Can we get paid more for following the rules?
Today’s guest on the Drone Radio Show not only believes that we can, he’s jumped full force into creating a platform that will do it. Steven Flynn is the CEO and CoFounder of SkyTango, the world’s first marketplace connecting drone operators, their content buyers, and landowners in a digital space where all can do business in a new and revolutionary way.
Recently, SkyTango teamed up with Pond5, a global media marketplace, to give drone operators the ability to earn a premium for their content if they document that the mission complied with all regulations and that all required image permissions were obtained. These types of certifications are commonplace in the TV and Film Industry, but drone cinematography got out ahead of the rest of the industry in this regard. As a result, questions arise as to the risk of buying video content that may be subject to privacy laws, copyright infringement or regulatory compliance. In this edition of the Drone Radio Show, Steve talks about the impetus behind SkyTango, how drone operators can earn a premium for their work and the partnership with Pond5 the could revolutionize the drone videography business. Steve is also joined by his wife and Cofounder of SkyTango, Susan Talbot.
In This Episode
- Introduction. Steven Flynn is C.E.O. at SkyTango, a software platform for drones based in Dublin, Ireland. SkyTango was founded by Steven and his wife, Susan Talbot.
- Background. Steve and Susan got into drones in 2012 shortly after returning to Ireland to live. The couple had an accomplished video career and sought to leverage that success in Ireland. A heavy lift drone was added as a way of differentiating themselves in the local film industry. Drones were cutting edge and the heavy lift allowed them to provide a service that was not widely available. As drones came down in size, Steve replaced the heavy lift small UAS systems. With the popularity of drones growing, more and more drone videographers began to enter the market. Steve noticed a downward pressure of rates being charged by videographers, many who were not flying legally. He began thinking of a way where commercial videographers could be rewarded for the full value of their work, without having to risk flying outside of their authorizations or having to deal with unfair pricing offers of those not concerned with rules or requirements.
- Issues. There are many ways in which drone operators can be out of compliance. Many buyers feel that if a pilot has their certification, then everything they do is legal. But while regulations vary between countries, there are typically height and weight limits for commercial operations. During a shoot, clients may put pressure on drone operators to shoot video outside of their approved envelops. The choice for some operators is if they don’t do it, they won’t get paid. For those flying full time, it can be a big deal.
- Media Interest. In addition to Pond5, other outlets have expressed interest. The BBC indicated a concern about content getting on air that breaches data privacy, doesn’t have a location release or was launched from a private yard or from a street and didn’t have permissions to be there. Europe is about to enact a new data privacy law, called the General Data Protection Regulation, which will affect how data acquired by drones can be used. Once GDPR goes into effect on May 18, 2018, interest by media outlets may increase.
- Pond5 Partnership. In February 2018, SkyTango announced a partnership with Pond5 that will allow drone operators to charge a premium for their content if they provide documentation that data was obtained legally and any required authorizations were granted. This is the first major media content provider to offer this premium content and it signals a major shift in the industry. SkyTango is in discussions with other major outlets and hopes to add new names by the end of the year.
- How It Works. Drone operators sign up on the SkyTango website for the premium service. They can upload video clips and any scanned or PDF documents associated with the acquisition of the content. Buyers of content on Pond5 will be able to purchase the video or images, as well as all files that include the proper permissions and authorizations for acquiring the content. This data file can come in handy if they are ever audited or questioned over how the data was obtained. While this workflow may be new to drone videographers, it is common place in the TV and Film industry, where its typical to obtain a location release, obtain permits, seek approvals, etc.
- Value of the Service. Steve believes that drone operators and clients need to come together on rewarding compliance; otherwise this part of the drone industry will be threatened. For pilots, it’s difficult when they find themselves in a position where the customer expecting a certain view or video of area and the drone operator can’t do it because the right permissions have not been acquired. At the same time, low rates charged by illegal drone operators add to the pressures felt by legal pilots in creating a sustainable business. As Steve remarks, no one can sell a nice legal aerial of the New York City skyline for $60.00 and make a profit.
- Industry Feedback. Most every pilot asks the same question, “How I can compete against an unlicensed pilot or someone not following the rules?” With regard to other media players, there is interest, but these companies are quite large and decisions take a longer time to formulate.
- Next Steps. Steve and Susan are focused on getting the word out to pilots to join the SkyTango platform. A mobile app will be released in May and that will enhance the service even more. By the end of the year, they hope to solidify more media content buyers. SkyTango takes up a lot of the couple’s time, but they still manage to do some video work. They are also involved in supporting the industry, appearing as keynote speakers at conferences and participating as judges for drone film festivals. They are starting to see more attention to story and narrative, where drones are becoming just another tool in a filmmaker’s toolbox.
- Lessons Learned. For Steve and Susan, the past two years of starting a new technology company has been like completing an MBA. There have been a lot of highs and lows, but an incredible experience. The technology changes fast and it’s a challenge to keep up with the developments. The couple’s message to entrepreneurs is to work to develop, as quickly as possible, a minimum viable product (MVP), as there are so many different directions a startup can go.
- Women In The Drone Industry. Susan shares a desire to see more women in the drone industry, as there are a lot of opportunities for women to advance and succeed.
- Closing. Steve hopes that drone operators will voice support for stemming illegal operations which results in downward pressures on rates. Pilots need to show buyers that they will commit to following the rules and do something constructive to solve the problem. Steve is proud to offer the SkyTango option.