FAQ

Below are some common questions that people ask when considering the use of drones for civilian uses.

We offer a wide range of services from simple aerial photos and video through to accurate geo-referenced mapping, custom projects and even custom hardware and software development, so your best bet is to contact us for a quote.

However, as a ballpark for the simplest case of basic aerial photography our base rate is either $600 for a 1-hour on-site visit, or $2500 for a full day. That includes the drone, two operators (pilot and camera operator), insurance and permits.

We accept payment by cheque, credit card (on-site or over the phone), PayPal or Bitcoin.

For aerial photography we recommend our Panasonic GH4, which shoots beautiful 4k video with the ability to adjust the zoom while in the air. Being a mirror-less camera it is much lighter than something like a Canon 5D, which gives us longer flight times to get the best shots possible. We do also have access to Canon 5D or Blackmagic Pocket cameras if you prefer, or we can fly your own camera, anything up to the size of a Red Epic or Alexa Mini (with PF prime lenses, or Canon zooms, no Optimos!). In short… we can fly almost any camera you like!

Yes, though they are highly regulated for commercial use here in Canada. Anyone can fly small drones just for fun, much like traditional Radio Control planes. However, to do work of a commercial nature requires a permit from Transport Canada known as a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). To apply for such a permit you must have professional liability insurance, document and demonstrate your abilities and the reliability of your equipment, and thoroughly specify the boundaries within which you intend to operate in order to minimize any risks (i.e. not flying through downtown Vancouver!)

If you are contracting someone to provide drone services, you should insist on seeing their insurance documentation and the SFOC permit covering your location. Otherwise you’re putting yourself at risk in the event of an accident. Unfortunately there are many people offering these services without the proper permits and insurance coverage. Be warned!

Unfortunately the first widely publicized use of drones was for military purposes, so most people equate them with large aircraft carrying weapons. Civilian drones are very different: they are small, lightweight, quiet, electric powered and are very unlikely to cause any harm.
There are existing laws covering privacy issues and the use of cameras in our society, so we should be focused on ensuring those laws are adhered to by everyone.

The same concern arose when manned helicopters were first used by the police and news services, then when personal video recorders became popular, and again when mobile phones with their tiny built-in cameras became ubiquitous. All technology can be used for good or ill, it is up to the people using them to abide by the laws of our society.

And while it is possible to attach a camera to a drone and snoop over your neighbour’s fence, we believe this isn’t a serious concern because although they are much cheaper than the alternative of flying a full scale aircraft to see into private areas, drones are still high-tech specialized equipment costing thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. It is unlikely that someone is going to spend that kind of money just to look through your bedroom window.

As a fun hobby the answer is yes – drones differ from traditional RC aircraft in that they have sophisticated electronics on board to help keep them stable, so in a matter of days someone with no prior experience could confidently hover and fly a basic quad-copter around in the park.

For professional use though it is a different story. For commercial use drones get a lot more sophisticated with complex electronics and systems such as real-time data links back to a Ground Control Station (GCS), video feeds and pan & tilt camera gimbals. It takes a long while to get familiar with all these systems and be able to competently use them to get the job done. It also takes time to build up the checklists and procedures to ensure you’re flying safely and within the regulations required for commercial operation.

There is a lot of debate going on about what we call these things. The term ‘drone’ goes back to the earliest days of unmanned aircraft for target practice, though most people working in this field prefer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) because of the negative connotations caused by the military use of drones. Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPA/RPAS) is also used.

However, at Skymount we call them drones as we believe the media and the public will continue to use that catchy and familiar term rather than any technical acronym foisted upon them. Time will tell.

We’ve written a little opinion piece on that here:
It’s Okay to Call Them Drones

And here’s a couple of other articles on the topic from around the web:
ABC News Australia – Drone wars: The definition dogfight
Defense News – The Origin of the term Drone
Drone, UAV, or Creepy Robot Bird: What Do We Call These Things?