UNICEF is seeking drone companies to deliver urgently needed medical supplies within the remote island nation of Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is composed of an archipelago of 83 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, covering a total area of approximately 994 miles. Of those islands 65 are inhabited, but only 20 have roads and airports—and on those 20 islands, the road conditions are often bad, with the roads frequently flooded or washed away.
Due to its remote location and underdeveloped infrastructure, delivering vaccines and other medical supplies to the people living on the islands of Vanuatu can be incredibly difficult. Teams are usually deployed to walk on foot between villages, carrying temperature-sensitive vaccines and equipment, but if the temperature climbs these vaccines can quickly degrade and become useless.
Similar delivery challenges contribute to a general lack of supplies at medical facilities in Vanuatu, which means that even if people can get to a larger town for medical help there’s no guarantee the supplies needed will be on hand.
And of course, this is where drone deliveries come in—as you might already know, UNICEF is not new to drone medical deliveries. Last year they partnered with Zipline to create the first air corridor in Africa, which helped enable Zipline to deliver over 7,000 units of blood within the country of Rwanda.
Through its UNICEF Innovation division, UNICEF has been working with governments and corporate sponsors around the world to find places where drones can be used for good, implementing them for humanitarian and developmental missions. Their website has a page devoted to drones, highlighting the power drones present for use in “humanitarian and development affairs by their potential for imagery, connectivity, and transportation.”
Drone delivery of life-saving vaccines has the potential to be an absolute game changer, not only for helping people who live in remote and extremely inaccessible locations, but in addressing consequent disparities in access to health services.
– Felicity Weaver, Director of Programs at UNICEF Australia
Want to get a feel for Vanuatu? Check out this aerial video shot there with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro:
According to the Request for Tender (RFT) posted on the UNICEF website, they are looking for companies “to provide the logistical services to deliver vaccines via drones for the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Vanuatu.” The deadline to apply is June 20, 2018.
Here is the UNICEF Request for Tender:
MoH, in assessment with UNICEF, is exploring the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, as a quick, reliable, and effective mode of transportation to deliver vaccines from main health facilities to dispensaries, aid post, and mobile vaccination teams. It also includes maintaining the cargo temperature between 2 and 8 Celsius degrees -to ensure the cold chain is not interrupted and the vaccines are delivered in optimal condition.
The primary objective of the project is to test the technical feasibility and economical sustainability of including this new mode of transportation into the existing Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) as a last-mile delivery resource. To achieve this objective, Ministry of Health is seeking to contract up to three service contractors through a government procurement process. Three (3) Request for Tender (RFT) processes for physical services, for Pentecost, Epi & Shephedrs, and Erromago islands respectively, have been officially issued (download a .pdf version of each RFT process below).
The RFTs are not mutually exclusive and, if individuals or companies opt to apply, may result in them being contracted to provide services for a maximum of two of them.
According to the study a little over 900 fire, police, and emergency agencies currently own and use drones in their operations, with California, Texas, and Wisconsin at the lead when it comes to adoption.
At least 347 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency units in the U.S. have acquired drones.
Local law enforcement departments lead public safety drone acquisitions.
Consumer drones are more common among public safety units than specialized professional drones.
Last year, during some of the worst fires the Los Angeles area has seen, the L.A. Fire Department received a lot of publicity when they launched their drone program. High profile drone programs like the LAFD’s have certainly contributed to the increase in drone adoption in other public agencies, as have improvements in technology, with corresponding decreases in pricing.
The drone will fly over, locate hotspots, and then we’ll dispatch our firefighters to get final extinguishment in that area. We’re very, very proud of that new technology.
– Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas
In addition to high profile programs like the LAFD’s, another factor driving drone adoption in public agencies is the positive news coverage of drones we’ve seen over the last year, including stories highlighting ways that drones can help during and after disasters. During Hurricane Harvey in Houston and surrounding areas, drones were used to help find and rescue people and to assess damage, and following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico drones were used to help re-establish cell phone and internet coverage.
