You have an idea: how to get started?

You have an inspired idea about what you want to achieve with your drone art project. You’ve considered your audience and begun planning your event. Here are the things you need to consider.

How will you set up your team? Depending on how many drones you intend to fly as part of the production, and how you intend to fly them,  you will need a piloting team. Pilots will ideally have experience in this or be willing to put in the time and effort to log several hours of flight experience before the event (ensure you have checked what you are planning is legal & has the right permissions from the CAA or other bodies as needed). You’ll also need to have assistants on the ground, in case the pilot moves out of a clear line of sight of the drones, or the batteries need swapping out or similar. If you are intending to semi autonomously fly swarms of programmed drones ensure your team have a protected & accessible place to view as they create & observe the work . Depending on the nature of the project, you might require further technical assistance with lighting, sound or camera action. Having an informed team and a clearly assigned series of tasks and workflow will go a long way towards ensuring your project’s success.

What kind of drone will you use? We have tried to tease out some of the more interesting drones in the section on DRONE INNOVATION. When choosing a drone, you should decide which features are most important to your project depending on what creative ambition you have. Some things to consider: payload (do they need to carry anything?), a steady camera (what gimball is best)? Do you require a more intuitive control system, or one you can access and adapt? Flight time – how long does the drone need to be in the sky?  List the most important features and consider the best value drones that offer them.

How will you control your drones? There are many options, depending on your aims. See our section on Tracking drones for more details about this important creator’s question and a breakdown and cost of some popular tracking methods.

Where will the project be taking place? The biggest safety risk is that a drone will fall while in flight or fly too low, crash  and injure a visitor. A properly planned flight should carry relatively low risk, but falls do happen and a drone falling onto a person could lead to serious injury or even death. If your planned flight is indoors, you will need to consider that your drones fly safely or not at all, and do not fly directly over crowds or individuals; this can be accomplished with a clearly designated performance area, marked out with a stage or netting. You will also have to liaise with the venue and follow their safety guidance. If flying outdoors, the same rules apply to a designated performance area and you will need permission from any relevant landowners. See the sections on LEGAL MATTERS, HEALTH & SAFETY for more.

What special effects will you employ? Lighting, camera work and the drone’s actual involvement – its movement, actions and flight path – all require careful planning. The section on setting up your project has some technical information to help guide you toward achieving your desired effect.

How will you ensure that all audience members are informed? Informing audience members and visitors of the project’s nature is key to a safe performance. You can view sample forms for event signage, consent and risk assessments in the relevant sections of this area.

How will you safeguard the project against change? The changing nature of drone legislation means that projects may have to be flexible to accommodate new laws and local practices. Drones themselves offer challenges that can best be met by careful planning, testing, and frequent project health checks. Working closely with the host venue, and keeping the whole team informed as the project develops, will also help safeguard against changes. The sections on case studies offer further advice from hands-on experience gained by project creators.

Next page in toolkit: