2017 Women To Watch in UAS List Announced By Women and Drones And Drone360

2017 Women To Watch in UAS List Announced By Women and Drones And Drone360


Women and Drones and Drone360 recently announced the 9 most influential women in the drone/UAS industry, winners of the 2017 Women To Watch in the UAS initiative.


Tuesday, August 29th was the date that the 2017 Women To Watch in UAS honourees were announced by Women and Drones and Drone 360 Magazine.

Women to Watch in the UAS Industry is promoted by the Women and Drones organization and Drone360 magazine. This initiative aims to raise the profile of women doing great work in the drone industry and to encourage more women to embrace UAS technology by supporting a group that remains underrepresented thus far.

Those considered for the honours included trailblazers, innovators, mentors, and business leaders in the drone and UAS industry with 110 nominations being received from seven countries worldwide. 

Our Skytango co-Founder Susan Talbot was on the judging panel.

The nine women selected for these honours have made astonishing strides in areas ranging from mapping to racing, education to entertainment. Inspiring women to get involved is the prime objective of Women and Drones. It’s no wonder the industry is growing so steadily with more and more female influencers getting on board to share their ideas.

Now that the dust has settled and we have all gotten busy with other things, we thought it was worth reminding you of the honourees and their extraordinary work. They fall under 9 different categories: Champion, Business, Education, Emerging, Entertainment & Culture, Global Trailblazer, Humanitarian, Influencer and Technology


The nine women honoured for the ‘Women To Watch in UAS’ are:

  • Mary Wohnrade (President/Owner of Wohnrade Civil Engineers) – Champion

Mary is heavily involved in the UAS industry in Colorado. She has developed a proprietary workflow to incorporate
UAS and engineering while working on other ways to expand their possibilities. She is extremely passionate about everything UAS so watch this space!

  • Natalie Cheung (UAV project manager, Intel) – Entertainment & Culture

Natalie is very much involved in the new form of entertainment that will have fire-work manufacturers worried!  Hailing from Santa Clara, CA, Cheung was one of the brains behind Intel’s Drone 500 which we covered in an article in late 2016 and is part of the revolution that is drone sky entertainment!

  • Holly Kasun (Co-Founder of Flybrix) – Business

Holly is appealing to the next generation of drone users with Flybrix, a crash-friendly, rebuildable drone kit made from LEGO bricks. Launched in 2016, Kasun raised $1.7million in funding in just 45 days. Go Flybrix! And Christmas is coming.

  • Gretchen West (Director at the Commercial Drone Alliance & Co-Founder of Women of Commercial Drones) – Influencer

Gretchen is a high profile and highly respected advocate for UAS technology.  She helps commercial drone end users understand the value and realize the benefit of drones by reducing barriers through advocacy and education. West, earlier on in the year, moderated a drone industry and regulation discussion at TieCon in which Skytango CEO Steve Flynn was involved!

  • Karen Joyce (Co-Founder of She Flies, Senior Lecturer in James Cook University) – Education

Karen co-founded She Flies, a drone training academy whose mission is to engage more girls and women with science and technology through the world of drones. She Flies hopes to expand their camps and educational programs beyond Australia very soon!

  • Catherine Ball (Co-Founder of World of Drones Congress & She Flies) – Global Trailblazer

Catherine is a start-up specialist working hard to build bridges, convene the UAS community, and advance innovative solutions in the UAS environment. The World Drone Congress, which debuted in Brisbane this August and at which our CEO Steven Flynn attended as a speaker, is the first major drone event to focus on the Asia-Pacific region. She Flies, which Catherine also cofounded, works to bring UAS and STEM learning to girls and women.

  • Lexie Janson (FPV Drone Racer, drone certification teacher and software developer) – Emerging

Through her tenacity and her sheer love of flying, Lexie has become a high profile racer and is working to raise the profile of drone racing. Dubbed “The First Lady of FPV in Poland” after a TV interview about drone technology, she travels the world to race, and actively encourages others to explore the sport.

  • Helena Samsioe (Founder and CEO of GLOBHE) – Humanitarian

As the boss of a humanitarian drone services company, Helena is leveraging drone capabilities to solve global problems, in particular, public health. She has worked on a UNICEF initiative to develop a humanitarian air corridor to deliver medical supplies in Malawi, and collaborates with other organizations to help heal through UAS tech.

