Each week at InterDrone, we sit down with a member of our esteemed speaking faculty to talk about drones and preview their upcoming session at InterDrone Online. This week, we sat down with Skip Fredricks, Drone Cinematographer, Instructor, and Founder of Hollywood Drones, the Director of Drone Aeronautical Studies for the Unmanned Vehicle University in California, and a Drone Flight Instructor at LATTC (Los Angeles Tech College) and Grossmont College in San Diego.
Read our conversation below!
1. For those who may not already be familiar with your work, can you give us a brief overview of what you do within drones and UAS, and how you got started in the drone industry?
I am a Drone Cinematographer and Instructor. I teach at 2 Public Universities in Southern California, and also for the Unmanned Vehicle University in Phoenix. My Drone video production work ranges from TV Shows, TV Commercials, Concerts, and Events to Commercial Real-Estate promotions.
As an Instructor, I have created my own curriculum of 25, 50, and 110 hour courses. They include basic flight to advanced cinematography, zero-emission energy inspection, and security. I have graduated over 450 students in the last three years.
My youngest student was 18 and the oldest was 82 years old. 40% have been women. 99% of my students have passed their 107.
2. What are your thoughts about the commercial drone industry and where do you feel photography and cinematography fit in?
Photography, Cinematography, and the hobby/consumer/prosumer created the drone industry, and still fuel the fire of those getting into the industry. So looking at how cinematography fits in, well I am actually kind of disappointed that the “Commercial Industry” (seminars, some trade shows) and other drone-centered media never seems to include Comercial Drone Cinematography as a professional drone vertical.
Yet every realtor, real estate developer, and construction company use commercial drone photographers to create videos and photos of their properties. Every local car company that produces a car commercial for their local TV station has hired a drone pilot to take the videos for their TV commercials. Almost all professional wedding photographers have added a drone pilot. Finally.
If you watch any Television at all, practically every TV show, movie, or TV Commercial now has extensive drone shots in it. Think about it, how many drones have been sold to spray cornfields, and how many have been sold to take pictures and shoot videos?
3. What excites you the most about being involved in the commercial drone industry?
The friends I have made, the opportunities that I have had, and the excitement of being at the tip of the spear of a technology that will change the world. It has changed and expanded MY world, all while completely and totally doing what I love and having a blast. Sharing my knowledge and passion with my students and watching them learn and grow in this industry makes me proud.
4. What advice do you have for hobbyists who may want to go professional?
Practice, Practice, Practice!! And don’t just go out and fly around in circles. Instead, go fly basic flight patterns till your fingers fall off: forward /backward, left /right, and fly straight and true. Practice taking pictures and practice taking videos. Don’t do a standard website, but instead do a portfolio site. You are selling yourself as a pilot who takes pics and videos, so that is what you need to show.
Market yourself old school. For example, if you want to do real-estate photography then make a flyer, use really good paper, and put your best couple of pictures on it. Then hand-deliver it to each and every real estate broker in your town.
Volunteer to provide video and pictures for any charity event you can in your town. And finally, don’t expect anything to happen overnight, but have a plan to build up your name, your work and your brand over a period of a year. Last but not least, separate flying hobby time from work time.
5. As a college drone flight instructor, how has COVID-19 shaped the industry?
Dramatically, like it has all education. Fortunately for us, a significant amount of drone education is done outside. However classroom instruction is just as important, as you need a classroom to teach flight theory, cinematography techniques, pre-flight lessons, and post-flight debriefs, and of course to teach the 107. Enter Zoom.
But first, I had gone to dozens of Zoom lessons, most were PowerPoints that I struggled not to fall asleep in. How the heck do you keep college students engaged and learning? Well, leaning on my broadcast experience, I created classes and courses that played like a Live TV Broadcast.
I started using videos, music, animations, and even live flight demos pumped into my computer via a live switcher. My campus Grossmont College in San Diego approved the course with Strict Covid guidelines. So as to how it worked, it was actually better.
These new student pilots are getting more information in a fun way with better teaching materials, and are able to see live video demonstrations that I was not able to do in the classroom previously. So for me, Covid has forced me to create a new way of teaching which has actually become an improvement on the old way.
Hear Skip speak, and meet him virtually, at InterDrone Online, December 15-17!