What if you had the chance to film something 55 miles wide traveling just over Mach 3 with your drone? As it turns out, on August 21st 2017, you’ll have that very opportunity. A solar eclipse, or alignment of the sun, moon and earth, is taking place for the first time in 38 years. The last cosmic event of this magnitude happened on February 26, 1979 — a time long before you could use the battery powered supercomputer in your pocket to fly a self-stabilizing GPS guided aircraft with a 4k camera using a high bandwidth spread spectrum wireless control system. Sheesh, drones sound so impressive when you describe them like that.
We expect a very large number of drones taking to the skies during this historical event – so we’ve compiled a state by state list of the best places to fly in areas that will get a full eclipse as well as some of the consideration involved if you’ll be flying commercially. (The title of Chief Pilot doesn’t come easy around here.)
A Word On Safety
A solar eclipse is a beautiful event but it comes with it’s own set of safety considerations. As with any mission, thorough planning and pre-flight is going to pay dividends in safety. Remember that in addition to the hostile environment, you might be contending with people nearby, unfamiliar surroundings, and strange flight conditions. Whether you’re flying commercially or as a hobbyist, you’ll still want to follow FAA guidelines and consider things like “flying at night” even when its high noon.
Also, no mission is worth losing your eye sight over. A solar eclipse can leave you visually impaired or blind for the rest of your life from even a brief glimpse at the sun. Make sure you and your visual observer both take the necessary precautions. NASA has a great web page on Eclipse Safety available to you here.
Oregon: Always too cool before it’s cool.
If you want to be the absolute first person to get footage of the shadow, the first land based point of contact with the path of totality (the shadow of the moon on the earth) will be at Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 9:05 a.m. PST. Even the planets know that if you want to be cool before it’s cool you start in Oregon.
Unfortunately, Lincoln Beach often suffers the same visibility problems that plague many coastal areas, particularly earlier in the day. If you don’t want to roll the dice, you’re better off moving inland where the chance for marine layer visual obscuration is much lower. If you’re flying commercially, remember that FAA Part 107 requires a minimum of 3 miles of visibility unless you have a waiver. Also remember that Oregon requires a separate registration for UAS (More on that below.)
Over 90 minutes the path of totality will run through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. The total eclipse will end near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EST.