Check out this video from ABC News highlighting the ways drones helped first responders during Hurricane Harvey:
One of the key values of having a drone during a crisis is being able to obtain crucial information to inform response efforts.
With this new environment we’re in with active shooters and mass shooters, you can be all over a school campus and see everyone who’s running out.
– Grady Judd, Sheriff of Polk County, FL
Fire departments can also use information collected by drone to guide their efforts while fighting an active fire, or to locate people trapped within a burning structure who need to be removed.
With so much adoption over the last year and a half—more than double since the end of 2016, according to the study—we may be reaching a tipping point. Before too long, it could be that those public agencies without drones will be the ones in the minority.
For a while now Ryan has been filling us in on the growth of his company and his list of impressive projects. We wanted to sit down and learn more about how he’s found drone work in the entertainment industry, and what that work looks like.
You’ve done a lot of work in the film industry. How did you get your first job, and how have you grown your career in aerial cinematography?
The importance of networking can’t be understated.
To get my first job, a fellow drone pilot I know recommended me to the director for a pro bono gig. It turned out to be aerial videography for a Stevie Kalinich music video in Burbank, California.
Not only did I shoot the aerial shots, but the director ended up using me as an extra in several of the scenes. During down time on set, I found myself chatting with an older gentleman who turned out to be Stephen Kalinich himself.
Kalinich is a long-time collaborator and friend of the Beach Boys, and co-wrote several of their famous songs—so I had my brush with one of the greatest spoken word artists of all time, and made more valuable contacts at the same time!
Here is the Stephen Kalinich music video Ryan is talking about above
As for the second part of your question, I believe the key to getting a potential client’s attention and being selected for opportunities like this is having a solid demo video cut together. It must showcase your best footage and skillfully executed work.
Another tip for growing your client base is to invest in a quality business card. In this profession, image is everything. Integrate a couple of your own aerial still photos on the front and back of your card, order a lot of them, and keep them on you at all times because you never know who you may meet.
I’ve actually met and worked with quite a few Uber drivers who are either friends with people or personally happen to work in the film industry. A consistent sales effort is important—cold calls, blind emails, networking, and pro-bono work to get to know all of those contacts!
You have to pitch yourself and your services. Let people you talk to know you’re on the cutting edge when it comes to your equipment, that you are commercially licensed under the FAA’s Part 107 rules, and add a few words about what you have specifically accomplished in the industry. The more people know about your operations and how you differentiate yourself from the competition, the more likely a potential client will use you for a project.
I recommend waiting a couple weeks to a month or so after a job and then calling to inquire if they have any further aerial videography needs. There are lots of other people eager to do this kind of work, so letting them know you’d like to do more work together is always a good idea.
Once you gain trust by proving yourself on set, the word will spread naturally, and clients will start calling you instead of the other way around.
What has been one of your favorite shoots, and why?
I find that many private shoots for clients, such as weddings and real estate, can be a lot of fun.
I really like that I get personally directing shots as well. What I’ve come to find is that using your own intuition and feeling out a shot yourself is best—after all, you’re the professional pilot. I’ve even had certain directors tell their DP (Director of Photography) to go back to their car and let us (i.e., the drone pilots on set) work out our aerial shots.
Occasionally, directors don’t understand the potential you can obtain with a UAV. Sure, a drone can do the work of a camera on crane or boom . . . but a flying boom is even better! Some of my favorite shoots may be either by myself or with my friends and family in beautiful new locations. I’ve done music videos, real estate, mapping, feature film, TV, commercials, weddings, concerts, private events…and each one of them has made me smile or surprised me how fun and cooperative everyone is. You always learn something new working with different companies and people.
What’s something about working in the film industry as a pilot that you’ve found surprising, and didn’t know before you started the work?
How hard it is to run your own company!
Getting the commercial license, insurance, knowledge of airspace, and proper training can take you only so far. Unless you’re ready to file quarterly taxes, give out employee tax paperwork and stay up to date with the latest business requirements, you may want to think about working for a company that needs drone operators.