  • Leah LaSalla (Technical Founder and CEO at Astral AR) – Technology

Intrigued with the combination of technologies that can deliver this experience, Leah started patenting and envisioning. She plans to apply this technology to wide-area search-and-rescue, disaster management, environmental remediation, public safety, and other drones-for-good activities. An added bonus: five of her company’s eight executives are women.


The judging panel was made up of three drone industry experts:

Wendy Erikson – Host of Women & Drones Podcast & Emmy award winning journalist & Part-107 certified pilot.

Sally French – The Drone Girl blog, named top 4 women shaping the drone industry by Forture magazine.

Susan Talbot – Skytango Co-Founder & COO & Emmy award winner with 25 years experience in film and TV production.


Congratulations to all involved and good luck with upcoming projects. You are incredible role models for our daughters (and sons!).

And if you are a woman working in the industry, don’t forget to check our list of 6 empowering actions for women in drones!

Images courtesy of Women and Drones.

Be Compliant, Drone Fines Are On The Rise!

Be Compliant, Drone Fines Are On The Rise!

Drone pilots have to comply because drone fines are on the rise

Looking at the increase in the number of drone fines charged against illegal behavior by aviation authorities over the world, I see an emerging trend: more and more authorities are starting to prosecute unlawful drone operations.


While this is good news, many in the industry – as well as myself – feel that the authorities have been slow in enforcing. Why is that?

Well, most of the focus of the regulators to date has been on defining the legal framework of this new industry. How can you enforce if you don’t have a clear set of rules in place first?

Drones represent a revolutionary technology which is booming and being adopted across several verticals with new uses discovered almost every day. While the technology is ready and progresses at an amazing pace, regulators are chasing rather than anticipating this changing industry 

The problem was (and still is), setting the rules isn’t an easy task.

Even in countries where considerable efforts have been made so far in building a legal framework for safely integrating drones into airspace, regulators had to conciliate two different interests – sometimes conflicting: promoting safety and compliance and supporting the needs of the fast-growing drone industry.

Another factor complicating the regulatory efforts is that increased drone use raises several issues from a legal perspective.

Operating a drone involves different areas of law: privacy law, tort law, insurance law, civil aviation regulations, in particular, safety for people and manned aircraft.  On top of that, privacy is a trending topic in the past few months. 

The complexity of this task increases in countries where multiple authorities have input and control over some of the legal aspects related to hobbyist and commercial flying.

For example, in the U.S., a confusing crossover of federal, state and local regulations – the so-called patchwork quilt – is negatively impacting the industry’s development and the capacity of the authorities to focus on enforcement, as a recent research by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College highlights. One of their key insights was that in several cases local drone laws contravene the FAA’s drone rules, resulting in legal conflicts.

Crossing the ocean, while the European Commission has started to draft a blueprint of a legal framework for operating drones, individual  EU member states still have the total decision-making power over drone regulations and legal prosecutions. While the Commission has put a lot of effort recently to standardize drone rules, analysts expect areas of conflict between the European framework and the state and local laws to emerge.

Another problem the aviation authorities have been struggling to deal with is the lack of resources specifically dedicated to managing drone registrations, complaints and reports of illegal or reckless operations.

Despite these difficulties, during the last couple of years, several countries managed to put a drone regulatory framework in place, and are switching their attention from setting the rules to enforcing them.

Moreover, drone regulation is not the concern of drone operators only. Their clients are requiring compliance as well to protect their own brands.

Content buyers have begun to understand that drone content must be acquired legally – like any other type of content such as music – if they don’t want to face the risks associated with illegal operations.

In some countries, regulators are enforcing on the buyers’ side too. For example, in the US, if you hire a drone operator who doesn’t hold a Part 107 allowing commercial operations, you could be facing federal charges as well.

If you are curious to read about some of the most significant cases involving prosecution for non-compliance, I compiled a list of 15 interesting drone fines from around the world, showing the increasing prosecution trend.

So whether you’re a drone operator looking to monetize your drone in a compliant way or whether you’re an aerial content buyer looking for legally acquired content, the website, droneregulations.info,  provides a straightforward overview of regulation by country. UAV Coach also offers an updated list of drone laws and regulations by country, making it impossible to feign ignorance of the rules.

