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A Tale Of Two UAS Stories

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at what went into creating feature stories on Intel, Flying-Cam and SkySkopes for the upcoming third quarter issue of UAS Magazine.
By Patrick C. Miller | August 04, 2016

As our editorial team wraps up work on the third quarter issue of UAS Magazine—out later this month—I’m struck by the great diversity of stories in the publication. Editor Luke Geiver has a feature article on why Intel is getting involved in the UAS industry and a story about SkySkopes, a local UAS startup success right in our backyard in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Given the fact that a few years ago, there weren’t many small UAS businesses in our region, Luke and I took an interest in SkySkopes. Company CEO Matt Dunlevy was always more than willing to let us tag along while SkySkopes sought to carve out a niche in the unmanned aircraft business. We had front-row seats as SkySkopes took on new projects, added more employees and introduced new UAS capabilities. It’s not often that journalists receive this type of access for so long.

Earlier this year, SkySkopes held its second annual picnic at a local park. A professor from the University of North Dakota’s business school remarked that in the world of small business, celebrating “a second annual anything” is a significant accomplishment. With more small UAS businesses likely to launch following the release of the FAA’s Part 107, it became time to tell the story of how one of them—SkySkopes—not only survived, but has also firmly established itself in the UAS industry.

As for me, when I started writing for UAS Magazine a little more than two years ago, I never envisioned writing a feature story that included Cold War leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Francois Mitterrand with Hollywood actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Tom Cruise. That’s part of my upcoming article about Flying-Cam and its founder, Emmanuel Prévinaire. It tells how a Belgian teenager’s dream of combining cameras and unmanned aircraft back in the 1970s launched an Academy Award-winning UAS cinematography company known around the world. It’s worth reading just to learn about Flying-Cam’s history-making UAS flight to capture images of the most famous landmarks in Paris.

This was another story nearly two years in the making. In the fall of 2014, the FAA granted the first six Section 333 exemptions to a small group of UAS videographers and cinematographers in the U.S. My first magazine feature was about this development and what it meant to those companies. A short time later, Flying-Cam became the seventh company to receive an FAA exemption. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in time to make our publishing deadline.

In doing research on the company, I learned Flying-Cam had won two Oscars from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one in 1995 and another in 2014. I also discovered how Prévinaire’s pioneering work in using UAS for cinematography had taken the company to the top of the moviemaking world internationally. This was a story that had to be told.

However, setting up an interview with Prévinaire was not easy. Flying-Cam has offices on three different continents—Europe, Asia and North America—and the company’s work on movies and documentaries means that he travels all over the world. In May 2015, I managed to meet Prévinaire in Atlanta at AUVSI’s conference to discuss Flying-Cam’s expansion into other parts of the UAS industry. Seven month later, I finally interviewed him via Skype for the feature story I’d planned. We talked for an hour and a half about the highs and lows Prévinaire experienced as he dealt with technical issues and movie producers who viewed drones as toys for hobbyists.

With the interview in hand, it then became a question of timing. What issue of UAS Magazine would best lend itself to this story? It took another half year to determine that the content planned for our third quarter issue would work for the Flying-Cam feature. Thus, later this month, our readers can learn how SkySkopes—a relative newcomer to the UAS industry—has flourished as a startup and how Flying-Cam overcame hurdles and paved the way for UAS to become an important part of the moviemaking industry. We hope you’ll agree that both stories were well worth the wait.