Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/kfinancial/public_html/wp-content/plugins/seo-internal-links/seo-links.php on line 112
Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/kfinancial/public_html/wp-content/plugins/seo-internal-links/seo-links.php on line 306
Notice: get_currentuserinfo is deprecated since version 4.5.0! Use wp_get_current_user() instead. in /home/kfinancial/public_html/wp-includes/functions.php on line 3853
Drones have captured the imaginations of fun-loving Southern Californians of all ages, and their utility goes far beyond recreation. They also make money.
Experts say operators are just beginning to scratch the surface of drones’ commercial potential.
In many cases, photography is involved. And it’s easy to see why, said John Goolsby, owner of Riverside-based Godfather Films and a wedding photographer who deploys drones to record dazzling video from dizzying heights.
“When you take a cruise, you always want a cabin with a view of the ocean. When you go to Vegas, you want a room at the top of the hotel. When you fly, you want a window seat,” Goolsby said.
In short, one can see so much more from up above, he said.
And around Southern California, operators are taking advantage of drones’ ability to do that for such diverse dollar-generating purposes as:
•Examining the health of agricultural crops
•Monitoring the progress of construction projects
•Documenting the installation of rooftop solar panels in order to claim federal tax credits
•Selling commercial, industrial and residential real estate
•Surveying electric wires, pipelines, railroad tracks, dams and canals for damage
•Making maps and movies
•Taking dazzling wedding photographs from a bird’s-eye view
•Enticing potential visitors to travel to tourist hot spots
•Recording sporting competitions and other special events
Of course, Amazon for some time has been exploring the idea of making aerial deliveries of packages that are ordered online. And this fall Google and the Chipotle Mexican restaurant chain are experimenting with burrito delivery, to the delight of hungry college students at Virginia Tech.
“I have never seen an industry change as fast as this one,” said Tim Baur, chief pilot for RadFlight, a drone- training business in Long Beach.
In short order, drones have revolutionized life in the U.S.
Not that abuses haven’t occurred. Since summer 2015, beginning with an alarming report in the San Bernardino Mountains, there have been numerous instances in which rogue drones have interfered with firefighting helicopters and planes, or nearly collided with airliners.
In response, lawmakers have introduced a flurry of drone legislation to rein in abusers.
So far, Gov. Jerry Brown has largely vetoed those efforts. Thursday he vetoed a bill to mandate geofencing technology that would automatically steer drones away from airports and fire zones.
But Brown did sign a bill by Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, to grant civil immunity to a first responder who destroys a drone while fighting fires, conducting a search-and-rescue mission or flying an injured person to a hospital.
CROSSING THE LINE
Nationally, the federal government has been under pressure for some time to establish an orderly process for getting permission to fly drones commercially – to make money. And on Aug. 29, the FAA began issuing drone-pilot licenses to commercial operators.
Already, about 14,000 people have applied to take the FAA’s drone pilot exam, and more than 5,000 have passed it.
Still, those numbers pale in comparison to the 550,000-plus drone operators who have registered as hobbyists under a system the FAA rolled out nine months ago.
“What’s most interesting is that you have so many registered as hobbyists and so few registered as commercial,” said Harrison Wolf, an aviation safety instructor at USC and drone consultant.
Wolf said he suspects many hobby operators are dabbling in commercial use, as the money-making line is easily crossed, and haven’t sought commercial licenses.
Scott Kressin was selling paintball equipment for a living and flying drones on the beach for fun when a lucrative opportunity came knocking.
That was three years ago. Kressin said he was filming surfers at the Wedge surf break in Newport Beach when he was approached by a real estate agent about taking aerial photography of luxury coastal homes.
“That’s how I scored my first gig,” Kressin said.
Now his Drone House Media firm shoots 200 to 250 dream-house properties annually. Most customers are real estate agents. Some are developers.
“We’ve even had architects hire us to gauge a view,” Kressin said. “We’ll take photos at certain heights just so they know how high they need to build, and what view they will achieve.”
DRONE VS. HELICOPTER
In San Bernardino, Walt Ferar also makes a living taking video of real estate.
In his case, the focus is commercial and industrial: shopping centers, office buildings and raw land on which someone is looking to build.
Ferar is a helicopter pilot and does a lot of work in a chopper. Ferar also designed and built a drone he calls “Gargoyle,” with which he offers clients a discounted alternative.
“My operating cost on the helicopter is $500 an hour,” he said. “And to fly the drone is essentially nothing. Other than a little bit of maintenance, there is no cost.”
Ferar said many of his jobs entail tracking the progress of construction projects from the air.
Goolsby deploys DJI Inspire 1 and Phantom 3 drones to produce wedding videos for his clients.
He said people typically remember 10 percent of special events such as weddings, and they have no idea what things look like from above.
“They spend a lot of time and money to make sure that the event is memorable,” Goolsby said. “I am the one who makes sure it really is.”
In Murrieta, Skyphotos co-founder Alex Ramirez has used drones to capture memorable events such as city birthday bashes and marathons.
Ramirez said he has also been hired to take photos of solar panels on rooftops. Homeowners use the photos as verification when they claim federal tax credits.
And a documentary generated a job for drone pilot Tim Baur of Long Beach. Baur said a few days ago he returned from Massachusetts after providing a bird’s-eye perspective for a documentary of a meditation center with an ornate pagoda.
In Los Angeles County, a company has found a drone niche in agriculture. The clients of Westlake Village-based FarmSolutions are farmers throughout California who want to remotely assess the health of their crops.
Firm owner Jon Tull said aerial photos of discolored leaves and fields of slow-growing plants hint of problems. But more than images are required to make a diagnosis. So Tull said his company uses computer software to analyze what the camera lens is seeing.
“From the air, from the farmer’s perspective, taking photographs without analysis is simply taking pretty pictures,” Tull said.
Baur said commercial uses for drones are limited only by operators’ imagination.
“Can you imagine a landing pad on everybody’s roof, where you get your groceries and your packages delivered?” Baur asked. “I can absolutely imagine that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.