15 Drone Fines From Around The World

15 Drone Fines From Around The World

15 drone fines from all around the world

The number of drone fines issued by aviation authorities is increasing. Read about the most significant cases of prosecutions involving unlawful drone operations.


I see an emerging trend: more and more authorities are starting to prosecute unlawful drone operations.

Let’s check 15 significant cases of drone operators’ prosecution, giving a little insight into what it means to be non-compliant with local drone regulations.

Significant Legal Drone Cases by Country

Drone fines by country:


USA

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is presently in charge of drone regulation at the federal level in the U.S. (even if things might change considerably under Trump’s administration) but states and local government entities also have the authority to pass local laws in their jurisdiction.

According to Motherboard, the FAA had fined 24 drone pilots up to June 2016.

“Given that more than a million drones have been sold in the U.S., the fact that only two dozen fines have been levied is surprising and likely reflects the FAA’s lack of resources, rather than a lack of desire.”

said Craig Thompson, a Dallas-based aerial photographer, when asked about this data by drone regulation expert Jonathan Rupprecht who agreed and added:

“As time goes on, we can expect to see many more of these enforcement actions to be more fully prosecuted.”

It’s interesting to note that even where enforcement efforts have been put in place, FAA’s focus up to 2016 has been on punishing reckless behaviours, rather than illegal commercial operations, as the 2016 Motherboard analysis of the 24 prosecutions found out.

Lawyer Loretta Alkalay, who was in charge of the FAA’s legal operations for the eastern region for more than 20 years, has her opinion on why the FAA didn’t prosecute illegal commercial drone operations much until 2016:

“I think it’s pretty obvious the FAA doesn’t think it can win a case on this whole commercial issue, which is why they haven’t really pushed it.”

Let’s check a few significant drone fines in the U.S.

SkyPan – $200,000

This is the largest of all drone fines ever issued by the FAA to date. The initially proposed fine in October 2015 to SkyPan International, Inc., of Chicago, amounted to an impressive $1.9 million for conducting 43 illegal drone flights in congested airspace over Chicago and New York City between 2012 and 2014.

SkyPan was further accused of operating 65 aircraft without proper communication tools and without receiving an airworthiness certificate and registration.

The company eventually settled with the FAA in January 2017 for $200,000.

Besides the $200,000 civil penalty the company also agreed to pay an additional $150,000 if it violates federal aviation regulations again in the next year, and $150,000 more if it fails to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement.

Mical Caterina – $55,000

What drone pilot Caterina considered a hobby has landed him in trouble with the FAA, which in 2016 levied $55,000 in fines against him for violating five aviation regulations.

The FAA claims Caterina flew his drone for commercial use at an event in August 2015, though the Minnesota man has never charged anyone for his aerial photography and contends he’s only honing his skills.

“If you’re a recreational or hobby flyer and don’t know where the divider is between commercial and recreational activity, you’re likely to engage in neither if you know the FAA can come after you after the fact. Since the FAA has failed to provide a clear and adequate definition of what these entail, the risk is real and costly.”

said Jason Snead, a FAA policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.

Xizmo Media Productions – $5,000

Xizmo Media, a New York video production company, was hired by Fordham University to shoot footage of its 2015 commencement ceremony.

The FAA fined Xizmo because its drone wasn’t registered, flew in a reckless manner, and also pulled out several other regulations that are normally used for manned aircraft. Xizmo eventually settled with the FAA for $5,000.

Paul Skinner – $500 & 30 days in jail

The first custodial sentence was given to a Paul Skinner, a professional Seattle aerial photographer, whose out of control drone knocked a woman unconscious at a parade in 2015.


UK

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is in charge of UAS regulation in the United Kingdom.

The CAA has been actively enforcing drone regulations, with a focus on punishing both professionals using drones for commercial purposes without being licensed, and reckless operations.

Nigel Wilson – £1,800

Drone enthusiast Nigel Wilson admitted nine breaches of drone regulations for illegally flying his drone over football stadiums across England and over buildings in central London where he had no direct sight of the aircraft. He also flew his drone within 50 meters of several buildings. All these acts are offences under the 2009 Air Navigation Order.

