Douglas is the Managing Producer for Sundance Media Group, Inc. and VASST, and serves as a trainer and consultant for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is one of the most respected voices in the drone space with a reputation for top-notch training and no nonsense lessons plans. He is a seasoned veteran in the art of drone cinematography but his most recent work educating members of the public safety sector on safe and effective drone integration has established him as pillar of the drone community at large. We asked Douglas some questions about the state of the commercial drone industry and here is what he had to say:
InterDrone: How did you get into the commercial drone space?
Douglas: We found ourselves in the Commercial drone space when I took over the Commercial UAS business component of a professional video company in Toronto back in 2013. We have been commercially operating UAS beginning in 2011, as part of the SMG training endeavors, and subsequent film work following our successful training events at the National Association of Broadcasters. When we left the video reseller in Toronto, we came to Las Vegas to operate the Drones Plus stores, where we became one of the first resellers of commercial UAS systems.
What are your thoughts on its development so far? (Whether it be technologically, legally, or use cases.)
The industry is developing slowly for a variety of reasons, the largest likely being the slow development of infrastructure at the regulatory level, and the FUD centered around UAS through media and government. The simple fact that the FAA is not enforcing nor supporting their own regulations in most parts of the country has also been a hindrance, based on conversations with various government agencies.
Technology is far outpacing adoption. In some areas, we are rapidly in a race to the bottom for value/features as hardware becomes more competitive. However, other components of the industry are striving for technological excellence as software becomes more open, and organizations such as DroneCode and others lead our industry towards beneficial standards. We see law enforcement, insurance, and construction all rapidly adopting UAS due to the cost, speed, and quality of output from developers such as Pix4D, DroneDeploy, Agisoft, Intel Insight, and others.
What do you envision the commercial drone space to look like a year from now? 5?
We expect the industry to have a rapid adoption rate in the next 12 months within specific verticals. Additionally, it’s expected that larger organizations will shun the DSP/FSP model in favor of the in-house expert who already understands the vertical requirements and the UAS becomes an extension of the IT department as an input device, vs. an expert pilot who can capture the data for the organization to manipulate.
If you had one “wish list” item to have in/happen to the industry today, what would it be?
Requisite practical training.
The FAA requires anyone over the age of 16 to take an exceptionally simple, written test without any demonstration of pragmatic skill. Without a practical flight examination, the certificate is essentially meaningless to the discussion of safety and ability. There are few organizations that demand demonstrable skills vs a new RPC holder. Simply possessing the RPC doesn’t reduce corporate or municipal liability and limits the opportunity to have a safe program. Passing a 107 examination, particularly through the commonplace “memorize the answers” courses, leaves pilots not understanding Threat and Error Management (TEM) or understanding industry standards both aviation and UAS. We have over 110 years of aviation experience from which to draw, yet the vast majority of the industry have ignored opportunities to learn from them, opportunities that are transferrable practices into safe operation of UAS. In order to win over the general public, we must see safe practices and enforced consequences to those who would act without safety at the fore.
You’ll be speaking at InterDrone this year. What is your topic? And aside from teaching all the attendees, what else are you most looking forward to at the show.
I’ll be participating in multiple topics, one of which is my passion of UAS for Video Production. I’ll also be the leading instructor on the new Sundance Media Group Night Flight course partnered with InterDrone. Last and certainly not least, working closely at the show with the Public Safety segment is exceptionally fulfilling. What I’m most looking forward to is the interaction with peers, learning new technology and techniques from developers, manufacturers, and Commercial pilots who have dedicated their efforts to excellence. That’s what InterDrone means to me; an endeavor in excellence.