I talked with Michael Izquierdo to learn more about his work as a drone operator in his stunning 24 Hours in Los Angeles Drone Timelapse.
Michael Izquierdo is a drone pilot for Beverly Hills Aerials, a fully licensed, insured FAA 333 exempt, part 61 and 107 day/night certificate holding aerial cinematography company based in Beverly Hills, California.
They specialize in filming in closed motion picture and television sets creating dynamic, highly difficult aerial drone shots with superior precision. Their clients portfolio include top brands of the likes of Audi, Nike, and Ralph Lauren Polo and media companies of the likes of The Wall Street Journal, NBC and CBS.
I recently happened to watch one of their video – 24 Hours In Los Angeles Drone Timelapse – which is a great example of their ability.
What I most appreciate about this stunning video, shot entirely in Los Angeles, is that it combines advanced aerial filming skills with local regulation. A shining example of drone operation compliance.
Capturing an urban environment with drones can be tough when dealing with drone regulation and safety requirements, but 24 Hours In Los Angeles Drone Timelapse demonstrates how amazing results and compliance are not mutually exclusive!
“This video is the result of a 3 month drone journey throughout Los Angeles. We used every waking free moment to scout, plan, and shoot a variation of iconic locations and inspiring architecture. We shot approximately 50 different locations and only selected the absolute best shots. Our focus was on precision, speed, proper time of day, and most importantly, safety.”
Questions for Michael Izquierdo:
- Tell me a little about your background and how you got into using drones?
- What do you like most about being a professional aerial video producer?
- The 24 hours in Los Angeles video was awesome in so many ways. Tell me where you got the inspiration for the piece and how it came to fruition?
- How big was the team filming in the field for your sequences of 24 hours in Los Angeles, and what roles did they play?
- What drones did you use and why? Did you build them or did you use commercial models, and if so did you modify them?
- Tell me about the cameras you used to shoot and why you chose them? Did you change cameras for night shooting?
- Did you experiment with exposures to get the right look?
- You say on some occasions you had to return several times to the same location to get the best shot. Tell me a little about that.
- What were your top challenges of drone filming in 24 hours in Los Angeles?
- Did you have a specific shot list at a location or was it more opportunistic?
- Did you use mixed filming, editing and special effects techniques to get the final version?
- What software did you use in post and what was your workflow?
- How important is drone regulation and compliance to you?
- 24 hours in Los Angeles is shot in a busy urban environment. How did you ensure that you always complied with the regulations when filming for this project? What kind of safety measures did you put in place when shooting?
- Did you run into any regulatory problems during filming?
- If you were to do another 24 hours project, what city would you choose and why?
1. Tell me a little about your background and how you got into using drones?
I grew up building model airplanes and I remember my dad obtaining his pilot’s license purely for recreational use. He took me on one of his lessons where they practiced stalling and I remember loving it. During the beginning of my drone career, I quickly realized that getting a pilot’s license was mandatory.
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2. What do you like most about being a professional aerial video producer?
The fact that my team and I can use our creativity to literally capture never before seen perspectives.
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3. The 24 hours in Los Angeles video was awesome in so many ways. Tell me where you got the inspiration for the piece and how it came to fruition?
Caleb des Cognets, my chief camera operator, and I often plan passion projects. This one was a combination of some of the shots we had been thinking about for years but never executed on.
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4. How big was the team filming in the field for your sequences of 24 hours in Los Angeles, and what roles did they play?
We were at least 3 people: a drone pilot, a camera operator, and one or more spotters.
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5. What drones did you use and why? Did you build them or did you use commercial models, and if so did you modify them?
We used an Inspire 2 which is without a doubt the best ready to fly drone you can buy with the most high-speed precision.
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6. Tell me about the cameras you used to shoot and why you chose them? Did you change cameras for night shooting?
We used the x5s which is DJI’s built in camera on the Inspire. We did not change cameras for night shooting but we did change between 12,15, 25 and 45mm lenses.
