PlayaLabs is 'For Burners, By Burners'. We run tests and trials on-playa. We link to honest reviews and the best prices we can find. We always link to FREE-SHIPPING!
But we love the aerial photos and videos that only drones can get. If you don’t get a tingle looking at this, something is wrong inside you:
So we’re willing to give it a shot and not complain! The Playa is full of fireball-throwers, all-night bass cannons... floating embers and screaming megaphones. And we’re going to complain about a little flying robot? No. Go for it—but some other whiny Burners aren’t as forgiving as we are. Fuck Yer Burn!
The basics: To fly a drone anywhere, not just Black Rock City, you need to register the machine with the FAA. It’s online, takes 2 minutes, and costs $5. You should do this when you get your drone and just fucking do it.
Burning Man has additional requirements for drone freaks. The official policy: https://burningman.org/event/black-rock-city-guide/drones/
Burning Man and FAA have set up a registration system specifically for the event. We emailed with Gabe at the Org to get some details. You need to tie two pieces of red tape:
1) Register the drone with FAA (see above, you should have already done this)
2) Register yourself with the Burning Man system. It’s an online form: https://burningman.org/event/black-rock-city-guide/drones/
Registration opens in May. Don’t delay because there is a cap on the number allowed.
The Burning Man policy is legally enforceable by FAA, and the rules are strict. You can print this page or take a screenshot:
New 2019: Keep 100 ft horizontal distance from all fences, EMS, work crews, art installations, and MVs.
Basically just give everything some god-damn elbow room, ok?
All other Drone hobbyist rules from Defaultia still apply!
All other Burning Man photo and video rules still apply!
If you’re flying at Burning Man for “professional” reasons, meaning you’re on the clock, a pro photographer, government employee, or whatever, then different rules apply to you. That’s your problem--sorry we’re only here to help a normal Burner take some cool pics.
You need to wear a “Special Vest” when you’re flying. We know... just make it part of your outfit or shirtcock it. You get this vest at a drone Safety Meeting:
The Safety Meeting is ON-PLAYA at Safety Camp, several times throghout the week (to be updated as soon as they announce it). I’ll provide Lab-Results of how this experience goes in 2019.
If you’re thinking about getting a drone: Get it before the Burn!
You have to download firmware and register. It can take a couple hours on good wi-fi, and is impossible without wi-fi. So get your machine early and play with it in advance. Drones are tricky. You need some practice, even if you think you’re amazing. Trust us, you’re not.
Below are some Drones that we’ve used and tested. Amazon is an authorized dealer so you’re good on the warranty and service/repair policies. Just be careful you buy from Amazon or DJI, and don’t get re-directed to a 3rd-party seller. Tap the photo to link to DJI’s official Amazon store:
A top-of-the-line larger machine. This version has the screen built-in, which is great. Otherwise you have to tether your own separate tablet. Cables, compatibility and updates on multiple devices has proven to be a challenge with drones. Phantom 4 Pro Plus has lots of features and is complex, but a very nice machine:
The zoom lens is pretty rad and the Mavic 2 Z is one of the only drones that has it. This machine’s in the “Goldilocks” zone for size and price. The kit has extra batteries and supplies that you’ll want anyways.
This is the one we like for a beginning Drone nerd at the Burn, and the one I take now. Smaller, lighter, and easy to fly with a smartphone attachment, it has a ton of features but is relatively cheap; so if you damage it at the Burn, you don’t have to cry. The kit only has 2 batteries—you should get a third.
With any drone, you need memory cards. The drone company DJI lists the recommended memory cards and we linked to the best price on Amazon for them.
The DJI Spark can use mid-range cards. Get 32 GB rather than 64. There are reports of 64 GB cards not working in all devices. The Mavic 2 Zoom and Phantom 4 Pro Plus should use higher end U3 cards and 64GB is great:
You’ll need to recharge everything. You can charge using ThePlayaLab’s solar power system (or a generator). How cool is that? You’re flying on sunshine!
Or just use an inverter with your car’s cigarette lighter plug, then use the charger that came with your drone. But start the car periodically to not over-drain the battery. (DJI will sell you special car-charger adapters, but they are just as expensive and not as fast as this little inverter).
We hear stories every year of lost drones, and douchebags flying around at inopportune times. Don’t fly at the Man Burn or Temple Burn. Try not to annoy people with buzzing at performances. Keep a respectful distance and be mindful of other people’s privacy in your flights and your posts online!
Some people are always going to whine about any new technology and any photography in BRC. Don’t get in a tizzy—just blow them off and move on.
Don’t ruin it for the rest of us. The drone policy is a work in progress and Burning Man or the FAA could decide to ban drones next year. It’s pretty simple: don’t be a dick!