Ryan’s charging stations—just one piece of the puzzle that is running your own drone business
Hollywood can be a cutthroat industry with a lot of people trying to take advantage of what you have to offer. Don’t let anyone infringe on your skillset and time. Stay adamant yet realistic about your clients expectations along with your own.
To those trying to break into doing aerial cinematography for movies, what advice can you give them?
Pro-bono work is actually something that will almost always solidify future work with that client.
They want to see what you’re made of, and that you can accomplish what they need. Most likely after that, you will be paid on the next film or project. With pro bono, I always let my clients know what it typically would have cost depending on their need.
If you don’t think you can run a company entirely by yourself, it may be a good idea to take some film classes and join a film union like I.A.T.S.E. You have to keep swimming upstream no matter the setbacks, as your own Alan Perlman once told me.
Even if you feel your workload is stagnant or you hit a roadblock—if you feel that you aren’t going to make it, that is what will happen. Staying positive isn’t always easy, so you have to keep your head up. Make sure that you showcase your work on as many social media outlets as you can. Take classes on UAVCoach, research anything that you want to learn on YouTube, take a business class at a local university and keep it going!
Tell us about your background. How did you first get involved with aerial cinematography?
Prior to owning a company, I really enjoyed flying and recording aerial videography for my own enjoyment.
I then started realizing that the end product could be worth something when put together and edited. I have always had a passion for cinematography and editing since I was a kid.
My father owned his own production company that I had the opportunity to learn from. My high school had a TV production class, and my friends and I got our own local TV slot (Wayne’s World, anyone?). After one assignment for school filming and scripting my own music video and cutting it together in the studio, I was later awarded the Platinum Award for that category out of many hundreds of schools competing in Illinois.
Later in life, after learning to fly, I got more into filming events by asking staff and coordinators at local outdoor venues if it was OK for me to fly if I provide them the footage as well, and that attracted some positive attention. The next thing I knew I was filming for a band that was performing at the event we were all at. They wanted me to do more work for them and obtain unique shots using both ground, handheld and aerial cameras. They loved the footage so much, and I then started up SkyFly Cinematics…and met more and more people. I now do beta testing for numerous drone companies in my spare time. When people see your passion, skill and previous work…doors will certainly open for you!
Tell us about the work you did for the T.V. show Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe—I know you did an FPV shot of a motorcycle chase. What was it like to shoot that?
When I was hired to shoot an aerial motorcycle chase scenes for Ninjak I had no idea it would have CGI special effects added in post-production.
The stunt double for Ninjak had a really cool motorcycle and everyone was a pleasure to work with. We did a number of takes to make sure we got it down perfect. I was told that my drone would basically be used as the first person view (FPV) of the flying superhero chasing him, and that there would be explosions added later. I immediately knew this would be a fun project!
Shots from the motorcycle chase before and after CGI was added
It was a hot and sunny day, so I had to use the hood to see my iPad—because of the brightness I used an ND16 filter with polarizer.
It was initially a challenge to wait for his motorcycle to enter the shot and continue to keep up with him, so I flew in sport mode in some shots making sure to keep the props out of the frame.
There were lots of roadside curves, with shrubs sticking out just asking to be flown into. We were shooting in the Angeles National Mountains—the spot they originally wanted was inside a National Park and thus a NFZ (no fly zone).
But we were able to quickly look at a sectional chart and also Google Earth, and find a suitable area that the director liked. I always come early to a shoot so I can scout the area, get the bird up in the sky and test out what settings and gear works best beforehand.
Ryan (left), the stuntman (center), and visual observer / friend Rio Scott (right)
Tell us about your gear. What drone(s) do you fly, what cameras do you use, and do you recommend any other accessories?
On a normal day, I make it a point to fly regardless if I have to work that day. Keeping your hand / eye coordination strong is important, so zipping around the block with small drones like a Hubsan or indoors with even smaller nano drones is a great practice.
Most of the shoots I do require one of my Phantom 4 Pro units. I like that it has some weight to it compared to the Mavic series, as it seems to hold up in high winds much better with less “jello” effects. Certain clients require me to fly an Inspire, and others want even bigger and badder machinery, like a Matrice or Spreading Wings.