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7. Did you experiment with exposures to get the right look?
Oh yeah, the exposure experimenting was a really fun game, especially for the time lapse clips. Most time lapses would run through an entire battery. We sometimes came home with nothing but terrible and in our opinion unusable footage.
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8. You say on some occasions you had to return several times to the same location to get the best shot. Tell me a little about that.
Flying through the CAA (Creative Artists Agency) building was literally a drone dream of mine for years. I live down the street and always drove by. After finally getting our Century City delta airspace waiver approved we drove by to shoot it one evening around sunset. The roads were packed with cars and filled with people. After a quick conversation ending in the realization there was no way we could hold the pedestrian traffic safely, we put it off.
We returned, I don’t even remember how many more times, only to leave without flying. One Sunday morning which coincided with some sort of holiday I can’t remember which one, Caleb pushed me to go back. I had pretty much given up on the ability to do it safely with no people around. We got there around 6am and there was literally not a car or person in sight. It was beautiful. I flew through it twice at full throttle in attitude mode which resulted in one of the shots you saw in the video.
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9. What were your top challenges of drone filming in 24 hours in Los Angeles?
Navigating the FAA waiver approval process for up to 6 months in order to obtain the waivers for spots such as the Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills sign, CAA building, NBC Universal.
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10. Did you have a specific shot list at a location or was it more opportunistic?
The majority of it was opportunistic. We returned to a few locations after seeing the footage we shot and wanting to do it a little better. We would go back there to get it perfect.
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11. Did you use mixed filming, editing and special effects techniques to get the final version?
We did not use any special effects. Caleb and I both edited. No clips were sped up. Caleb color corrected all the shots.
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12. What software did you use in post and what was your workflow?
We color corrected in (Adobe) Premiere and edited the footage in Final Cut.
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13. How important is drone regulation and compliance to you?
Incredibly important. I’m one of the first guys to have got a 333 exemption and pilot license. Now, all you need is a part 107. I feel that, before, with the stricter requirements, it helped to maintain a certain level of professionalism with the drone pilots. Now, someone can buy a Phantom and has an aerial business the next day.
A good example of our respect for the regulations and compliance that I remember is when we discussed openly the Hollywood sign shot and everyone kept telling us to just do it because it’s been shot by drones a million times before. But we waited until we got the waiver, and literally shot it the day after we got our waiver. It literally changed nothing about how we did the job other than the fact we did it the right way with FAA approval.
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14. 24 hours in Los Angeles is shot in a busy urban environment. How did you ensure that you always complied with the regulations when filming for this project? What kind of safety measures did you put in place when shooting?
We planned most our locations in G airspace (i.e. below 14,500 feet) which requires no additional waiver. We made sure we could see the entire environment well. We never flew over any people and sometimes used spotters to monitor the road we were flying over and tell us when it was clear. We also monitored radio frequencies in order to hear what was going on in the sky. We held and/or ruined a lot of shots when we saw/heard low-flying helicopters.
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15. Did you run into any regulatory problems during filming?
One day a police officer approached us and we weren’t sure what he was going to say. But he ended up asking us to take a picture of him with our drone!
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16. If you were to do another 24 hours project, what city would you choose and why?
We have this written on our dry erase board in the office… We are not sure but we have discussed San Francisco and San Diego. Possibly international… We really need help figuring that part out, if you have a good suggestion. Please do share.
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Thanks for the interview Michael and you are always welcome here in Dublin – although I can’t guarantee the weather 🙂
Follow Michael Izquierdo and Beverly Hills Aerials:
The number of drone fines issued by aviation authorities is increasing. Read about the most significant cases of prosecutions involving unlawful drone operations.
I see an emerging trend: more and more authorities are starting to prosecute unlawful drone operations.
Let’s check 15 significant cases of drone operators’ prosecution, giving a little insight into what it means to be non-compliant with local drone regulations.