His videos on YouTube showed views from heights of at least 100 meters of Premier League, Champions League and Championship football matches.  Other videos showed views of Big Ben from close range, the Queen Victoria Memorial next to Buckingham Palace, HMS Belfast at its mooring on the Thames and the Shard, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, all accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack.

Filmmaker Richard Brunner – £1,125

Richard was fined £1,125 in October 2015 for illegally flying his drone over Hyde Park without permission during a shoot for a promotional video. The drone flew in controlled airspaces without consent from the Civil Aviation Authority. He was also charged for flying the drone 10 metres away from traffic and pedestrians.

Mark Spencer – £300

On 9 November 2013, staff at Alton Towers Resort observed a quadcopter flying over the X Sector of the resort. Mark later posted video clips on YouTube which showed that he had launched the quadcopter some way from the resort, beyond visual line of sight.

Stafford Magistrates’ Court convicted him for not maintaining direct visual contact with his drone and flying within 150 metres of a congested area.


Canada

Transport Canada is the institution for regulating drones in Canada. Have a look at the latest documentation published on drone laws as changes have been applied recently, especially for hobby pilots.

Transport Canada launched a record 118 investigations into the illegal use of UAVs in 2016, 16 of which resulted in drone fines. That’s more than three times the number of fines issued in 2015.

Moves Media – $5,000

Moves Media Ltd., a Vancouver video production company, was fined $5,000 for operating a drone contrary to its Special Flight Operations Certificate issued by Transport Canada.

This case depicts well how navigating through all the legal authorizations required to perform your job can be painful but both mandatory and necessary.

Julien Gramigna – $1000

Julien Gramigna, photographer and co-founder of the company VuDuCiel, was fined $1,000 by Transport Canada in December 2014. The fine claims the use of a drone to take photos of a house for a real estate agent without proper federal permit.


Australia

Australian drone laws are established by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Drone regulation for both recreational and commercial use are extensively explained on their website. The CASA has started to prosecute illegal behavior of drone pilots seriously in the last few months.

For instance, a person was fined $1440 AUD for flying a drone in Sydney Harbour, which is a restricted airspace, while another person was fined $900 AUD for flying a drone above a children’s Easter egg hunt in Canberra.

Wedding guest – $900

TV presenter Sylvia Jeffreys and her journalist partner Peter Stefanovic thought it would be a good idea to ask one of their friends to catch images of them popping champagne at their wedding using a drone.

Their friend now faces a $900 AUD fine for “hazardous flying at and near guests” after the drone footage uploaded on Instagram got CASA’s attention. CASA’s director, Shane Carmody, made no apology for the fine.

“The rules protect people, property and aircraft from drones,” Mr Carmody said.

Queensland pilot – $850

An Australian recreational drone owner was fined $850 AUD by the CASA after uploading numerous illegal drone videos on YouTube.

“While each individual breach was not major in itself, the number of breaches has caused me concern”,

said the CASA investigator.

Each of his uploaded clips could have been charged between $850 and $8,000 AUD. The $850 fine was large enough to scare the flights out of this pilot as the drone in question quickly appeared for sale online.

University Student – $900

A university student has copped a $900 AUD fine for flying a drone close to a police helicopter conducting a rescue operation in the New South Wales Blue Mountains.

The drone then crashed into a tree on a private home.


France

France is a worldwide pioneer in UAV regulation, having adopted civilian drone legislation in the spring of 2012.

Since the legislation went into effect in 2012, around 30 legal cases involving drones have given way to criminal punishment by the French Aviation Administration.

Almost all of the offenders were slapped with small drone fines, but one person earned a one-year suspended prison sentence. In this case, he had flown a civilian drone dangerously close to a helicopter.

Tristan Redman – €1,000

British reporter Tristan Redman was charged a €1,000 drone fine in February 2015 by Paris Court for flying a drone several times over central Paris. The journalist, who was compiling a piece for Al-Jazeera news, also had his drone confiscated.


The Netherlands

The Ministerie van Infrastructuur and Milieu handles drone regulation in the Netherlands. Documentation in English about drone rules in practice can be found here.

Dutch Violinist André Rieu – €8000

André Rieu, the famous Dutch violinist and conductor best known for creating the waltz-playing Johann Strauss Orchestra, was fined for flying a drone filming a performance on the Vrijthof in Maastricht.

