I'm sure a lot of us drone people have been here before, where in the middle of a flight when we are deep in focus or trying to pay attention to our drones as they hover in the sky, someone walks up to you and begins playing 20 questions. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me, but I can say that it has been one of the most distracting things when I'm flying. I am working on the best way to avoid this sort of problem and would love to share a few quick tips for anyone else who has a similar problem when they fly.
When I was flying in Wildwood on the Fourth of July with my buddy Tom for a commercial gig (with a permit to be there and all the permission we needed), tons of people came up to us asking questions that blew our minds. At the end of it all, I realized that not everybody knows what I know about drones and people are always going to ask questions. So if you can't avoid being around any people at all, just assume that someone will probably ask you something.
If it is distracting, do your best to tell them you can't talk because you are busy flying or, if it comes down to it, don't acknowledge the person if they continue to ask you questions again and again and just focus on your flying. Even when the two Inspires were just sitting out and we were waiting to launch, people would ask us things like, "Do those have cameras on them?" "Does that cost more than a toy?" or "What do you do with it?"
And these are all questions that I kind of laugh at because my drone has become one of the biggest sources of income for me. So, yes, it has a camera. Yes, it costs more than a toy, and I use it for work and to create content for myself.
First things first, whenever I fly, I do my best to not be around people for the sole reason that I can avoid any conversation that I don't need to be having. If I am with someone doing a job or someone I know, that is fine. But when a stranger walks up to me and starts asking me how high does that thing go, what's the range on that, and how much does it cost, it is so distracting and very hard to answer because I am usually in the middle of doing some sort of pan or taking a specific photo.
I also do not like to answer certain questions, especially the very common, "How much does that thing cost?" A good drone is expensive, usually over $1,000, which is pricey for somebody who isn't used to buying camera gear. When people would ask about my Phantom, I had no problem saying that it was just over a grand. But when people ask about my Inspire 2, it's hard to say that I've invested $6,500 into the drone alone and then another $3,000 or so on batteries, lenses, filters, etc. When people ask me how much my drone costs, I try to avoid giving them a number. I tell them that this one is pretty expensive, but you can get one a lot cheaper.
If price is brought up, I tell them you can get a pretty good drone for around $700 and the range goes all the way up to $80,000-plus for ones they use in movies. This way, I am able to jump over my drone entirely and make it something that just fits in-between.
Some people may be a lot more pushy trying to get the price, and some pilots may not have a problem bringing up price. I just know I don't like to put myself in certain situations when I am flying around sketchy areas where I don't feel comfortable, I usually try to keep all that information to myself.
The best thing I've learned to do is accept the fact that people are going to ask questions. When they do, you don't need to spend two hours talking. You can give them short answers and just satisfy the questions they ask because once you do that, they will probably leave you alone. I think one reason I get annoyed when people ask too many questions when I'm flying is because I know a lot of people that know a lot about drones, so I don't realize that the average person barely knows a thing. I mean, I'm sure the average person has seen a drone or heard about drones, but most of the time they aren't up close with them and seeing them everyday. This leads to people being curious about them and feeling like they can just walk up to you and ask you about them.
Another thing I tend to do before I get to a location to fly (for personal content) is find a spot a bit further out from a crowd. This will give me some privacy and some peace of mind when I fly because I wont have to worry about people distracting me. When I am shooting a home for work, I will usually ask the client to either stand next to me so they do not get in the way and I accept the fact that I have to answer their questions because I am working with them (this isn't the worst thing) or I ask them to go inside and stay away from the windows so they don't get in the way. Some of the people I work with are good about being out of the way, some are good at keeping quiet and then some think they have the same level of knowledge on drones as me.. which I love to question. Either way, before you fly your drone, understand your surroundings and potential distractions so you are at least aware of them before your drone is up in the air.
Not all of us are bothered by the questions, but I know that it can really get to me. When I work or fly, I usually get really into what I am doing, so a distraction like this is something can throw me off a little bit. Hopefully those few little tips help anyone out who has the same problem, but if you can't avoid being in too public of a place and you aren't out in the woods or something all by yourself, remember that people are curious and tend to ask questions. After being inspired by a bunch of huge Instagram accounts and a lot of drone work online, I was able to make the best of this trip, deal with the people asking questions, and even get a few of my favorite images to date.