It wasn’t that long ago that Terry Kilby could fly a drone on jobs without much worry about paperwork or federal interference. But, though federal rules bring legitimacy, they also come with headaches.
Kilby and wife Belinda now have to file several days’ notice when their drone photography outfit Elevated Element is booked for jobs, and both have had to work toward pilot’s licenses, and not just for drones.
“It’s a full-on pilot license,” Terry Kilby said. “It’s a pilot license for a plane. There’s no pilot license for a drone.”
The couple showed off some of what they’ve done and talked about what’s next during an event atop AOL’s offices in Brewers Hill on Monday night. The event was part of Baltimore Innovation Week.
As we first reported earlier this week, the Kilbys are branching out into another drone-driven business. Their new company, Aerial Array, will focus on surveying for industries like construction, mining, energy and agriculture.
“Elevated Element is for the pretty pictures and cool video, and Aerial Array is doing the real workhorse stuff,” Terry Kilby said.
What started with low-cost tech and basic software has grown by leaps and bounds, not just with the approval of regulators, but with cheaper drones and better cameras (particularly the GoPro brand, which wasn’t so ubiquitous five years ago. when the Kilbys got going).
“All of this is able to be carried on a remote-controlled aircraft,” Belinda Kilby said.
The couple spent some time showing off a reel of their photography work for clients like the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, but spent the bulk of the event showing what Aerial Array could do. As Terry Kilby told us this week, the new venture aims to bring cloud-based analysis and modeling to companies and contractors, with applications as widely varied as surveying downtown areas, assessing the state of fragile historic buildings or quick inventory management at asphalt plants.
Already, the nascent spinoff has snagged clients like the State Highway Administration and the Warrington Condominiums in Tuscany-Canterbury. And when Aerial Array’s software assembles these images, it’s not just a simple take on Google Maps and street view. These are full 3D models with the photos used to build textures as well. At the Warrington, the drone spotted missing shingles and windows that not even building management knew were there that might have been causing the building’s leaky roof.
And as if that weren’t enough on their plate, the pair is working on a book that’s about to go to print called Make: Getting Started With Drones. Terry Kilby said the book will show others how to do what they’ve done by exploring the theory of UAV flight.
“It gives people an explanation by walking through one of our builds,” he said.
At the end of the presentation, the dozen or so people at the event got what they came for, thanks to some cooperation from Mother Nature: The Kilbys went outside and took one of their drones for a spin as high as 40 feet above the roof of the AOL building, with a not-yet-lit mustachioed Natty Boh face in the background.
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