For Summit County entrepreneurs, drones mean the sky is the limit
July 3, 2015
For Summit County entrepreneurs Rob Sholdan and Jerral Rydman, the new frontier can be found in the skies, underneath the clouds.
Gone are the days of wondering what it’s like to have a bird’s view, 200 or 300 feet in the air. The duo recently started Photobird Aerial Vision, a drone-based imaging company that allows customers to get a look at the world from a different perspective. Armed with a GoPro camera, Sholdan and Rydman’s three-pound drone takes high-resolution images and video as it cruises through the skies.
"That’s a height no one can go," Rydman said. "Literally nobody. Planes can’t go there, helicopters can’t go there. And that’s our sweetspot: 200 to 300 feet. It’s a never-before-seen perspective."
The technology has myriad uses, but Photobird Aerial Vision is beginning by offering real estate photography. With drone footage, Realtors or home owners can show off their properties to prospective buyers like never before.
"You can’t show off a 30-acre piece of property better," he said.
Sholdan and Rydman envision eventually offering their services to ski resorts or outdoor companies, and may even develop the capability to provide services such as mapping and thermal imaging, which have several applications in areas like the agriculture industry. But for now, they’re trying to hone the craft and build a reputation.
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"We’re going to start off with just real estate property," Sholdan said. "I think the mistake that some new startup businesses make is trying to be everything to everybody. We feel it’s probably in our best interest to narrowly focus in the beginning, make our name and then expand out."
Getting to this point wasn’t easy, though. The duo began developing an interest in drones last year and decided to form the company. However, the Federal Aviation Administration requires people flying drones for commercial purposes to apply for a special exemption in which they describe what their companies contribute to the public. Sholdan and Rydman began the lengthy application process in January before finally receiving word of their approval in late May.
Receiving one was a big deal, Rydman said, particularly because, as of May, there had been only a handful of exemptions granted in Utah.
"We were both pretty excited about it," he said. "Now, it was in writing. We could go from just shooting footage and practicing and getting some maneuvers down to actually pursuing making some money."
Sholdan is new to flying drones, but Rydman, who said he is a member of the Utah Air National Guard, has plenty of experience from his time in the military. He said it doesn’t take that long to get the hang of piloting a drone.
"I’ve been around them for quite a while, so it felt like second nature," said Rydman, who also has his commercial pilot license. "Switching to this civilian drone, it’s way more advanced and way more simple than the others I’ve used."
Sholdan and Rydman are passionate about the technology because they believe it’s a game-changer. Getting aerial footage without a drone requires an airplane or helicopter, but drones are much cheaper, can get lower to the ground and are less invasive, they said. In fact, their drone is only as noisy as a weed eater.
"You can fly a little drone around a house or piece of property, and no one would ever know," Rydman said. "People next door wouldn’t even know that you were there. You bring a helicopter in and it’s a different story."
The drones are also much safer than the previous methods of getting aerial footage, Sholdan said. Their drone even includes GPS technology that keeps it hovering in the air when they aren’t using the controls and ensures it returns safely to them when the battery is low.
"The aircraft will stop, slowly bank and return to its place of origin," he said. "That is incredible technology."
Photobird Aerial Vision
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