The Government has been urged to regulate the unmanned aerial drone industry, an innovative Bahamian start-up fearing others may enter the market and not play by the rules.
Lance Knowles and George Mosko, whose unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) photography and cinematography business has grown rapidly since its launch just over one year ago, say they will seek government’s consideration of regulating the rapidly expanding drone industry.
Their company, Sky High Media, has employed camera platforms mounted on multi-rotor UAVs to do work for government agencies, security, major resorts, real estate developments, movie sets and others. They have just finished shoots in Florida for Busch Gardens and Sea World, and are leaving this week for a job in Grand Cayman.
But while they are taking the business of unmanned aerial cinematography to new heights, they worry that an unregulated atmosphere could lead to an explosion in the popularity of drones, with hobbyists failing to recognise or honour rules of the airways.
“It may sound strange to ask for regulations where none exist,” said Mr Mosko. “But for us, this is very serious business. We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment.
“Nowadays, you can buy a drone off the shelf at a hobby store for less than $1,000, so you can imagine the chaos that could erupt in the skies if the quickly-evolving industry is not regulated.”
So serious are the founders of Sky High Media that they secured the services of Llewellyn Boyer-Cartwright, the Callenders & Co attorney, before they started their business to ensure they complied with all general aviation laws.
]“The UAV or drone technology is changing so fast that governments are scrambling to keep up with it,” Mr Boyer-Cartwright said. “Canada and Australia already have legislation and regulations, and I suspect we will see a lot more activity by other governments in the very near future.
“A few days ago the Associated Press issued a story about the United Arab Emirates experimenting with drones delivering government documents. Over the holidays, we heard Amazon president Jeff Bezos predict the company would one day deliver packages by drone.
“While that may be a bit far-fetched for now, the mere mention of it shows that unmanned aerial delivery systems, whatever term you use for them, are going to play an increasingly important role in the future. I would like for the Government to review and consider this expanding area of aviation, and establish rules and regulations, or at least guidelines, as a matter of safety.”
For Sky High Media, drone cinematography requires technical knowledge, technique and respect. Although they build the machines in Mr Mosko’s kitchen, one completed drone can cost up to $35,000.
Once a platform is completed, it is put to several tests, including flight and stress tests, deliberately overloading it to test its mettle. “Knowing what you are doing takes a lot more than buying one off the shelf,” says Mr Mosko. “The precautions we take are 10 times what the civilian does to prepare.”
Though the company is new, both men are experienced in photography and in flight. Mr Mosko’s first experiment with remote control was more than 25 years ago.
“It went from cars to trucks to planes and now photography,” he says. Not surprising for someone who’s other hobby was photography. Mr Knowles took a more roundabout route to unmanned aerial videography, working in a variety of fields, but all with intense responsibility requirements. His familiarity with equipment from cars to boats to cameras is extensive.
“These men are out there every day and they have reason to be concerned about non-professionals failing to recognise air space,” said Mr Boyer-Cartwright, “but if there are no rules, then it could become a free-for-all without regard for safety. And this is something that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later because you can’t say drones are coming. They’re here.”