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Aerial Services Video Marketing Video Production

My aerial videography and photography journey

Aerial Video flight
Greg arming the UAV for an aerial video mission.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, are a big trend these days. For once, I’m actually part of a trend. Without knowing it,  I’ve been moving towards aerial videography since I was a child. It allows me to combine the two defining passions of my life.

My father was a forest ranger in northern Alberta, so I grew up on the end of a runway. I have many fond memories of being allowed to go up in Bell 47s and the forestry’s Helio Courier.

I started flying radio-controlled aircraft in high school and still remember the simple six-channel radios used at that time. My best friend Gord and I would load up a couple of gliders and search for a slope from which to soar.

After high school, I studied aircraft maintenance at SAIT. Soon, I was working on light aircraft doing everything from regular maintenance to complete rebuilds. I was one of the few from my class that actually used the lessons learned about fabric covering.

In the 1980s Alberta’s economy took a downturn, and jobs in aircraft maintenance dwindled. For a while, I pursued my other love—capturing images. I started off selling cameras, but soon I was assisting a very talented commercial photographer who taught me many things about photography and advanced darkroom techniques. Later, I did audio visual shows with large banks of synchronized slide projectors. I loved the technical aspect and started a business creating slides for business presentations.

When that market was eliminated by computer programs like PowerPoint, I returned to aviation. I became an air traffic controller. I loved working in the Lethbridge tower. Every day I went to work and watched the planes. It was perfect. But then they moved me to the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) stream. There were no planes in sight and I was not happy.

In high school, I spent many hours in the machine shop making things. I decided to pursue a career as a machinist. Quickly, I became very good at what I did because I enjoy solving problems. I never took a production job because I knew that would kill me. Instead, I became a research and development machinist specializing in prototype work. I loved being inventive and designing things. I even made things for myself, such as a computer controlled camera mount for making virtual reality photographs, and a computer-controlled foam-cutting machine for production of radio-controlled aircraft wings. The computer-controlled foam-cutting machine was eventually purchased by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for use in their low-speed aerodynamics lab.

I was still playing with photography, and when digital video became affordable, I was in like a dirty shirt. Due to family reasons, a few years ago we started planning to move to the coast. My wife Debbie and I knew it was best to bring jobs with us, so I started making videos on the side. When we arrived on the coast, we launched Story in Focus video production.

It’s been a great journey so far and we’ve decided to take it one step further. Before moving to the coast, I started building unmanned aerial vehicles. I now have two that are ready to fly. We obtained our first Special Flight Operations Certificates a few weeks ago and have several others planned for the near future.

I have found a way to combine my love of flying radio control, knowledge of how things work, aviation safety knowledge, and film skills in one package. I am doing what I was made to do and I am loving it.

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Aerial Services

“Drone” safety considerations

Drone-UAS over Birds Eye Cove Farm
A drone flight over Birds Eye Cove Farm.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), better known as drones, require special safety considerations. Recently, The Province published a great article: The buzz on drones: Operators need to know how to fly them safely.

Story in Focus recently went through the process of obtaining a Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada. It isn’t easy. Transport Canada requires manuals that detail safety, roles, operation and maintenance of each UAS the company intends to use. But it is more than a paperwork exercise. By carefully documenting our procedures, we were able to ensure that safety will be maintained throughout our operation. My background in air traffic control and aircraft maintenance came in useful when preparing the manuals, so did my partner’s technical writing skills.

In addition to manuals, Transport Canada also requires operators to carry liability insurance. Story in Focus carries $2M. We will continue to do our best to ensure that nothing goes wrong, but if it does we have coverage.

Companies wanting to employ the services of a UAS operator should ensure their contractor is properly certified and insured. It is not legal for a company to sell UAS services without a SFOC from Transport Canada. Fines from Transport Canada range from $10,000.00 to $25,000.00. The UAS operator must also be properly insured; otherwise, if an incident happens, your company may be at risk.

The UAS industry is in its infancy and every day there are new uses for this technology. It’s not just for aerial photography. Farmers can use near infrared images to evaluate the health of their crops. Inspections of mining, construction and lumbering sites can be completed at a lower cost and more safely. In an afternoon, a UAS can gather all the information required to calculate the volume of mining stockpiles.

Infrared cameras can show heat loss from roofs or find a lost child in the woods. Images taken by using a UAS can be used to generate 3D models. This enables architects to design buildings in harmony with their surroundings while saving excavation expenses and minimizing environmental impact. These are just a few examples of what can be done. I’m sure you can think of others.

Using a UAS can save money, as long as it is used in a safe manner. That is the purpose of the SFOC process. Obtaining a SFOC helps ensure safety is in the forefront. If you ever want to explore the ways in which a UAS operator could help your company, please give me a call.

The video posted with this blog was a test of a new camera mount.

Greg Nuspel (250-510-7971)