Using the right filters is important as well. I use PolarPro as they are quality and they have great customer service. (Shoutout to Jeff Overall for the free gear over the years!)
A shot of Ryan’s filters that he shared with us
If I am not doing aerial shots for a client, I find that my OSMO X5R does an exceptional job for steady shooting. At 24fps and in full 4K, the footage always turns out brilliant. I can maneuver between people and obstacles with ease, making the footage look very clean and impressive.
I like to use the external battery adapter with a Phantom 4 battery, as the little ones that go inside the handle run out far too quickly.
And don’t forget that a GoPro can sometimes do what other cameras cannot. I have done quite a bit of beta testing for the company, and have helped them develop and design various mounts (and occasionally firmware). So, what camera I use really depends on what I need to accomplish for the client or my own personal work.
What are your predictions for aerial cinematography, and the drone industry in general? Please feel free to answer at length (what you see way down the road, what you see for next year, where you see regulations headed in the U.S. and abroad, new applications, etc.).
Currently, airspace regulations don’t make getting approval to fly very easy, even with commercial certification.
There are far too many cities that may appear to be class G airspace but have their own local ordinances. Many require you to pay a yearly fee and use a big dumb sticker on your drone when flying there.
Hermosa Beach here in California is a perfect example of that. I’ve had a few instances where lifeguards and/or police have been quick to interrupt a commercial shoot. Many times, they will be cool and perhaps even interested in how the UAV operates, but other times, you will find that they believe their local authority outweighs your federally issued commercial license.
It’s important not to make them feel like you aren’t cooperating, so explaining and showing them a sectional chart is helpful. Even then, I’ve had police threaten to arrest me. Just make sure to hold your ground until a superior comes along with the correct knowledge. Then you can go about your shoot without interruption.
I believe as the UAV industry continues to expand, people will come to understand that we are pilots navigating in shared airspace. One good thing to practice is calling ATC and getting used to asking for permission to fly on a certain day, at a certain altitude and location.
Even after obtaining permission to fly in, lets say Class D airspace . . . you then have to wait on DJI for a number of days before they will give you the “code” to deactivate the GEO zone you will be flying in. I hope to see that become more simplified, because it’s a real hassle.
On a separate note, I am very interested to see how automated drone delivery like what Amazon is working on will affect our ability to get flight authorization when you consider how many UAV’s will be cruising around the skies.
It’s an exciting age to be living in, and definitely a lucrative and awesome industry to be working in!
Check out this promo poster for Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe:
Sahand reached out again recently to fill us in on a new DR1 project—in partnership with Dell, DR1 has built the first ever audience controlled racetrack for drone racing.
Audience members can move triangular “gates”up and down in this interactive racetrack
Last year DR1 partnered with Dell to do a drone racing showcase at the annual Dell Technologies Worldwide conference. The installation allowed conference attendees to learn more about drones and drone racing by watching live races, interacting with drone racing simulators, and actually flying themselves.
This year, when Dell asked DR1 to return to their annual conference, DR1 decided to raise the bar when it came to audience engagement.
The result was an interactive, audience controlled racetrack that uses IOT (Internet Of Things) technology to connect audience members with parts of the course, and was on display for the first time ever last week at the Dell Technologies Worldwide 2018 conference in Las Vegas, NV.
This is the first time ever where a racing league has created a race track that allows the audience to participate and influence the outcome of the race.
– Sahand Barati, VP at DR1 Racing
What does it mean for the audience to control the track? Literally that people watching live can interact with parts of the course, and either help or hurt the performance of a particular pilot.
Watch the clip below to see the idea in action—we’ve set the video up to start right when drone pilot Alex Vanover begins explaining how audience members can activate a Dyson fan to give a racing pilot’s drone a boost, or can move elements of the track to trip pilots up.
But why, you might wonder, would you want the audience to get involved like this?
Sahand told us that audience participation is a key factor in getting people more interested and engaged in drone racing, and helping to boost the popularity of this fairly new sport even further.