The drone was flown above the city center (which is forbidden by current Netherlands drone regulation), at night, in a CTR zone (Maastricht has a busy regional airport), in close proximity to the 12,000 people attending the concert, and without a permit.

The amount of the fine was not divulged but the Dutch newspaper De Limburger estimates it around €8,000, the largest fine for illegal drone operations given by the Netherlands authorities to date.


China

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is in charge of regulating UAS in China. Since May 2017 Chinese drone operators in China have to register under their real name with the CAAC.

UAV Sci-Tech CoPilot – 18 months in jail

In 2015, a staff member from Beijing UAV Sci-Tech Co, was sentenced to 18 months in jail by the CAAC after a drone from the company disrupted commercial flights.


In conclusion, this list of drone fines highlights that drone fines are a serious deal and it’s more important than ever to be compliant with local and federal laws.

Drones For Emergency Services: Use and Value

Drones For Emergency Services: Use and Value

drones-for-emergency-services-use-and-value

Drones are being used increasingly for emergency services, but how can emergency services leverage and safely deploy such technology?


This week Skytango hosts a special guest post by Anna Jackman, Lecturer at Royal Holloway University, on the reasons why drones are increasingly being employed as tools by emergency service responders.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, as the platforms are more commonly known, are the technology of the moment.

Drones are increasingly being employed in a growing range of hobbyist, commercial, and civilian roles, with their potential domestic applications considered “as diverse as the platforms themselves”.

This sentiment is reflected in the growing popularity and accessibility of commercially available off-the-shelf drones, used recreationally by hobbyists, with estimates that approximately 200,000 platforms being sold per month globally.

Furthermore, in a recent report, professional services giant Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), proposed that the global market for the commercial applications of drones, spanning: infrastructure, transport, insurance, media, telecommunication, agriculture and mining industries, could be valued at over $127 billion by 2020.

Lastly, drones are increasingly being enrolled in a range of civilian applications. Referring to those applications which are neither commercial nor recreational, drones have been employed as tools for humanitarian, disaster, and emergency service response.

The latter will be the focus of this piece.

DJI’s report on lifesaving drone operations

In profiling the ways in which drones have been employed as tools to both “save and protect human life” in emergency situations to-date, leading drone manufacturer DJI this year released a report entitled ‘Lives Saved: A Survey of Drones in Action’.

Opening with the assertion that drones allow first responders to

“accomplish tasks faster, more efficiently, at a lower cost, and in many cases more safely than in the past,”

the report reviews 18 incidents in which drones were deployed by emergency services professionals or members of the public in assistance of such operations.

Together, these actions were associated with saving 59 lives.

In these instances, drones were used in both search and rescue (SAR) and supply delivery capacities, with the report concluding that SAR may be the most effective use of lifesaving drones.

EENA and DJI’s partnership

In making this claim, DJI turned to further research undertaken in collaboration with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), in which the organizations worked with emergency services teams in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Iceland in order to evaluate potential use cases for drones, assess challenges, and develop recommendations therein.

Drawing upon the results of 60 call-outs in which the drone was deployed (those spanning: missing persons, fire, possible suicide, crowd safety, bomb threats, fuel and/or chemical spillages, fishing vessels adrift, animal rescue, and light aircraft crashes), the research concluded that whilst often not designed explicitly for such roles, drones have been used to:

  • quickly locate missing persons (covering a 1km² area within 20 minutes)
  • provide a valuable aerial perspective facilitating safe operations for both crews and members of the public
  • in the detection of “hot spots” through the use of thermal imaging cameras.

Given such advantages, both interest in and the deployment of drones by emergency services is growing.

In the UK, for example, while the West Midlands Fire Service were the first to operationally deploy the platforms in 2007, the number of operational forces using or planning to use drones, notably jumped to two thirds of fire services, and half of police forces in 2016, as Sky News reported.

In this vein, Sussex Police are now operating the largest drone project in the UK (comprised of 5 drones and 40 trained operators), with Devon and Cornwall Police following suit with the announcement of the “first 24-hour drone unit in the UK”.

The Skybound Rescuer Project

Despite the growing interest in the drone as an emergency services tool – Gemma Alcock of The Skybound Rescuer Project, an organization founded to bring clarity to educate the search and rescue community about the value of drones, notes that many of the drones marketed to the emergency services sector have simply been “transferred” to this market with little or no adaptation, rather than being designed specifically for it.

