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Rewarding UAV Compliance – Steven Flynn, CEO of Skytango

Image by Simeon Frank

Are you getting undercut by drone pilots that don’t follow the rules?

Image by Simeon Frank
Image by Simeon Frank

Steven FlynnAccording to today’s guest, there is a way to grow and sustain a drone based industry by rewarding compliance.   Steven Flynn is an Emmy Award winning Filmmaker: Producer, Director, Director of Photography, Editor, and a drone pilot. With a background in electronics and photography he honed his skill both as a photographer and editor, forming his own post-production company in 1996. Among his past clients are PBS, DISCOVERY, TRAVEL CHANNEL, HGTV, and PAISLEY PARK. He moved to Ireland in 2012 and co-found Aerial Filming Ireland. Flying for big and small clients alike, he saw both the opportunities and the tensions in the booming drone economy. In 2015 he pitched Skytango to the National Digital Resource Centre in Dublin and has spent the last 2 years as CEO, creating a new on-line drone marketplace.  In this episode, Steve talks about SkyTango and introduces the concept of rewarding compliance in the drone industry to help promote long-term economic sustainability.

In This Episode

  • [02:10] Introduction. Steven Flynn is the CEO of Skytango, an on-line marketplace for drone video content sellers, buyers and landowners. The company is based in Dublin, Ireland.
  • [02:33] About Skytango. Most on-line drone marketplaces facilitate transactions between the customer and the videographer. Skytango goes one step further by incorporating the owners of the land (primarily public owners).  The reason is to ensure videographers and production companies are able to obtain the desired video footage legally.
  • [07:17] Why Skytango. Steve talks about how the idea for Skytango emerged after he moved to Ireland and started a drone based business providing commercial videography services.  Within six months of starting the service, Steven found that newly formed competitors were under cutting their price. Many of these competitors were able to offer lower fees because they were not carrying insurance, obtaining proper permits and operating outside of their authorization. The idea for Skytango evolved out of the desire to reward companies that are in compliance with all regulations.
  • [10:52] The Challenge. From Steve’s perspective, the real challenge is guiding the marketplace to a point where it values compliance. In every country and in many local jurisdictions, there are different layers of requirements. Operators who follow the procedures and strive to develop a safe and reliable business should be rewarded over others who opt for short cuts, don’t carry insurance or fly outside their permits. If the market doesn’t value compliance, then the industry cannot thrive.
  • [15:38] Targeted Users. A variety of industries would be interested in the service, but Skytango is initially focusing on the TV & Film industry in developing the system. This industry is familiar with obtaining permits for obtaining footage for production use. Skytango is still pre-funding and meeting with potential users and partners that help provide input into solving the challenges and developing the system.
  • [19:56] Origins of the Service. Sometime in 2014, Steve was working on a program to help organize the workflow around one of his projects. As he worked through the various decision points, he began to see how his methodology could be applied to other actors in the industry. In a few months he had built a prototype using Filemaker.  In August 2015, he submitted the idea and prototype to some of the accelerators in Ireland.
  • [21:02] Lessons Learned. Steve’s learned a lot about compliance and running a drone based business in the early days of the business, including how to deal with crashes, insurance claims and dealing with growing competition. Throughout this learning process, the one thing that has remained clear is the vision for what he wants to achieve with Skytango. At the same time, the public’s response to commercial drone businesses has really evolved to a point where customers are now asking for verification of the required pilot certification information, insurance and other documents to protect them (the public) from any possible mishaps. Steve wants to create software that will help drone operators better manage their risks so that they can better focus on building a solid business.
  • [42:13] Steve’s Background. Steve grew up as a child with an interest in aviation. He entered the TV & Film industry and has taken on roles as a producer, director, director of photography and editor. Some of his past clients include PBS, Discovery, Travel Channel, HGTV and Paisley Park. After relocating to Ireland, he saw the opportunity to create his commercial drone videography business. Steve shares some of his experiences in starting and running the business.
  • [29:19] Benefits of Using Skytango. Steve reviews the benefits of using the Skytango marketplace. As Steve comments, people are hungry for these types of solutions and as more local regulations come to light (like in the case of the City of Orlando, Florida), there will be a need to positively resolve all of the potential conflicts so that the industry can prosper. Key to this growth is the participation of the individuals that control the land where drone users want to operate. Skytango provides a mechanism where all of the players can interact and reach consensus on the requirements and protocols.
    • Sellers: add value to the transaction between the drone operator and the client by clearing showing that the products comply with all regulations they are operating within. Skytango also is working with other industry partners, like insurance vendors, to provide the required support services for drone operators.
    • Buyers: It gives you a really clear path to finding the drone operator that can best meet your needs. Skytango also provides all of the information that you need to survive an audit by regulating industries, which may become critical as the industry grows
    • Landowners: Public bodies that control lands and permit drone operations, through Skytango, can easily engage with drone operators to provide permits or permissions to fly drones on lands they control. 
  • [36:12] Closing. Steven hopes Skytango will hopes that Skytango will be an integral part of the industry, helping to win the hearts and minds of people who will push the industry even farther.

Mentioned Links

Steven Flynn readies a drone for flight
Steven Flynn readies a drone for flight

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