If you’re involved in any aspect of the drone industry, chances are you’ve encountered Vic Moss either online or met him at one of the many conferences where he’s served as a panelist. He’s an admin for the popular Commercial sUAS Remote Pilots group and an educator with Drone U, a leading educational resource.
Moss is a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Drone Advisory Committee (Task Force 3, to be precise) and also runs his own successful aerial photography business. I”M lucky to call him a friend and had the chance to discover how he got started with drones plus his thoughts on the FAA’s latest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Remote ID.
You’ve been a professional photographer for over 30 years. What got you interested in drones?
I had a general contractor client who paid a guy with a plane $250 to fly their projects each month. The guy gave them 4 8×10 digital prints. But he obviously have severe AGL limitations. I started seeing some folks post drone photos in some of the online groups I decided I could offer the same thing and give them better quality photos. The costs savings was certainly there.
So originally all I wanted to do was fly aerial progressions for one of my client with the hope of doing the same thing for other general contractors. These were simply flying cameras. I started out with a DJI Phantom 2 with a GoPro 3. I ended that year (2014) with 2 Phantom 2 drones, my original GoPro 3, and two modified GoPro HERO 4 camera with long lenses. I actually still have one of the P2s, and all three cameras.
What advice would you give someone looking to start or grow their drone services business?
Do it. As of January 1 of this year, there are 160,301 registered Remote Pilots. Many say the the market is saturated, and they are right. But that doesn’t? mean there isn”T room for someone able and willing to go after a dream. And this job is a dream. Especially if you are already knowledgeable in one of the verticals drones are used in. If you already know GIS, video, photography, cartography, inspections, or any of the other fields that use drones, utilize that knowledge and incorporate drones into that field.
There are two schools of thought on being a Remote Pilot. One is specialize, and one is be well-rounded. I”M in the specialized school of thought camp. But if you can gain knowledge in more than one field, you”Ll have more options opportunity for work. I”M a photographer that’s all I ever wanted to do. I love my job. But since starting to fly drones, I’ve also incorporated video and some (very little) mapping into my business. I”M still not a fan of mapping, but it’s fun to change things up from time to time. And video is becoming a greater and greater part of my job. And I enjoy it. I love being able to add motion to my work. And the editing is challenging, so I like that as well. Before drones I hated video, but I did it for some clients. B-roll at best. But now I’ve been blessed to be able to use drones and ground cameras and go film video in many states across the county, as well as being asked to come document a very special trip for a ministry in Guatemala and Mexico.
So unless you have a specific set of skills that can be utilized in drone flying, try the shotgun approach. Odds are you”Ll eventually find your niche and start specializing. And it’s more than just learning the flying part. Become an expert in whatever field(s) you decide to specialize in. Learn everything you can about that field. And be persistent. Don”T give up. And don”T set unrealistic goals. Re-evaluate your goals and direction every few months. And if you’re married, get your spouse on board with you. That’s incredibly important. And always fly safe.
What inspired you to attend/speak on a panel at InterDrone Expo?
Well, honestly just they asked. But I could have said “No.”
Another aspect of drone life that I’ve embraced is the teaching aspect and the regulations aspect. And trust me, if someone had come up to me in 2014 and said I”D be helping out the community with drone laws and regulations, I would have laughed in their face. I have an Art Degree ? what do I know about laws, much less drones? I just wanted to fly cameras around and take pretty pictures for clients. That’s obviously not how it worked out. I certainly still get to fly cameras around and take pretty pictures for clients (& myself), but by accidentally becoming involved Colorado politics and drones, I discovered I also had a passion for the mundane process of crafting laws. I also wanted to keep our skies safe and as free to fly in as possible. And that lead to the teaching. Another unknown passion.
But it’s given me the opportunity to meet some great people along the way, and brought me to Drone U.
You’re on the FAA’s Drone Advisory committee. What are you hoping to accomplish in your role?
Actually I”M on the DAC’s Task Group 3, not the DAC itself. TG3 deals with how the FAA can improve the waiver process. Waivers are the largest stumbling block that is holding industry this back. The FAA is interested in the industry’s input on how to make them easier to get, and I thought that would be a good fit for me. We’ve made our initial report, and are now awaiting for the FAA’s feedback. If we as a Task Group can ease the burden of waivers, then we’ve succeeded. My role here is to bring the voice of the small drone operator to the DAC. It’s an incredibly underrated voice on the DAC.
A number of Drone Service Providers (DSP) did apply for the open DAC positions, but none where selected. But people like Brendan Schulman and Brian Wynne went to bat for DSPs at the first DAC meeting in June. They mentioned the lack of representation of DSPs on the DAC, so a few of us ended up on the Task Groups. So that’s a start.
The latest NPRM is pretty loaded and has a potentially huge impact on the commercial drone industry. What are your thoughts on what the FAA has proposed?
The Remote ID NPRM not only has a potentially huge impact on this industry, it has the very real potential to be a complete failure. And be will if adopted as written. Mainly because without compliance, it won”T work. And with the required inclusion of public knowledge of pilot location, internet based transmission, and the demise of hobby fields, (to name a few issues) widespread compliance will be non-existence. And without widespread compliance, RID will be impotent beyond help.
Don”T get me wrong, RID is important to moving this industry forward. But as written, it will set us back too far, possible too far to recover. The FAA is a safety and educational agency, not an enforcement agency. And the DOJ and DOT Inspector General, who had the enforcement powers for aviation) have already said they’re not interested in enfacements of current UAS regulation. Rules without enforcement are pointless. So either the DOJ or DOT need to enforce rules, or the Congress needs to give the FAA enforcement powers. Because RID will not happen without enforcement either. No matter how it’s written.
But as far as what we as a UAS community can do, we must comment. And we must comment as a unified voice. Commercial, hobby, and FPV must all come together and present a single voice. Copy and paste comments are pointless as this point. The FAA congregates them as a single comment. If you do that, your voice won”T be heard. We have to have specific parts we object to. We also have to include reasonable suggestions and alternatives. “This sucks? isn”T a well thought out comment, and won”T hold any weight whatsoever in the eyes of those who will eventually craft the rules. Include personal stories of how this will affect you. And summarize your comment in the final paragraph.
What do you recommend to those looking to publicly comment on the NPRM?
The one single suggestion I have is to wait. Wait and get all of the info you can before you craft your comment. Write it out in a word program on your computer. Re-read it, edit it, re-read it again. Once you have it ready, copy and paste it to the comment section. I believe you have a 5,000 character limit, but you can upload a .doc or .PDF. But I suggest you don”T do that. There is the possibility of corrupt files so your comment isn”T readable. I suggest instead that you have more than one comment. You can even comment on one or two aspects you don”T like (or do like) in each submission. That way you”Ll be less likely to have your comments incorrectly recorded by those who read them. You have until March 2nd to get your comment posted. Don”T panic.
Any final thoughts?
This NPRM is the single most important set of UAS rules that have ever been published by the FAA. It is critically imperative that each person who uses drones in their business, flies them for fun, or it involved in an industry that uses drones (realty, inspection, STEM Educators, surveyors, etc.) comment on this NPRM, and let the FAA, DHS (Department of Homeland Security), and the FBI know what this will do to the industry. If there are not 50,000 comments by March 2nd, I”Ll be disappointed. As of this morning (1/9/20), there are already 3,814 listed and 130,945 page views. We have a way to go. But we’re also well on our way. The April 2019 NPRM for new UAS rules only had 949 total comments. So it’s nice to see that so many people have already commented on the RID NPRM. Let’s keep it up!