Significant Legal Drone Cases by Country
Drone fines by country:
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is presently in charge of drone regulation at the federal level in the U.S. (even if things might change considerably under Trump’s administration) but states and local government entities also have the authority to pass local laws in their jurisdiction.
According to Motherboard, the FAA had fined 24 drone pilots up to June 2016.
“Given that more than a million drones have been sold in the U.S., the fact that only two dozen fines have been levied is surprising and likely reflects the FAA’s lack of resources, rather than a lack of desire.”
said Craig Thompson, a Dallas-based aerial photographer, when asked about this data by drone regulation expert Jonathan Rupprecht who agreed and added:
“As time goes on, we can expect to see many more of these enforcement actions to be more fully prosecuted.”
It’s interesting to note that even where enforcement efforts have been put in place, FAA’s focus up to 2016 has been on punishing reckless behaviours, rather than illegal commercial operations, as the 2016 Motherboard analysis of the 24 prosecutions found out.
Lawyer Loretta Alkalay, who was in charge of the FAA’s legal operations for the eastern region for more than 20 years, has her opinion on why the FAA didn’t prosecute illegal commercial drone operations much until 2016:
“I think it’s pretty obvious the FAA doesn’t think it can win a case on this whole commercial issue, which is why they haven’t really pushed it.”
Let’s check a few significant drone fines in the U.S.
SkyPan – $200,000
This is the largest of all drone fines ever issued by the FAA to date. The initially proposed fine in October 2015 to SkyPan International, Inc., of Chicago, amounted to an impressive $1.9 million for conducting 43 illegal drone flights in congested airspace over Chicago and New York City between 2012 and 2014.
SkyPan was further accused of operating 65 aircraft without proper communication tools and without receiving an airworthiness certificate and registration.
The company eventually settled with the FAA in January 2017 for $200,000.
Besides the $200,000 civil penalty the company also agreed to pay an additional $150,000 if it violates federal aviation regulations again in the next year, and $150,000 more if it fails to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement.
Mical Caterina – $55,000
What drone pilot Caterina considered a hobby has landed him in trouble with the FAA, which in 2016 levied $55,000 in fines against him for violating five aviation regulations.
The FAA claims Caterina flew his drone for commercial use at an event in August 2015, though the Minnesota man has never charged anyone for his aerial photography and contends he’s only honing his skills.
“If you’re a recreational or hobby flyer and don’t know where the divider is between commercial and recreational activity, you’re likely to engage in neither if you know the FAA can come after you after the fact. Since the FAA has failed to provide a clear and adequate definition of what these entail, the risk is real and costly.”
said Jason Snead, a FAA policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.
Xizmo Media Productions – $5,000
Xizmo Media, a New York video production company, was hired by Fordham University to shoot footage of its 2015 commencement ceremony.
The FAA fined Xizmo because its drone wasn’t registered, flew in a reckless manner, and also pulled out several other regulations that are normally used for manned aircraft. Xizmo eventually settled with the FAA for $5,000.
Paul Skinner – $500 & 30 days in jail
The first custodial sentence was given to a Paul Skinner, a professional Seattle aerial photographer, whose out of control drone knocked a woman unconscious at a parade in 2015.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is in charge of UAS regulation in the United Kingdom.
The CAA has been actively enforcing drone regulations, with a focus on punishing both professionals using drones for commercial purposes without being licensed, and reckless operations.
Nigel Wilson – £1,800
Drone enthusiast Nigel Wilson admitted nine breaches of drone regulations for illegally flying his drone over football stadiums across England and over buildings in central London where he had no direct sight of the aircraft. He also flew his drone within 50 meters of several buildings. All these acts are offences under the 2009 Air Navigation Order.
