We’ve all seen them, those tiny mechanical airplanes buzzing through the air taking photos and video from their cruising altitude of next to nothing at local parks, in neighborhoods and at other various places and events throughout the Temecula Valley. But what happens when something that was once the favored present under a fully decorated Christmas tree by little boys around the world evolves and becomes a high flying, precision instrument that even adults love?
Drones that were once considered super secret spy equipment used by the military to snoop on its enemies has now become a commonplace sight and businesses are sprouting up all throughout Southern California and the nation utilizing the technology to turn a profit.
Used for everything from photography and video to delivering packages, drones are quickly becoming the way of the future according to SKYPHOTOS Director of Operations and Co-founder Michael Loeschnig.
“The most enjoyable thing is seeing the technology grow each day,” he said. “Amazon and other companies are seeking drone deliveries. There are so many doors opening up for drone use and we try to emphasize on the positive things that drones are doing versus so much of the negative we hear in the news.”
Loeschnig said that it brings him joy to hear of stories where drones are being used in “humanitarian efforts, law enforcement and search and rescue missions.”
“There was a recent story of a San Diego man who was in the Otay Mountain area (near the Mexican border) who had brought his drone out to fly for recreation purposes. He happened to come across Border Patrol agents who were searching for an injured hiker,” Loeschnig said.” The man assisted Border Patrol agents with his drone (with camera attached and using a visual display screen) and was able to locate the injured hiker, saving a lot of man power and potentially many hours of searching by Border Patrol agents. These are stories that make us happy to hear. These are the stories that, unfortunately, don’t receive the credit they should. But it is a great example on the good things drones are capable of.”
Loeschnig is a veteran photographer and said SKYPHOTOS is a full service aerial photography company utilizing utilize a Piper Cherokee 180 airplane and MD 500 helicopter based out of French Valley Airport. The company also uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, to conduct their business.
Providing photography services such as event photography, time lapse photography, phase photos, and interior/exterior photography, using drones has allowed Loeschnig to work closely with commercial developers, luxury realtors, construction companies and special event organizers, to name a few.
“I have an eight-year background in photography,” he said, adding that his sister is a commercial pilot of a Piper Cherokee 180 at French Valley Airport. “A colleague of ours is a pilot of a MD 500 helicopter. We’ve been doing aerial photography for about six years with traditional aircraft. As drones have become more civilianized in the past couple of years, however, we decided to bring them onto our fleet and create SKYPHOTOS.”
Loeschnig isn’t the only one to get into the drone business. George Near is in the process of developing his UAV driven company, Drone 0-60, which will focus on different applications and uses of drone technology.
“Currently, I am exploring the areas of public safety, 3D mapping and special events,” he said. “Being able to view images from an aerial view is at times jaw dropping. I am not just taking pictures; I’ll be creating stunning 4k video.”
Near said that people are “thrilled” with how things look from a “Bird’s eye view.”
“I will be able to provide that thrill,” Near said.
Both men said the number one thing to be concerned with when operating drones, whether for business or pleasure is safety.
“The main thing with piloting an aerial craft is safety,” Near said. “Unless requested by First Responders, you should keep away from the immediate area. Stay away from airplanes and helicopters and keep five miles away from all airports. Finally, have an emergency landing location in mind in case you have to abort mission.”
Loeschnig agreed with Near’s assessment and added a few thoughts of his own.
“Our company’s number one priority is safety and I strongly believe that every drone operator, whether for commercial or recreational use, needs to make safety their number one priority as well. This means that you check weather, winds, your proximity to airports, military bases, etc,” he said.
One hot topic faced by drone operators at the moment is ongoing reports of drones interfering with firefighting operations, and that is something that Loeschnig said is not acceptable under any circumstances.
“There should be a zero tolerance rule and absolutely no flying during times while firefighting aircraft are at low altitudes,” he said. “I don’t think people realize sometimes that these drones can take down an aircraft very easily. I always refer to Capt. Sullenberger’s landing in the Hudson. A commercial airliner brought down by geese caught in the engine. A drone can very well do the same thing and it may not turn out so well like the Hudson.”
Neither man could list a downside to a drone driven business, but Loeschnig said geo-fencing, or technologies that are put in place by some drone companies to prevent a drone from thrusting upward past the FAA’s ceiling of 400 feet is something operators should be aware of.
“It’s sort of an ‘invisible wall’ safety measure,” Loeschnig said. “This is a good thing though, not a bad thing. If we need to get higher altitude photos above 400 feet, we’ll just take our plane or helicopter up instead.”
It’s not all fun and games for drone pilots though, said Loeschnig, Some projects require security clearance which can result in paperwork and other provisions.
“For instance, a big construction company, who is also a regular client of ours, has a warehouse that is currently under construction in Las Vegas,” he said. “It happens to be nearby a military base also, so we will need to get special clearance on using our drone to get photos at that particular location. So, our limitations vary from project to project, but there are proper ways to accomplish what needs to be done.”
According to Near, the bottom line for drone businesses is a simple one.
“The sky’s the limit with drone technology,” he said.
For more information on drone technology, requirements to obtain a license and drone dos and don’ts, visit www.faa.gov. For more information on SKYPHOTOS visit www.skyphotos.co and for more information on Drone 0-60 visit www.Drone0-60.com.