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Water Today Title May 20, 2019

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Update 2019/4/20
Drones - Videography





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MAKING MOVIES WITH DRONES IN CANADA



By Gillian Ward


Tom Comet has his feet on solid ground while he shoots high-end aerial video for Hollywood film producers. DroneBoy, an Ontario company established in 2014 by Comet, has earned a reputation for getting the smooth shots, capturing sight lines to match up with the ground-based cameras. Water Today got in touch with DroneBoy to find out how drones are getting it done.

Comet, a licensed pilot and accomplished film videographer works with photographer business partner and half a dozen staffers to carry out their work with film industry clients. About half of the time, the client directs the sequence of shots, and the rest of the time, the DroneBoy crew works independently on the set. The challenge in drone assisted videography is that the operator of the remote-controlled camera needs to work in drill-team precision with the operator of the drone. Getting this right requires a lot of practise and great communication. DroneBoy seems to have it down pat.

Drones allow for a wider-angle perspective on the film production set, making possible some visual effects that would be very costly to shoot from a manned aircraft. Drones capable of carrying tens of thousands of dollars worth of camera gear are not easy to find. A lot of the flight equipment is custom designed and manufactured in-house at DroneBoy by the Aeronautical Equipment Engineer on staff.

Certifying the remote-controlled flight equipment requires paperwork; a lot of paperwork. Transport Canada requires drone manufacturers to certify that their products meet minimum safety specifications. Some drone manufacturers have been hesitant to make the effort to license their products for the relatively small Canadian market, especially specialized equipment that may sell a handful of units in a year. Permitting for commercial drone operators is another lengthy procedure, with eighty plus pages of documentation to obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). According to Comet, this effort put into the SFOC is not too onerous and goes a long way to ensure public safety. He says the level of diligence necessitated by the permit application really levels the field for commercial operators, as the safety measures are spelled out in detail.

As for the new rules being rolled out June 1, Comet feels that some ground has been lost in the area of credibility for drone companies. Seventy-plus technical and safety measures are listed in the SFOC. DroneBoy pilots and crew point to their SFOC when questioned by enforcement officers. With SFOC in hand, Comet confidently declares, "We are compliant, we are safe, we are legal, we do a safety briefing before every flight".

The rule changes coming June 1 make it easier for businesses that are new to using drones, as Transport Canada says, the changes open the space for innovation. After June 1, an enforcement officer checking up on anyone flying drones in the field will be satisfied to see a Basic RPAS operatorís license, and that is all there is to it.

In the five years that DroneBoy has been flying, many new requests are coming in for the company's services. DroneBoy is willing to take on any work that can be accomplished from their airborne platform, including assisting land developers and others with three-dimensional site mapping, gathering volumetrics data to accurately calculate the amount of aggregate in a quarry, inspecting the rigging on a tower and much more.

With the new licensing rules, the SFOC is still required for missions beyond line of sight, and those around developed residential areas. After June 1, the permitting process could take up to thirty days for approval. Comet says that many of his clients do not plan thirty days ahead, so this change is expected to be challenging to manage. For companies that specialize in performing one kind of operation, such as pipeline inspection, the change is not going to be much of an issue. For DroneBoy, with so many different projects on the go, filling out paperwork for Transport Canada is the new normal.

"In five years, the rules have changed a number of times. We have managed to stay ahead of it. DroneBoy is here for the long haul." As pioneers in drone work, Comet may even be helping Transport Canada to future-proof the Canadian drone scene. As regulations evolve and adapt with innovation, we could be seeing Uber drones delivering people around our cities. Are we ready?

gillian@watertoday.ca



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