We have been putting together our FAQ since we started operating commercially.  Most of the common questions we get asked should be listed below, but we are always just a phone call or a few clicks away - head over to our contact page if you need to know anything further, we would love to chat with you about your project!

- What are the weather limitations of the Octocopter?

 Ben and Graham getting ready for a flight

Ben and Graham getting ready for a flight

We can fly in wind speed up to 25mph.  However, for best results 10mph or lower are best.  We cannot fly in any kind of precipitation due to the rig being all electric.  24 hours before your intended flight, we will give you a ‘GO’ or ‘NO-GO’ based on current weather data for your intended flying site.  If we give you a ‘NO-GO’ you will not be charged.  However, sometimes, there are grey areas with weather; when this happens, we will give you a percentage chance of being able to take a flight.  If you decide to risk it based on this information and we subsequently cannot fly, you will be charged 25% of the agreed fee plus expenses.

- How long can the Octocopter fly for?

This varies depending on payload weight, weather and temperature.  However, each flight with a max payload of 5Kg can be anywhere from 5-8 minutes before a battery change is required.  We carry enough batteries and charging equipment to keep the copter airborne for the majority of a shoot day as long as we are in close proximity to our deployment vehicle and able to charge batteries on an on-going basis.  A battery change can take around 3 minutes.  It is good practice to allow us around 20 minutes every few flights in order to rotate our batteries and keep on top of our charging schedule.

- What's the maximum weight you can lift?

Our payload maximum is 5kg.  This will include camera, battery and lens. It’s best to bear in mind, that it isn’t all just about weight, but also weight distribution.  In order for the copter to fly safely and efficiently, and to deliver the best results, we have to balance the payload and adjust for its centre of gravity.  Super long lenses and matte boxes for example are out of the question, because we are unable to balance them.

- How far can it fly?

The law requires that we stay within a certain ‘bubble’ from the pilot.  This is defined as no further than 500 meters along the ground and no higher than 400 feet above ground level.  However, in practice, we have found that we very rarely go further than 250 meters or higher than 200 feet.  We prefer to not fly further than 300 meters from the operator as we like to have a margin for safety – the copter is a very small dot in the sky at this distance!

- How do you get video to the ground?

 Teradek HD Link

Teradek HD Link

We have two ways of doing this.  The first is digital.  Our favourite camera to fly is the Red Epic, and we have a digital downlink for HD-SDI outputs.  This is then captured at the ground, and re-transmitted to any iPhone or iPad running the free app.  In this way, an HD ‘live view’ is possible.  We also have a Blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle for ground based recording.  This captures a 720p feed direct from the camera and offers a resilience in the event of a failure.  The second way of getting a live image is with our analogue transmitter.  We can sometimes plug directly into the camera (depending on make and model; Canon 5D/ 7D Nikon D7000 etc no problem), or we use a small reference camera designed to give us a ‘near to life’ image so that we can manipulate the gimbal correctly to follow the action.

- Do you have insurance and licences to fly?

Yes.  We have public liability insurance which covers us to £5m and is specifically tailored to flying the Octocopter.  The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) has granted us an official ‘permission to fly’ to perform aerial work in a commercial environment.  This was awarded to us after successfully completing the required BNUC-S ground and flight school examination; this is a legal requirement of anyone undertaking commercial aerial work with an unmanned aerial vehicle such as our Octocopter.  When flying a camera that you have supplied, you will need to make sure that you have adequate cover in place in the event of a failure as our insurance will not cover your payload.

- How many people does it take to fly an Octocopter?

Two.  Our chief pilot Graham Tolhurst, and our Octocopter Supervisor and gimbal operator Ben Keene.  The camera gimbal has its own separate systems to the flight systems; the gimbal operator has control over pan, tilt, yaw and roll – completely separately from the flight platform.  This requires that the pilot and the gimbal op are able to communicate with each other during flight in order to maximise your required shot.  Because both systems are independent, we can create some great looking shots that will defy your audience!

- What do I need to know before I book you?

You will need to make sure that the area in which you wish us to fly is safe with no obstruction. This can usually be determined by ourselves on a tech recce, though there is an additional charge of £500 (plus VAT and expenses for this). Sometimes, if we have a very good quantity of photos and video available to us from the proposed location, we can make this determination without needing to leave our base, but to be sure of a flight it is advised to take a tech recce from us. We will also need to get permission from the landowner before we fly – this is a legal requirement. We at Cloud 12 are very safety conscious, and as such, we will need detailed information regarding flight paths, where people and infrastructure will be and the nature of the production. A pre-flight risk assessment will be delivered to you along with our public liability evidence once a confirmed booking has been made.

One last thing you need to know; we are here to get your shot!  We will work with you to help deliver those awe inspiring visuals.  Whilst there are lots of laws and regulations surrounding UAV, we have built a reputation for getting the shots and devising ways to satisfy our customers whilst still practising safe and legal flight.  So give us a call call if you are unsure - we are happy to help!