of structures, vehicles or people that are not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft. They cannot be flown within 150 metres of a congested area or large crowds of people.  The maximum altitude is restricted to 400ft.

Boswell thinks new regulations around drone filming will also mean it becomes more expensive as permissions become more complicated. Current prices for drone filming are around £1,500-£1,600 a day for many projects. Still, the fact that aerial filming adds so much to a show – in terms of scale, space, perspective and the ability to travel to previously inaccessible areas – means that its popularity will only increase in 2015.

Tim Dams

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