And there is a legacy to this kind of audience involvement in racing events. Formula E, an auto racing organization that features only electric-powered cars, has a feature in their races that allows fans to vote and thereby unlock a certain amount of battery life within the car they vote on, giving the car an extra boost.
In addition to auto racing, this kind of direct engagement with races through voting and other actions has also been used in eSports, and presents an attractive way for people to get excited about watching races because they’re also, in some ways, taking part in them.
People engaging with DR1’s racetrack at Dell’s annual conference
Right now DR1 is gearing up for their second DHL Championship Series, and it’s shaping up to be an amazing season. They’ve announced races at locations around the world, including places like Slovenia, Croatia, and France, and Germany.
We’re looking forward to seeing some of the footage from these spots—if the first Championship Series was any indicator, this second one is sure to produce some stunning footage, not to mention world class FPV racing.
There’s a new on-demand drone insurance company in town.
SkyWatch.AI has been making headlines recently for their low rates, which they’re able to achieve through a combination of Artificial Intelligence and their proprietary Safety Score.
SkyWatch.AI uses algorithms based on A.I. to analyze the potential risk for a given drone mission by factoring in potential hazards such as weather conditions, the proximity of roads, No Fly Zones, airports, and crowds. The outcome of weighing these risks helps set the cost for each individual mission a pilot flies—low risk missions get lower rates, and those rates in turn incentivize pilots to weigh situational risks when planning their missions.
They also have a Safety Score that they give to drone pilots using their app. Safer pilots get lower rates, which helps encourage safe flying. The software works by collecting data on a pilot’s flights and analyzing it for safety criteria. After a pilot has flown at least five missions using the SkyWatch.AI app, enough data has been collected for the pilot to be assigned a Safety Score and start receiving reduced insurance rates based on that score (assuming the score is low, of course).
How Does the SkyWatch.AI App Work?
The SkyWatch.AI app isn’t just for drone insurance. It also allows pilots to plan their flights, as well as providing insights into potential hazards in their flight path mid-flight.
While flying pilots can choose to use the SkyWatch.AI Flight Module, which is fully compatible with DJI and many other drones, to get real-time warnings and a post-ﬂight analysis. The Flight Module also provides SkyWatch’s unique Safety Score, which you’ll probably want to take advantage of if you’re using their app—this is how you get those steep discounts on insurance we were talking about.
SkyWatch.AI provides an ingenious, holistic solution for the safety and insurance needs of the drone industry. While traditional insurers offer a “one-size-fits-all” product, we provide a tailor-made solution that is much more adequate to the risk itself.
– Tomer Kashi, CEO of SkyWatch.AI
Here’s a breakdown of what the app provides:
Pre-flight, the app helps pilots asses potential risks by revealing hazards like crowds, roads, airports, No Fly Zones, and other possible obstacles to the flight.
Mid-ﬂight, the Flight Module sends real-time warnings to help pilots fly, including messages for critical scenarios such as when you’re approaching a road, an airport, or when your battery is running low.
Post-ﬂight, the app allows you to view and analyze your mission to gauge it for safety, as well as giving you your safety score.
Want some tips on how to keep your Safety Score low? Here are factors that can help you get a low score:
Don’t fly over dense roads, in No Fly Zones, or in other prohibited / restricted areas
Don’t fly too far away (unfortunately we don’t have specific measurements for what “too far” means, but as long as you have a strong visual line of sight with your drone you should probably be OK)
Don’t fly at low altitudes, where there’s a higher risk for crashing into trees, power lines, or buildings
Do repeat flight plans in the same area
Do fly a newer drone (according to SkyWatch.AI, newer drone models like the Phantom 4, Mavic Air and Inspire 2 are safer due to advanced sense and avoidance features)
SkyWatch.AI offers full customization for their on-demand insurance, with liability coverage of up to $10 million dollars.
If you already use DroneDeploy as your flights ops management tool you can sync your flight history from DroneDeploy to the SkyWatch.AI app to receive a Safety Score analysis and get insurance discounts—check out this guide for more information on how to sync the two accounts.