There are a lot of questions we get when someone wants to hire Aerial Cinematography with HABANA. President and Founder Steven J. Levy and Director of Photography Jordy Klein Jr. answer the most Frequently Asked Questions.
The most important question: Do you have your FAA 333 Exemption?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “Absolutely. Never hire a crew that doesn’t have this exemption because you run the risk of receiving a fine from the FAA.”
Steven J. Levy: “We are proud to be have been the first in Florida and 22nd in the nation to receive our FAA exemption. With the help of veteran FAA-licensed HABANA's Drone Division pilot Mark Eberle, we built a flight operations plan that is best in class and focuses safety first.”
Have you ever crashed during a shoot?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “I love this question. It always makes me laugh – people’s reactions are priceless when you ask them this. It’s like asking a camera operator if he’s ever dropped a camera during a shoot. In reality, anyone who says “I never crash” doesn’t know what they’re talking about…or they’ve never actually flown a UAS. While I have never actually crashed an aircraft on a shoot, I have certainly had my share of mishaps during the testing of new hardware.”
Steven J. Levy: “We are fortunate to have never have crashed a UAV on a shoot. All the credit goes to our expert pilots, flight crew, and risk assessment process.”
Do you bring a spare aircraft or spare parts for your drone in case you have a minor accident?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “Always – unless it’s cost prohibitive. If I’m unable to bring a spare drone because of shipping costs or space, I’ll bring all major components needed to repair it in case of an accident. Don’t listen to someone saying their drones are “state of the art” and “never have problems” because that’s just not true. They’re all made of electronic parts from China and are usually hobby-grade. You may only get one flight out of your drone or you could get a thousand. It’s kind of like playing Russian Roulette.”
Steven J. Levy: “We’re fortunate to have UAV engineers on our team who are also flight techs that join us on set and keep us safe — to answer the question, we always bring spare, air frames, batteries and propellers, not to mention an extra UAV— it’s in our nature to always come prepared.”
What kind of parts do you bring?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “I always have spare propellers, motors, electronic speed controllers, motor arms, and a flight controller on hand. You should always ask your crew what kind of flight controller they use. If they don’t know, that’s a HUGE red flag.”
Steven J. Levy: “We bring so much that in almost every case, we could totally rebuild an aircraft if necessary — again it’s in our nature to always come prepared.”
Okay. What kind of flight controller do you use?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “I’m not sure…JUST KIDDING. Most people just use DJI Flight controllers. The most common low end DJI controller is the Naza, the high and would be the WooKong and A2. All of these are good controllers. FreeFly also makes really nice aircraft and controllers; most other controllers on the market are just DJI copycats.”
Steven J. Levy: “I agree and prefer WooKong flight controllers.”
How many battery packs do you need to bring?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: I usually bring 6. That’s the magic number. I bring 6 memory cards as well. I always change the memory card between flights. It would suck if you had an incident and lost all the footage from previous flights just because you didn’t change cards.
Steven J. Levy: “We bring a minimum of 6 batteries and two chargers. We either want to be flying a battery or charging it. We need to acquire as much footage as possible for every client.”
Is that usually what it takes to last the whole day?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “Yes, that’s usually plenty – even if the client is asking for repetitive flights that always lasts me. Even so, I always bring a small Honda generator with me to these shoots to charge the batteries on-site if I need to. My generator can charge up to three packs at a time. You can also use a car battery, but it’s nowhere near as fast. If you don’t have a generator I highly recommend purchasing one – you can even rent one from a place like Home Depot if you need.”
Steven J. Levy: “A reliable power source is a non-negotiable.”
What kind of video downlink do you have?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “The DJI Light Bright is pretty common, and the best to use is a Connex. Both of these are high end HD transmitters. Some people use Standard Definition transmitters because of how reliable they are but…they’re SD.”
Steven J. Levy: “We definitely prefer an HD downlink on every job, when given a choice.”
Do you have a second monitor for the client to see the video?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “Always. I have a 15” monitor that I bring for clients to look off of and to keep them from constantly looking over my shoulder at my monitor. Both of my monitors run off the same batteries as my aircraft.”
Steven J. Levy: “Again, at this level, it would be amateurish o fly without a monitor for Director and Client feedback. It’s necessary!”
Do you have insurance?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “I sure do.”
Steven J. Levy: “Absolutely.”
And it covers the aircraft camera?
Jordan Klein, Jr.: “It does indeed cover the aircraft camera. Crashes can happen and a crew should never ask the client to recoup money for an accident. I certainly never would.”
Steven J. Levy “We do our homework. We make sure that anything that can go wrong in the air is covered. All aerial companies should have insurance. We do, and so should any reputable aerial operation.”
Credit: Crews Control & Jordan Klein, Jr.