KersteinbrdWhere can you go to grab some video of an elephant or two?

Our guest today will clue you in on this question and much more.  Mike Kirstein is a drone operator for Scout Aerial Media in Zimbabwe, Africa. He’s been flying drones for several years and is now running a successful UAV service company in Zimbabwe, Africa. On this episode of the Drone Radio Show, Mike talks about Scout Aerial Media in Zimbabwe, how he got started in the commercial drone business, what it’s like to run a drone business in Africa and some of the interesting work he’s done so far.

In This Episode

  • [01:23] About Mike Kirstein and Zimbabwe.  For reference, Mike tells us Zimbabwe is located in southern Africa, north of South Africa and surrounded boarded by Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique.  Mike was born in England but grew up in Zimbabwe, in the bush, as he recounts. His family owned a farm and he remembers being a kid and spending time in the wild with a rifle.
  • [04:23] Origin of Scout Aerial Media.  While traveling in Europe, Mike would keep in touch with his family by posting images to the web.  He saw a drone and realized its imaging potential and it wasn’t long before he purchased one for himself.  Having grown up on a farm, he saw the potential of using the drone for precision agriculture.  He partnered with a friend, Patrick Weeden in Australia, who also had an interest in drones and joined Scout Aerial Media.
  • [06:26] African Regulatory Environment. Mike talks about the challenge of operating a drone business in Africa, as the technology has outstripped the ability of many countries to process an application for business. In many instances, there’s place on existing forms for someone to register a drone business. Regulations are coming but they’re only in draft form. Until then, it can be a challenge getting a business off the ground.
  • [09:15] Drone Infrastructure. The UAV infrastructure in Zimbabwe and much of Africa is not well established.  There are few stores or outlets where drone systems or parts can be purchased. From a business perspective, that means operators have to stock up on parts via mail delivery to ensure a continuity of operations.
  • [10:20] Scout Aerial Media in Africa. Most of the work is done by Mike and his GIS technician. Like most people, YouTube videos provide a great source of information in learning new techniques and applications.  Mike travels to Australia for additional training.
  • [11:57] Benefits of UAV Technology to Africa. Mike discusses some of the benefits of using UAV technology in Africa, mostly in the areas of poaching, agriculture, mining and cinematography.
    • [13:12] Poaching – Using thermal sensors at night, drones can help national parks locate poachers before they’ve caused any damage.
    • [16:11] Precision Agriculture – Zimbabwe has many large, rich farming lands. Drones can help in surveying, mapping and crop analysis. A recent project involved mapping the condition of sugar cane crops and identifying those that have been infested by pests.
    • [17:58] Archeological Surveying – Mike talks about a recent aerial mapping and cinematography project of an archeological site in the Sudan. The Meroe pyramids provided an incredible setting to fly drones and gather footage that will be used in an upcoming documentary.  Mike talks about the thrill of flying/filming this site as well as the challenges of operating drones in a remote part of the desert.
    • [22:02] Cinematography and Natural Beauty – Zimbabwe is filled with natural beauty and a host of wildlife. UAVs provide an opportunity to see these settings and wildlife from a whole new perspective. Mike shares an example of viewing crocodiles along a riverbank. Most of the cinematography work is contracted by outside media agencies. Mike also finds himself on the road quite often as part of the work.
    • [26:01] Mining – Mike describes a current project where Scout Aerial Media has been contracted to survey a mining site for a client interested in conducting operations.
  • [26:42] Advice to Others. Mike considers the drone industry to be an incredibly exciting industry, but the challenge in Africa is getting licensed and working through the various regulatory barriers.  It takes patience, time and a learning curve. Mike shares a story of when going to film the pyramids of Meroe, his drone was confiscated at the border for six days, despite having all of the required paperwork.
  • [29:23] Memorable Experience. Mike shares a memorable experience of catching 40-50 elephants on a small island in Zimbabwe.
  • [30:43] Current Project. Mike talks about a current project where drones are being used to assist Greenpeace in combating illegal fishing off the coast of Africa.
  • [32:35] Mike’s Experience in the Drone Industry and the Future. Mike has found a challenging career in the drone industry. He learns something new every day and is excited about the prospects of where the industry is going, especially in Africa.
  • [33:54] Closing

Mentioned LInks

 

Meroe settlement in the Sudan

Meroe settlement in the Sudan

Crocodiles along a riverbank in Zimbabwe

Crocodiles along a riverbank in Zimbabwe

Video of current projects by Scout Aerial Media in Africa