Drone Careers: Filmmaking & Cinematography

You may have already heard of drones capturing difficult shots in movies. Hollywood blockbusters as early as Skyfall (2012) have made use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to keep up with moving vehicles or to navigate around obstacles. But that was only the beginning!

Ten years later, FPV (First-Person View) drone footage captures angles and sets scenes that cranes and helicopters could never shoot. Keep reading to learn how two young pilots brought FPV drones to the big screen and how educators can set their learners up for success in this growing field.

Drone Footage in Skyfall, The Greatest Showman and More:

Videographers often mount their cameras on tracks, cranes and even helicopters to achieve shots with the right angle and motion to fulfill the director’s vision. But sometimes obstacles block the path, or traditional equipment isn’t quick enough for the desired scene.

Enter drones: small, flying robots that can fit into tighter spaces and zoom by at higher speeds than any other camera mount.

The pure agility of drones has earned them a solid spot in cinema. This video from TIME includes just a few examples of what UAVs can do:

Successes like these have led many filmmakers to wonder, “What else can drones do?”

JohnnyFPV & Red Notice (2021):

Credited as the first major film to make full use of FPV drone footage, Netflix’s Red Notice (2021) uses cutting-edge technology to bring its story to life. When asked about the opening scene in an interview with comicbook.com, director Rawson Marshall Thurber explains:

“Yeah, those are very, very special shots. In fact, those shots that you’re talking about had never been done before in the history of cinema, because the technology that we use to achieve those shots, you know, were invented about six weeks before we used them.” (Davis, 2021)

The drone shots used in Red Notice are available on the pilot’s YouTube channel:

Drone enthusiasts may recognize pilot Johnny Schaer, aka JohnnyFPV, from his prevalent YouTube presence. In addition to the stunning FPV videos featured on his channel, Schaer is also an experienced drone racer who has competed in the Drone Racing League and Drone Champions League. After getting his start in racing, he turned to FPV cinematography and has worked with major brands such as Red Bull, Mercedes, Nike, Ford, DJI and BMW (Dukowitz, 2022).

Alex Vanover & Ambulance (2022):

The 2022 action film, Ambulance, directed by Michael Bay, features dizzying FPV drone shots piloted by DRL World Champion drone racer, Alex Vanover. Universal Studios published a behind-the-scenes look at the movie, including Vanover’s contribution:

Vanover got his start in drone racing and won his first major championship at the age of 17. In just a few years, he became the first rookie to win the Drone Racing League’s World Championship in 2019 (“The Story,” 2020).

After racing, he entered the commercial drone space and worked with Aston Martin, Ducati, Nissan, Ford, Redbull, Monster Energy and more on FPV video projects (“The Story,” 2020). With his work on Ambulance, he can now add Michael Bay films to this list!

Beyond entertainment, Vanover has plans to combine his passion for aviation with meteorology to study supercell thunderstorms and increase tornado warning times (“The Story,” 2020).

How to Become a Drone Cinematographer:

Are your students interested in filming movies with drones? Here’s how to set them up for success for any UAV videography path:

  1. Learn Drone Regulations and How to Fly
  2. Part 107 Certification and Insurance
  3. Get Filming!
  4. Consider a Degree in Videography or Similar

1. Learn Drone Regulations and How to Fly

All great drone pilots start by simply learning how to get off the ground. There are many courses out there that introduce learners to all areas of drone flight, from safety and legal regulations to flying manually and even coding autonomous flight missions.

For educational packages for upper-elementary, middle and high school learning environments, complete with drone equipment, curriculum and educator training, check out PCS Edventures’ popular indoor and outdoor drone programs:

Ready, Set, Drone! Grades 4-8 Drone Designers, Grades 4-8 Discover Drones, Grades 7-12

2. Part 107 Certification and Insurance

New drone pilots aspiring to make a profession out of their flying skills will be required to get FAA Part 107 certified. This certification applies to all pilots performing commercial drone flights. PCS Edventures’ drone programs can get your students started learning about drones and exploring potential careers, and our partners at UAV Coach have their licensing needs covered!

Additionally, many employers require their drone pilots to be insured. Educators can learn more about drone insurance in our article, Do I Need Drone Insurance? Know the Facts!

3. Get Filming!

Once a pilot has acquired the training and equipment needed, it’s time to get filming! A portfolio of amazing drone footage will help them earn their spot in the credits of Hollywood’s next big blockbuster.

Even while learning how to fly, encourage students to save footage of their projects to reference later. Looking back on old projects is a great way to see how far you’ve come as a pilot!

4. Consider a Degree

While most drone jobs don’t require a full degree, furthering their education can give new pilots a leg-up on the competition. For videography fields, encourage students to look into degrees or certifications related to videography, video editing or even graphic design. Any experience they can get with complex editing software, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, will also be a powerful boost to their resumes.

Related Resources:

Interested in the educational applications of drones? Learn more about incorporating UAVs into your learning environment at the links below:

References:

Davis, B. (2021). Netflix's Red Notice Is First Movie To Ever Use This New Filmmaking Technology. Comicbook.com. https://comicbook.com/movies/news/netflix-red-notice-drone-technology-director-interview/

Dukowitz, Z. (2022). 9 Mind Blowing Videos from Johnny FPV. UAV Coach. https://uavcoach.com/johnny-fpv/

The Story. (2020). DRL World Champion Alex Vanover. https://www.alexvanover.org/thestory


Ready to Start Your Drone Program?

PCS Edventures makes it easy for educators to get started with UAVs! From the basics of flight to choreographed drone performances, our Drone Collection includes indoor and outdoor programs that are perfect for many different learning environments.

View Drone Collection

Newsletter Sign-Up

Sign up to receive product alerts, webinar invitations, STEM resources and exclusive offers.

Join

Request Quote

Speak with a Product Specialist to find the best Enrichment Solutions for your environment.

Find out

Catalogs & Brochures

Take this website on the go with a Catalog or Brochure tuned to your STEM needs.

Explore

Curriculum Samples

See each course in action with a FREE sample of any product you're interested in.

Sample