His videos on YouTube showed views from heights of at least 100 meters of Premier League, Champions League and Championship football matches. Other videos showed views of Big Ben from close range, the Queen Victoria Memorial next to Buckingham Palace, HMS Belfast at its mooring on the Thames and the Shard, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, all accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack.
Filmmaker Richard Brunner – £1,125
Richard was fined £1,125 in October 2015 for illegally flying his drone over Hyde Park without permission during a shoot for a promotional video. The drone flew in controlled airspaces without consent from the Civil Aviation Authority. He was also charged for flying the drone 10 metres away from traffic and pedestrians.
Mark Spencer – £300
On 9 November 2013, staff at Alton Towers Resort observed a quadcopter flying over the X Sector of the resort. Mark later posted video clips on YouTube which showed that he had launched the quadcopter some way from the resort, beyond visual line of sight.
Stafford Magistrates’ Court convicted him for not maintaining direct visual contact with his drone and flying within 150 metres of a congested area.
Transport Canada is the institution for regulating drones in Canada. Have a look at the latest documentation published on drone laws as changes have been applied recently, especially for hobby pilots.
Transport Canada launched a record 118 investigations into the illegal use of UAVs in 2016, 16 of which resulted in drone fines. That’s more than three times the number of fines issued in 2015.
Moves Media – $5,000
Moves Media Ltd., a Vancouver video production company, was fined $5,000 for operating a drone contrary to its Special Flight Operations Certificate issued by Transport Canada.
This case depicts well how navigating through all the legal authorizations required to perform your job can be painful but both mandatory and necessary.
Julien Gramigna – $1000
Julien Gramigna, photographer and co-founder of the company VuDuCiel, was fined $1,000 by Transport Canada in December 2014. The fine claims the use of a drone to take photos of a house for a real estate agent without proper federal permit.
Australian drone laws are established by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Drone regulation for both recreational and commercial use are extensively explained on their website. The CASA has started to prosecute illegal behavior of drone pilots seriously in the last few months.
For instance, a person was fined $1440 AUD for flying a drone in Sydney Harbour, which is a restricted airspace, while another person was fined $900 AUD for flying a drone above a children’s Easter egg hunt in Canberra.
Wedding guest – $900
TV presenter Sylvia Jeffreys and her journalist partner Peter Stefanovic thought it would be a good idea to ask one of their friends to catch images of them popping champagne at their wedding using a drone.
Their friend now faces a $900 AUD fine for “hazardous flying at and near guests” after the drone footage uploaded on Instagram got CASA’s attention. CASA’s director, Shane Carmody, made no apology for the fine.
“The rules protect people, property and aircraft from drones,” Mr Carmody said.
Queensland pilot – $850
An Australian recreational drone owner was fined $850 AUD by the CASA after uploading numerous illegal drone videos on YouTube.
“While each individual breach was not major in itself, the number of breaches has caused me concern”,
said the CASA investigator.
Each of his uploaded clips could have been charged between $850 and $8,000 AUD. The $850 fine was large enough to scare the flights out of this pilot as the drone in question quickly appeared for sale online.
University Student – $900
A university student has copped a $900 AUD fine for flying a drone close to a police helicopter conducting a rescue operation in the New South Wales Blue Mountains.
The drone then crashed into a tree on a private home.
France is a worldwide pioneer in UAV regulation, having adopted civilian drone legislation in the spring of 2012.
Since the legislation went into effect in 2012, around 30 legal cases involving drones have given way to criminal punishment by the French Aviation Administration.
Almost all of the offenders were slapped with small drone fines, but one person earned a one-year suspended prison sentence. In this case, he had flown a civilian drone dangerously close to a helicopter.
Tristan Redman – €1,000
British reporter Tristan Redman was charged a €1,000 drone fine in February 2015 by Paris Court for flying a drone several times over central Paris. The journalist, who was compiling a piece for Al-Jazeera news, also had his drone confiscated.
The Ministerie van Infrastructuur and Milieu handles drone regulation in the Netherlands. Documentation in English about drone rules in practice can be found here.
Dutch Violinist André Rieu – €8000
André Rieu, the famous Dutch violinist and conductor best known for creating the waltz-playing Johann Strauss Orchestra, was fined for flying a drone filming a performance on the Vrijthof in Maastricht.
The drone was flown above the city center (which is forbidden by current Netherlands drone regulation), at night, in a CTR zone (Maastricht has a busy regional airport), in close proximity to the 12,000 people attending the concert, and without a permit.
The amount of the fine was not divulged but the Dutch newspaper De Limburger estimates it around €8,000, the largest fine for illegal drone operations given by the Netherlands authorities to date.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is in charge of regulating UAS in China. Since May 2017 Chinese drone operators in China have to register under their real name with the CAAC.
UAV Sci-Tech CoPilot – 18 months in jail
In 2015, a staff member from Beijing UAV Sci-Tech Co, was sentenced to 18 months in jail by the CAAC after a drone from the company disrupted commercial flights.
In conclusion, this list of drone fines highlights that drone fines are a serious deal and it’s more important than ever to be compliant with local and federal laws.
Back in 2017, Alaska-based Indemnis partnered with DJI to develop parachute standards and systems that could be deployed in an instant, protecting valuable multi-rotor cargo and, of course, whoever or whatever is unlucky enough to be directly underneath should an issue occur.
Today, Indemnis and DJI have announced that the Nexus parachute system for the Inspire 2 drone has been validated as compliant with the new international standard for drone parachutes. The announcement follows a strenuous testing procedure at the New York UAS Test Site in Rome, N.Y. managed by NUAIR.
On December 22, 2018 Indemnis successfully passed the ASTM F3322-18 standard testing matrix. The technical standard is designed to enable safe flight operations over people on small unmanned aerial vehicles while using a parachute as a risk mitigation device. The Nexus is the first and only parachute recovery system in the world to become certified and compliant in meeting the requirements of the standard.
The standard specification is made up of 45 functionality tests across 5 different failure scenarios. Each is designed to validate the system’s deployment and canopy inflation within the full flight envelope of the aircraft.
Indemnis opens door to new possibilities for commercial operations
The work of DJI and Indemnis is arguably geared toward proving that drones can safely operate above people and sensitive locations.
A reliable, validated parachute technology like the Nexus, which initiates when flight anomalies are detected, could well become a necessary component of future waivers granted by the FAA.
A statement from DJI says, “The Indemnis system is intended to be the core of a parachute-based safety mitigation plan for a waiver, and can also help provide one path forward for advanced operations as the FAA considers how to allow routine flights directly over people.”
“DJI is pleased to have contributed to the development of technologies and standards that will be used to support advanced, higher-risk operations,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs. “As the FAA works to open more of America’s skies to beneficial drone uses, the certification of the Nexus system on DJI’s platform is a significant step toward making flight over people and crowds routine, expanding the scope of vital applications such as search and rescue, newsgathering, and public safety.”
Read more: The UAS Integration Pilot Program is Underway: North Dakota Gets Started with Parazero Parachutes for Drones
“Indemnis has tested our parachute systems in thousands of real-world unplanned failure scenarios, and NUAIR’s validation of our work is an exciting step toward making professional drone operations over people safe, routine and productive,” said Amber McDonald, Indemnis President/CEO. “DJI’s drone platforms are the clear choice of professionals, and our turnkey packages make it easy for DJI customers to propose advanced, higher-risk operations to regulators around the world.”
Read more: Drone Parachutes Provide the Confidence Regulators Need: ParaZero Working With Multiple IPP Teams
How Nexus works
Nexus is a ballistic parachute launcher. It’s designed to trigger automatically if the drone begins to abnormally tilt or fall, as would happen in the case of a loss of power or malfunction. The Nexus system deploys the parachute within 30 milliseconds at 90 mph, through a tube that rapidly inflates to keep the parachute lines away from the drone body and propellers.
