Lancaster Mennonite hat toss

It’s the time of the year when students all over are graduating from high school. That means lots of hat toss ceremonies. What could be a better way to capture a hat toss ceremony than from high above?

My friend Chet, from Chetroy Productions got a gig with the Lancaster Mennonite School. They wanted a video of their annual hat toss ceremony captured from the sky. The plan was for the students to exit the auditorium, walk onto the front lawn and form a ’17 for a photo opportunity. They would then form a circle to throw their hats after a countdown.


The first step in this whole process was to a do a site survey. Chet and I met with the client on the front lawn, walked through the whole plan and rehearsed some of the camera movements.


I use the Kittyhawk app to check airspace, current weather conditions and track of my flight activity.

Using an app on my phone called Kittyhawk, I checked the airspace. The school is within five miles of Smoketown Airport, a heliport for Lancaster General Hospital and is in Class E airspace. Fortunately, we were just outside the class D airspace above the airport or I would have had to get FAA approval before my flight and that can take up to 90 days. I made sure to notify the nearby airports of our flight and we were cleared for takeoff.

During the site survey I not only checked airspace but took note of the surrounding obstacles. The last thing I wanted to do was crash into the power lines or tall trees that bordered the front lawn.

site survey

Chet and me meeting with the client during the site survey.

Graduation day

On the day of the shoot, we were lucky to have perfect weather.

Chet was on the ground getting sweeping shots of the students walking out as I was in the sky getting aerial footage. I was careful not to fly my drone directly overtop of the crowd. I wanted to be as discreet as possible.

It was a little nerve racking to fly for this job. I only had one chance to get the shot right so the pressure was on. The fact that there were 175 students with all the parents watching and a client expecting good results added to the pressure.

class of 2017

The class of ’17 forms a ’17 on the front lawn of Lancaster Mennonite School campus.


The shoot was a success and Chet had the video edited in a matter of hours.

Lancaster Mennonite School posted the video on their Facebook page and people loved the video.