Want to get aerial drone video in San Francisco? Between city regulations and Federal Aviation Administration restrictions, it’s nearly impossible to legally get the footage you’ll likely want when flying a drone in San Francisco. You can’t legally fly over and under the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t fly over most of the city’s beaches. You can’t even fly drones in many San Francisco city parks.
One creative video storyteller came up with a brilliant solution for how to legally get drone video in San Francisco, without even using a drone at all. In a video posted to her Twitter account, film creator and brand marketing expert Karen X. Cheng shared how to replicate the drone aesthetic using tools like kites and fishing rods with cameras mounted to them.
A camera strung to a fishing rod is lowered down the side of the Golden Gate Bridge, looking like a drone panning down under it. A camera on a zipline flies down from one cameraman’s hands (who is perched up on the cliff) down to Cheng on the beach. She even fakes it, perfectly, by holding a DJI controller and looking up into the sky.
She also posted tons of other “low-budget” drone ideas (that of course don’t use a drone at all) to her Instagram account.
For example, here’s a “drone shot” using a $60 painter pole:
The video is absolutely brilliant, and it’s made by someone who certainly has a lot of experience making viral videos. The creator behind it is Karen X. Cheng, who also is the founder of her own creative agency called Wafffle. Besides the fun drone video, she’s written and directed viral videos for brands as varied as Brawny and 24 Hour Fitness.
Cheng made her first viral video by accident when she quit Microsoft with a song. From there, things took off, as she was named Inc’s 30 under 30 and Adweek’s Creative 100. Her videos have appeared on NBC, Good Morning America, and Ellen, and she’s shared her creative expertise on the stage at . events including TedX.
Back to flying drones in San Francisco, you’re often better off following Cheng’s tips if you want that aerial shot.
According to San Francisco Parks policies, “No machine, apparatus or any kind of aircraft, including rockets, model airplanes, drones, may be launched or landed in the Park. No mylar balloons or any balloons more than three feet in diameter are permitted.”
A San Francisco Recreation and Park Department spokesperson even once confirmed to The Drone Girl that it is issuing citations of up to $192 for flying drones in city parks.
You also cannot legally fly drones in National Parks without a special permit. Many areas of San Francisco, including the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge, are considered National Park land which again means no drones.
In most situations, it seems your drone video in San Francisco will have to come not from a drone at all. At least you’ve now got clever ideas for ways to replicate it.