The Skybound Rescuer Project, then, has stepped up – seeking to provide resources and action plans to get SAR drones airborne. In highlighting the importance of this goal, The Skybound Rescuer team released this video, demonstrating their vision of the drone as a rescue tool.

Attending the Rescue Drone Awareness Course

Seeking to roll this out, The Skybound Rescuer Project has introduced a ‘Rescue Drone Awareness’ course.

Running their first course on 6th April 2017 at Popham Airfield in Hampshire, I was lucky enough to be in attendance.

Bringing together participants from UK Fire and Rescue, Search and Rescue, and the Police, this training course was billed as “a one-day workshop for managers and tacticians to gain an understanding of this rapidly emerging new technology “.

It aimed at equipping participants with an understanding of how to evaluate or plan for the purchase of a small drone and the associated equipment, what questions to ask manufacturers ahead of purchase or lease, and what training and regulatory requirements are applicable therein.

The course was a fast-paced and intensive foray through the contemporary civilian drone landscape, covering: terminology, drone categorisation, tailored capability reviews, a technical overview of payload features and capabilities, regulatory requirements, best practice and risk mitigation, factors impacting and limiting operations, and key questions for practitioners to pose to manufacturers ahead of purchasing or leasing a drone.

As pictured, the course also included a live-flying demonstration, allowing participants to see the drone in action, as well as understanding the necessary steps prior to becoming airborne.

Photo credit: Anna Jackman

In participating in this course, what struck me was the preparation necessitated in realizing a future in which the drone is a “welcome addition to the emergency service toolkit”.

Recognizing the value of drones in emergency services

That said, the value of such platforms to the emergency services is increasingly being recognized.

This can be evidenced by both the dramatic increase in the use of drones in a range of short-term emergencies and disaster response situations globally, as highlighted in Up in the Air: A Global Estimate of Non-Violent Drone Use 2009-2015, book published by the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace StudiesUniversity of San Diego.

It’s also evidenced by the growing partnerships forming between commercial parties and the emergency services sector, including:

The emergency services sector, then, appears to be living up to its European Commission designation as a key civilian UAV application market.

What emergency services should watch over

As has been widely noted within the sector, however, strides forward remain bound to legitimate concerns that surround drone usage more widely.

As is frequently documented in the media, drones are associated with risk: whether through close-calls with manned aircraft, their enrolment in inappropriate surveillance, unsafe flights, irresponsible stunts, or as platforms utilised in the illegal transportation of contraband.

As such, there remains an ongoing tension between the drone as both, simultaneously, an operational resource and a potentially recklessly or maliciously-employed commercially-available device.

In an environment in which the drone can be viewed negatively then, it remains particularly important for emergency services seeking to leverage and safely deploy such technology to adhere to and challenge the limits of relevant regulation, develop and implement best practice protocol, conduct risk assessment and mitigation, clearly demarcate their platforms and operational sites, and engage with the community and public more widely in showcasing this potentially lifesaving technology.


Dr Anna Jackman, the author of the above article, is a Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research has involved fieldwork with a range of drone users, regulators, and industry practitioners. Anna is interested in understanding both how and why different operational communities deploy drones, as well as the mechanisms through which the platforms are governed and sold more widely. She can be contacted via Twitter @ahjackman.

Stick or Carrot? Compliance, Buyers & Flyers

Stick or Carrot? Compliance, Buyers & Flyers

Stick, Carrot, certified aerials, legal aerial footage, Skytango

What does the compliance wave in the drone industry hold for drone operators?


There have been huge advances in drone technology in recent years, but what does the future hold for pilots dealing with clients who are increasingly concerned about protecting themselves and their brand?

Skytango on the boat, drone compliance, certified aerial footageI’ve been flying a drone commercially since 2013. It was a heavy lift Cinestar and we flew Alexas, BlackMagic cameras, 5D’s, Gh4’s, and any other box we could strap to our Movi gimbal. At the time, the equipment, peripherals, licenses and insurance were a huge financial commitment. From the beginning, we struggled with other drone operators who weren’t licensed or insured and had less overhead as a result, quoting on jobs at half the standard day rate. It was difficult to compete and incredibly frustrating that nobody seemed to be doing anything about it.