Although the system is currently designed to work with the DJI Inspire 2, Indemnis has confirmed plans to offer it for Matrice 200 series and Matrice 600 series drones by late 2019.
NUAIR Alliance, which manages one of the FAA-designated test sites for drone technologies at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, put the Indemnis Nexus through 45 functionality tests across five different failure scenarios last month during four days of testing. DJI, Indemnis, the FAA and other industry stakeholders finalized the ASTM consensus standard late last year.
“The NUAIR Alliance is proud to have been a part of helping Indemnis’ transformative technology enter real-world deployment into the National Airspace System on a leading DJI drone platform,” said retired Air Force Major General Marke “Hoot” Gibson, President and CEO of NUAIR Alliance.
“New York is committed to generating growth, jobs and innovation through smart drone investments, and Indemnis’ successful testing process shows how New York plays a key role in accelerating this exciting technology.”
Malek Murison is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for tech trends and innovation. He handles product reviews, major releases and keeps an eye on the enthusiast market for DroneLife.
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Drone safety systems company, ParaZero Technologies Ltd (ASX: PRZ), announced today that its customer, Airobotics, has secured a Certificate of Waiver (CoW) from the Federation Aviation Authority (FAA) that allows them to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight for automated drone operations over people.
Airobotics’ drone system integrates ParaZero’s SafeAir System for increased safety and as a risk mitigation strategy by way of a parachute recovery system that helps to mitigate danger when flying beyond line of sight and/or over people.
This is the second FAA waiver for flight over people with a ParaZero parachute system. Both the current Airobotics’ waiver and the previous one for North Dakota operator, Botlink, utilize ParaZero’s SafeAir Systems as part of their risk mitigation strategy.
The prior test took place prior to a college football game between North Dakota State University (NDSU) and South Dakota State University (SDSU) North Dakota drone services and software provider Botlink was granted a waiver to fly a DJI Phantom 4 equipped with drone safety company ParaZero‘s SafeAir System over the crowds at the tailgating event prior to the game in the Fargo Dome. The drone flew multiple times over the stadium’s parking lots, providing real-time data to law enforcement so that they could better manage traffic and safety at the event. The footage was also shown during the game, giving fans a new perspective on the pre-game party. NDDOT had an information booth set up in the venue’s “vendor alley” for ticket holders to see the drones and ask questions of the operators.
The current partner, Airobotics provides an end-to-end, fully automated solution for collecting aerial data and gaining invaluable insights. The industrial grade platform is available on-site and on-demand, enabling industrial facilities to access premium aerial data in a faster, safer, more efficient way.
Airobotics already holds approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) and from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in Australia to fly automated BVLOS in certain locations with ParaZero’s Systems.
“We are thrilled to see our systems enable extended operations for operators time and time again,” said Avi Lozowick, ParaZero’s Director of Policy and Strategy. “We continue to provide our customers not only with best-in-class safety systems but also the material and test data to support their operational requests from CAAs.”
“The fact that ParaZero is the only company whose parachute systems have been used in multiple successful waiver applications for flight over people is a strong testament to the quality of our products,” said Eden Attias, ParaZero’s CEO.
Airobotics’ Vice President of Aviation and Compliance, Niv Russo, added, “ParaZero’s safety solution is one of the main elements that provide our drone system with the level of safety we require to secure the appropriate waivers to operate above people and beyond visual line of sight. We’re delighted to have secured this waiver from the FAA and to partner with ParaZero in our global operations.”
ParaZero was in the news recently with the announcement that former FAA head Michael Huerta had recently joined its advisory board.
CEO DroneLife.com, DroneRacingLife.com, and CMO of Jobfordrones.com. Principle at Spalding Barker Strategies. Proud father of two. Enjoys karate, Sherlock Holmes, and interesting things. Subscribe to all things drone at DroneLife here.