Using Drone Video: Why, When and How Much Will It Cost?

August 24, 2016

Drone videography (filming by unmanned quadcopter) feels like the biggest thing to hit video production since the GoPro, the tiny attachable camera. The truth is that that this kind of aerial videography is not so new: camera operators have been filming from helicopters for years. What is novel is that in skilled hands, these agile crafts can artfully combine the look of a dolly, crane, and helicopter while flying as low as 10 feet above ground.

But could aerial shots best deliver a real punch for your video? How much does it  cost? And what legal aspects do you as a client need to know?  Tom Comet, experienced drone pilot and founder of Toronto based Drone Boy spoke with us to explain the basics on incorporating this relatively new technology into productions.


If you live in one of the Canadian TV and film production hubs, Toronto, Vancouver and to a lesser extent, Montreal, expect costs to start at about $1500 for a single camera half day package (4 hours on set). Full 8 hour days will start at about $2000. Productions in smaller urban centres may find those costs 15-25% lower.


Drones can fly for 14-18 minutes at one shot before they need to change memory cards. A skilful pilot can get several excellent takes in a half day shoot, depending on the complexity of what he or she is shooting.


Before you balk at the price and start thinking about hiring an amateur drone flyer to get your website’s shots, realize that your commercial flight must meet  Transport Canada’s strict legal and safety standards. Not only will a highly trained, professional team consistently achieve spectacular shots, they also know the legal requirements for drone photography, like:

  • Drones cannot fly over active roads, highways or public areas.
  • All commercial drone flights in Canada require a 2 person crew:  one to fly the drone while another acts as visual observer.
  • They also require a S.F.O.C. (Special Flight Operations Certificate) and proof of insurance, usually $5 million dollars worth.
  • Drones can not be flown over 100 feet without special approval from Transport Canada
  • Hiring an amateur uninsured drone operator can yield fines for both the drone operator and company doing the hiring in the $5000-$25 000 range.

There is also the safety aspect. “Drones can never be flown over people’s heads.” Tom explains. “You may have seen shots that appear to fly much closer than 100 feet but that’s because experienced drone team use flying tricks to capture this effect while staying within the regulations.”


There are certain types of promotional videos that just beg for aerial visuals. We’ve picked a few of our favourites:

  • Tourism & Travel

Aside from car commercials and action films, this is likely the place where you’ve seen the most drone use.  The tourism industry is quickly realizing that drone shots can go where a traditional camera can’t and make it obvious to clients why they will want to visit your hotel, resort, attraction or region. While drone visuals probably can’t tell the whole story on their own, combined with ground visuals, you can create a compelling tool to bring tourist dollars to your location. Tourism Quebec took advantage of the possibilities of drone videography in this video showcasing breathtaking views of our province.

  • Real Estate

Aerial videography works brilliantly for higher end properties and real estate. Potential buyers don’t just see the structure, they can soak in the landscape, the layout of the property and the neighbourhood surrounding it. Even if the building isn’t yet constructed, buyers can still get a spectacular view from the 25th floor! In this video for instance, 360hometours uses drone videography to compliment the amazing surroundings of a West Vancouver home

  • The Construction Industry

A drone can follow the progress of a construction project in a way nothing else can – making it easy for clients to get a complete view over time and from many angles. Drone videography and photography are also very useful in capturing hazardous or hard to reach locations or sections of a project. In this video, M7 Aerial even manages to make a construction site quite beautiful!

  • Trade Shows, Conferences, Galas and Special Events

Taken from an aerial view, you can show off your indoor or outdoor event location, crowds and set-up in a most impressive way. This kind of coverage is often best combined with ground videography. However, you’ll need to do your homework: check with the venue to ensure their comfort level with the technology. The Chromatic Festival in Montreal was filmed from even higher than Mont Royal thanks to a drone giving magnificent footage of this event.


  • Special Marketing Campaigns

Outside of the obvious car shots, many brands are realizing the value of using drone videography. 2015 was the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag and Canadian Tire created a stunning and massively shareable Fly Your Canadian Flag video using Droneboy’s team to capture the aerial images, that was seen over 1 million times at launch and 6 million more since then.

Think aerial coverage could make your next video production soar? Contact us to do some ‘blue sky’ planning.

This article was posted on August 24, 2016 at 14:00 in the Corporate category.

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