Drone Videography: The Present and the Future of Entertainment

drone videography

Drone’s have opened up an entire new world for videographers and movie directors.

Slowly but surely, drones have become integrated into the entertainment industry, so much so that aircraft devices like the DJI Phantom 3 are often listed as ideal gifts for filmmakers.

In 2014, the folks behind “The Simpsons” created the episode “SuperFranchise Drones” in which Homer claims to have a drone delivery service for the sandwich franchise that he and his wife Marge have invested in. Later on, the show takes a hilarious turn as Homer has to make do with sending the sandwich through a balloon with the word “drone” written on it instead, as they do not really have that device and service anyway.

Coincidentally, this was also around the time when big companies launched their respective drone-delivery service, with Amazon launching Prime Air in December 2013 , Google in July 2014, and DHL in September 2014, so it is a concept that the public has already been introduced to.

Aside from animation, drones are also used in cultural shows.

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In Japan, 20 drones were used in creating the show “Sky Magic Live: Mt.Fuji Drone Entertainment.” These small flying machines―combined with music, flight-swarming formations, and 16,500 LED lights―form a spectacular audio-visual treat, an article in Midnightinthedesert.com notes.

The DMX512, an intelligent lighting system controller, made this possible:

In the filmmaking industry, drones have recently become a staple for shooting aerial scenes. Certain scenes of “Captain America: Civil War” were shot by Pictorvision using drones. The same goes for “Jurassic World” that was shot by Team 5 Aerial System Rentals using a Shotover K! system, which is an aerial camera equipped with a 6-axis gyro stabilized gimbal and a Fujinon 19-90mm Cabrio lens.

Then there’s also “Spectre” in which majority of the fire escape scenes were shot with drones, particularly on a rooftop near Trafalgar Square in London. Lastly, “The Expendables 3” has 30 scenes shot with drones.

Drone Flying Rules

It wasn’t until 2015 when using drone for filmmaking was legalized in the United States.

Now that the federal government allows it (provided that filmmakers abide by the rules and guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA), we can expect more films and videos shot with drones in the years to come.

What exactly are the FAA rules for filmmakers?

Since drone filmmaking is for commercial use, the person operating it should be a licensed drone pilot. This license government’s way of knowing if one is knowledgeable enough to operate the drone safely and orderly. One must also get permission from the FAA expressly stating that he or she is authorized to fly a drone for filming.

You might be wondering: why would people in the entertainment industry be willing to go to great lengths to train for drone operation and apply for a license just so they can shoot movies with a drone?

It’s because drones make shooting movies safer and more flexible.

Safer Flights

In the past, photos and videos had to be shot using planes and helicopters. Just take the battle scene in the 1927 combat movie “Wings” for example. “Wings” director William A. Wellman had to go through trial and error for more than two months just to come up with the proper techniques to capture the footage he wanted. In the end, one of the film’s cinematographers Harry Perry had to personally board a plane and film the activity from the bombardier’s point of view. Just imagine how dangerous that was.

But now that there are drones, filming scenes like this wouldn’t have to be risky and troublesome, as drone pilots can maneuver the drone videography setup to get the specific shot they want without having to put their lives in danger.

Drone Videography Allows for Unconventional Shots

Since drone technology assures the safety of filmmakers, it also allows them to plan for more adventurous shots. Drones are quick and lightweight in nature, so it can shoot from all sorts of angles and maximize the camera’s shooting capabilities in tight spaces.

In an interview with Wired.com, New York City Drone Film Festival founder Randy Scott Slavin has this to say about drones:

“It’s like when you look at your iPhone, it has more production capabilities in your little handset than NBC had in the 1990s—they surely couldn’t shoot in HD and edit and all that other stuff without millions of dollars’ worth of gear. It’s the same with drones—people are taking drones to the ends of the earth and shooting beautiful amazing things that in the past would’ve cost—I mean, actually, who knows if it even would’ve been possible?”

The entertainment industry has really evolved along with the introduction of drones for videography. To keep up with the changing times and to give your career a head start, you may want to consider exploring drone videography and integrate it into your work. It’s neither too early nor too late to try.

Liz Pekler is a travel photographer with almost 10 years of experience in the field. When she is not out exploring the world, she likes to share her knowledge about photography and travel through writing for blogs.



  1. This is a great time to be involved in entertainment & videography. Changes like this are happening everyday. I plan on taking the FAA test so I can “dive” into the commercial drone world. Just “launched” a UAS company and look to the sky for possibilities.

  2. Great article. I think people “get” that drones can let you take incredible shots that would be extremely expensive to undertake with manned aircraft. What people don’t fully appreciate is the fact that drones permit shots that couldn’t have been taken before period, whatever the cost. You just can’t get close to people, buildings, cars, etc. with a full scale airplane or helicopter; the physics don’t allow it. Not so with a drone, where you can safely sit a foot or two from whatever or whomever is being photographed or filmed,. It really is a game changer to be able to use a drone for aerial photography or aerial videography.