To this day you can go to nearly any pilot forum and read their rantings (rightly so) of how hard it is to compete with illegal operators… always searching for the proper enforcement tool to prosecute them and protect the industry.

In my opinion, it’s not only about illegal operators but also about illegal operations. On more than one occasion I have been tempted to break the rules at the request of a client in order to get paid for my day’s work – so let’s be honest – even licensed operators can flaunt regulation and limits and put their insurance and their client at risk. So everyone has been searching for the right ‘stick’ to beat back this multifaceted problem.

I don’t think the ‘stick’ is the way to go. What we need is a ‘carrot’ approach.
 Steven Flynn, Skytango CEO

I’ve worked in film and television for 30 years, and I’ve spent a lot of my time in edit suites making sure music, photos, location releases and talent releases were always in order before a show went to air, or I’d have the legal team on my back. So after a career of risk mitigation (for want of a better description) I never understood why, as a drone pilot, clients would expect me to rock up in the streets of Dublin City Center and launch my heavy lift drone without permissions from the local land authority as well as having ATC clearance.

It seemed obvious to me that if a broadcaster or video client would care about having the rights to use a music track or a stock photo in their piece for fear of litigation, they would care if the drone footage they were using was legally acquired too – right?

Well, they do now! Partly because they are more educated around drone use and partly because of changing laws around privacy and data protection. So – buyer beware! It is as important for you to think about the legality of the drone operation as it is for the pilot to be aware. It won’t be long before authorities chase after the demand to corral the supply.

Last year we approached several large stock libraries highlighting a problem we saw coming down the tracks and while they concurred that it would eventually be an issue – none were willing to leap into that space of certified drone footage, as it seemed a slow train, laden with uncertain regulation and lack of enforcement.

Pond5 were the first to acknowledge the need for certified aerial footage, amid rumblings of drone output being audited by authorities and the buyers of illegally acquired content facing fines (monitoring the demand to control the supply), they called us back and said they had begun to see a change in their customers’ needs. They wanted to offer aerial footage they knew was legally acquired (in other words that the pilot followed all the rules), and were willing to sell at a higher premium for that assurance. Why? Well, we’re back to my old edit suite friend – risk mitigation!  They partnered with DJI and took the step of promoting footage supplied by Part107 pilots.

The end user needs to be protected, especially if said end-user has deep corporate pockets if you catch my drift. No longer is it enough to fly your drone anytime, anywhere and sell those stunning aerials to anyone who’ll buy them or post them on social media channels (in many cases with illegal music)… you also want to prove that they were legally acquired.

Stick, Carrot, certified aerials, legal aerial footage, SkytangoI’ve traveled the world in the last 14 months speaking at drone conferences and events and everywhere I’ve listened to the same story from angry pilots who are still competing with illegal operators pushing rates down and making it hard to earn a living doing a highly skilled job in a regulated space.

‘DRM’, or ‘Digital Rights Management’ (the licensing of music, movies and images for broadcast across multiple channels) is needed in the drone asset space and it is what Skytango has been working toward since our inception. We’re not there yet, but we’re moving that way.

Incentives or ‘carrots’, like insurance breaks and hardware discounts is a step in the right direction. We have always believed that the best way to advance this industry is to offer incentives – where everyone benefits, rather than regulation and policing alone.

So, slowly I am seeing a sea change. Broadcasters and content buyers alike are becoming more and more educated about the process and complexity of flying drones. They are beginning to ask the right questions and are starting to see the inherent risks in using content that wasn’t legally obtained. Technology is advancing so fast that safety concerns around flying these machines are being addressed on a constant basis.

The bigger issue today is around Data Protection and Privacy. The approach of GDPR in Europe will make audit trails a necessity in this industry and I have no doubt the rest of the world will follow suit.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us and stayed with us on this journey.  We are here for the long haul and look forward to working with you in the future.

Steven Flynn
Licensed Drone Pilot, Skytango Founder & CEO

Steve Flynn is a multiple Emmy Award-winning Director of Photography, Director and Editor. He has worked with many major broadcast companies including PBS, CBS, HGTV, Discovery, BBC, RTE and even spent time working with Prince at Paisley Park. He has been a licensed drone pilot since 2013 and is the Founder and CEO of Skytango