The Film Office reaching new heights with Aerial Filming

Whether called UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), SUA’s (Small Unmanned Aircraft) or Drones there is no doubt that advancements in technology have seen the latest UAV’s having greater capabilities in relation to their size and cost, which has led to an increase in their demand and commercial use, including in the film industry. The Film Office is embracing these advancements and have been working closely with the CAA, Film London and other BFO’s to ensure policy and protocol is in place for their use in the Capital.

Director, Edward Gramolt says “We welcome UAV filming requests. Our management ensures that filming is supported with structures in place for film makers to achieve their creative goals in our client boroughs. Minimising disruption and disturbance to our local residents and businesses is paramount but we professionally manage proposals, ensuring CAA & local authority permissions are in place with all health & safety requirements met, to enable successful UAV filming. Establishing and updating film policy to keep up with advancements in technologies is vital to maintaining London as one of the world’s most competitive and popular production cities.”

Millennium Films’ latest thriller “Criminal” directed by Ariel Vromen (“The Iceman”) and starring Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman & Ryan Reynolds recently shot various scenes in Tower Hamlets. Amongst their simple requests – road closures, traffic management, night filming, driving scenes, fight scenes, stunt scenes – included UAV filming proposals in Spitalfields, one of, it not the busiest, most densely populated and packed building areas in the borough. Rather than say no we saw it as a fantastic opportunity to see what precedents could be set and results achieved for UAV filming in London.

The Film Office finely balanced the judgements in enabling the UAV filming to take place, acting in the interests of the public at all times. Low-level flying of this nature has the potential to intrude into normal daily activity so it was necessary for requirements to be in place to minimise their exposure to all aviation hazards.

It was vital that we worked closely with the CAA, production and strategic partnership between UAViate (Aerial Operations, Consultancy and Management Company) and Cloud 12 (Aerial Filming Specialist) to specify set requirements necessary to ensure the safety of the public was never going to be compromised at any time. UAViate carried out the correct liaison with organisations (DPG, NATS, MET Police) documenting this is a 40 page safety case report presented to the CAA. Additionally, the CAA were invited to witness the whole operation on the day.

It resulted in a successful days filming with the production able to achieve the shots required and demonstrated how effective such control measures actually are on a large scale film in central London. Prioritising the local residents and businesses to ensure that full and effective consultation took place and with our film officers managing the process from start to finish we ensured filming was managed effectively.

Our recent shoot for “Criminal”, in one of London’s central business districts, gives a fantastic example of our work, and why we are at the forefront of film service management in London. Special mention must be given to the CAA whose common sense approach has made the UK a world leader in the utilisation of drones.

What they had to say

“Overall the shoot went very well. The production company had put effective ground-control measures in place and employed sufficient staff to make it work, as per their risk assessment. The organisation of the site was well integrated with the UAV flight operation and pedestrians were still able to get access at times other than during the very brief filming flights. Overall the disruption was minimal due to the advanced planning and consultation by the production company and their detailed arrangements on the day. The Location Manager and 2nd Unit Director were extremely helpful, giving the flying aspect the attention it deserved and ensuring safety procedures were understood and maintained. The UAV pilot and camera-man likewise did a good job and didn’t allow their procedures (flight envelope, flight duration and battery change requirements) to be compromised.

“Clearly the use of UAV’s in these sorts of shoots can work very well for production companies exhibiting high standards of professionalism, early planning and with sufficient resources to realistically control activity at public locations.”

– Lawrence Hay, Civil Aviation Authority

“Once again we owe a big thank you to The Film Office for helping us achieve what we were looking to do in London, none of which was straight forward….action & stunt sequences, both day & night filming in highly populated central residential areas, multiple road closures and the unprecedented use of UAV’s (Drones) in these areas….ultimately we were able to achieve everything we wanted for the film and more. On behalf of the Director, Producers and all the crew many thanks once again to The Film Office for all your hard work and support.”

–  Jason Wheeler, Supervising Location Manager ‘Criminal’


“UAViate worked closely with The Film Office and the CAA to achieve the permissions for Cloud 12 to fly. This is potentially a landmark moment for the use of drones for filming in congested areas in London and particularly fitting given the nature of the film.”

– Paul Rigby, MD, UAViate Ltd

Useful & Information on Aerial Filming / UAV’s

Civil Aviation Authority – Small Unmanned Aircraft Operations Within London and Other Towns and Cities (170Kb)

Apply for CAA permission here

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