Demise of the indi pilot? ....

Steven Flynn

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I wanted to pose a question with a bit of background.

Do you think the independent pilot is dying? 

I have been reading alot lately about how everyone is saying the time for indi pilot is dead... and I just don't think I believe that.  What I'm seeing is companies are starting to train staff internally to do flights, but I think there is going to be a strong need for indi pilots to fill in and do specialists work.  When I was young... lo those many years ago, I was an online editor in film and television.  It was highly specialized, as were most of the positions in the industry.  But as gear got easy to use and more capable (like drones), companies stopped using contractors for that work.  But then there was as swing back as those companies found it was less costly to maintain that staff internally.  It seems to me that the drone industry is on a hugely accelerated path on that same trajectory.  What took a decade in media, seems to be taking only a few years in drones.  

We recently added a team support system to our Skytango platform for a large construction company, but the one thing they really liked about it was that if their internal pilots were booked or not in that area, they can easily flip the switch and book indi pilots anywhere in Ireland... using our system to deliver their compliance requirements right to the pilot.

In my opinion, there is a push right now to train staff, but I think being an independent operator will always provide opportunities for work and flying.  

I'd be really curious what your experience is... and if there are any roadblocks or issues you think need to be addressed to encourage companies to reach out to independent pilots for more work.

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Might be an interesting conversation.  I worked at Laser Edit, Encore, 525, and CIS doing effects editing, sitcoms and a few movies. 

There are similarities  between the transformation of the entertainment industry from analog to digital, non-linear editing, digital compositing and 3D partical systems effects etc, and the perceived “drone” industry.  

There’s a difference, the key to the success of any company collecting data for engineering purposes has little to nothing to do with the UAV.  It’s important to develop techniques that collect the data in a systematic way but the value is in the analytical software that makes the data actionable.  

The AEC industry is going through the same transformation and just like the entertainment industry the probable outcome will be that engineers can collaborate and share data on a much larger scale.  But that’s where the similarity ends.  

The creation of reality models, the digital representations of analog assets is in its infancy, but like the early days of offline/online editing prior to Avid, very few indipendent editors had access to the higher end controllers doing the bulk of broadcast television.  So if you had access and understood the “little blue light” technology of the Spectra Image System, GV151, CMX, Cadenza, Kolidascope, etc you could make a lot of money because the barrier of complexity was very high. 

In the commercial UAV industry you have a lot of people who have no idea what “little blue light technology” is, they purchase a consumer drone for $1400 and pay $150 for a 107 certificate and believe they can make $100K a year.  There is little to no barrier to entry, no well defined standards, no real uptime reliability and consistency therefore no real opportunity for an independent to make $100K a year.

will there be in the future, sure, but that has little to do with the UAV.  

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I think you are dead right on that.  I hadn't heard some of those names in a while... that was a blast from the past.

I think your assessment on the no barrier, no standards and reliability are the keys here.  What I'm working hard to do is get customers to start paying attention to the standards around Data privacy, and reliability, and I'm starting to see some movement on that front.  I just met with a new AG data company today... and before I started talking about my 'pitch', I was pleased to hear them say that the big ag companies they are engaged with are asking them about data integrity and safety with regard to the final asset...  they were expressing concerns about ensuring data was acquired correctly and provenance mattered to them.

I'm hoping that the next shift will be around companies becoming more aware or issues you broached above... carving a place for pilots who are trained with the right procedures (not just around flying but management of data etc)... also flying the right gear ... and track records for reliability etc.

I think many companies are working to train their internal operators, but would also use external pilots with the right integration into their workflow.


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