Telephone: 01778 344782

Should you be wary using drones?

"As drones have become extremely popular you may be considering using one for aerial photography or video.  This article explains why Commission Air have taken the important decision to use a conventional helicopter."

When Commission Air was set up 25 years ago we decided that we would provide our clients with aerial photography of the highest of quality. This was a good founding principle, but we felt it was important to also provide this quality at an attractive price and to upgrade to new generations of equipment and utilise the latest technologies as they emerged. From the first camera we purchased a Mamiya 645, with not a pixel in sight, using Fuji 400ASA film, printing images on paper and sending them by post, the photographic industry has come a long way. We now use the most advanced SLR camera in the world, with 50 million pixels with powerful zoom lenses and deliver the images through a cloud based medium.

We have always used a helicopter as a platform to photograph and video the thousands of commissions we have received, but we took the decision to look at using drones because it was a new technology and we wanted to assess its potential. There have been significant advances in their capabilities, particularly on their construction and battery technology ,which means they can carry a bigger payload and fly for longer. There have also been advances in the cameras and the equipment they can carry. The publicity of this relatively new technology has also helped promote and bring the advantages of aerial photography and video to a wider audience. Drones also cost significantly less than a full size helicopter. 

So why did we decide not to use drones?

Whilst drones cost less they require two operatives to attend the site. This not only increases the overall costs, but also limits the number of sites that can be visited in a day. Using our helicopter we can get to sites hundreds of miles from our base in the same day and fly many sites in one sortie. This reduces the cost substantially and we can photograph a site for only £369.

As I mentioned above the capabilities of drones have improved, as has the quality of the equipment, but the picture quality of the cameras that must be used is at least 2 years behind. There is also less flexibility in being able to use different lenses. This limits the range of pictures that can be captured and as the operator is not behind the lens this can affect creativity. Drones can of course get close to their subject, but with the latest equipment we can get outstanding close up shots as well (detailed sample images)1 Flying higher also gives a helicopter an advantage to capture larger sites and capturing more extensive panoramic shots.

There could be an argument to say ‘so what’ I am happy to use a drone. I only want to take a few sites that are relatively small and the level of quality is perfectly acceptable. In isolation I would of course accept this. The popularity of drones however, has raised two concerning issues; these are privacy and safety. This has resulted in the CAA producing 22 bulletins and updates to its regulations (CAA Drone information)2. There have also been various articles in the media across the UK and the rest of the world and there is much concern and debate about ensuring not only their safe operation but also how to protect our personal liberty (Lloyds of London report into drones)3-3A. For those considering purchasing their own drone it might make more sense to outsource this to a professional drone operator.There are of course many professional companies who are qualified and licensed to operate and fly safely; But, with the current debate and high profile negative media attention (The Guardian October 2015)4 isn’t there still a chance that using a drone could consequently affect your company?

Using a conventional aircraft and high quality camera equipment not only secures your company against these risks but provides your company with a high quality product. Click HERE to find out more about our aerial photography service.


George Richardson

Commission Air


P.S.  Visit our drones Vs helicopters page for more detailed information about the differences between drones and helicopters.  Click HERE to visit our drones vs helicopter page.


1 – Sample images

Commission Air drone aerial photography logo 

Visit our sample image page to see just how detailed our photographs are.

Click HERE

Aerial photography high resolution


2 – CAA information on drones

CAA logo drone aerial photography statement 

“Traditionally unmanned aircraft have only been used by model aircraft enthusiasts for recreational purposes. However, they are increasingly being used for professional applications such as surveillance and data-gathering. Such aircraft are likely to be operated in a way that may pose a greater risk to the general public.” Full Article Click HERE

3 – Lloyds of London Emerging Risks Report – 2015

Lloyds of London Logo Drone aerial photography UAV statement 

“The potential of drones is hard to deny. However, concerns around safety, security and surveillance could pose significant risks to users of this nascent technology. This is, of course, true of many emerging technologies. However, drones are expected to receive particular scrutiny because of the technology’s military heritage and surveillance capabilities. Adequate insurance coverage will likely be of particular importance to protect users against emerging risks.”

 “The safe integration of drones with other aircraft operations will emphasise the importance of drones having a robust ‘sense and avoid’ capability. This technology is in development, but is not yet mature enough to meet the requirements of regulators such as the CAA.” Full Report - Click HERE for Report

3A – Construction News 12th August 2015

Construction News logo drone aerial photography 

“It is also important to note that the use of drones may also trigger the obligation to notify local data protection authorities. In a number of European countries it may also be necessary to obtain approvals from the DPAs which can be a time-consuming and complicated exercise. There may also be employment law consequences of introducing drones on the building site.”

David Savage, Charles Russell Speechlys. Full article - Click HERE


“As major contractors start to use drones first the commercial and then the legal issues will no doubt become clearer.”

Rob Thorne Simmons & Simmons. Full article - Click HERE


4 – The Guardian, UK police see spike in drone incidents

The Guardian Logo drone aerial photography 

“The most recent drone case to come to court involved a film-maker who was fined £1,125 last week for illegally flying his drone over Hyde Park without permission during a shoot for a promotional video.”

Click HERE for full article