Aerial cinematography agency Skyfly Video uses the latest technology to fly drones to capture super-smooth cinematic footage. Directors Marcus Monsell and Michael Thompson explain more about how it works…
TELL US HOW SKYFLY GOT STARTED
Michael: The idea came around when I did my pilot’s licence to fly a full-sized helicopter, which is when my enjoyment of flying came into it. From there, we bought our first drone and made the connection between my flying background and making the business from filming.
Marcus: We have known each other since we were 10. I had heard that Mikey was getting into the drone industry, and I had come in from a filming background, having done short movies and studied it at school, so we made that connection.
WHAT KINDS OF PROJECTS DO YOU WORK ON?
Marcus: Our bread and butter jobs are aerial photography and aerial filming. They go across the spectrum, from creating promotional videos for individual companies, to broadcasting on TV for the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5. With filming, there is also the higher end like feature films, as well as inspections, which are quite a big thing. We have done solar panel inspections, bridge inspections and harbour inspections.
Michael: There is another strand, which is thermal imagery and 3D mapping. It is a specialised area of drones, which is fairly untouched, as not many people know about it, but we are getting involved in some thermal imaging solutions for UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). That opens a whole new spectrum for thermal inspections of things like solar panels, building inspections and pipeline inspections.
HOW BIG IS YOUR TEAM AND THE EQUIPMENT YOU USE?
Marcus: We have three aircraft of different sizes, so one is relatively small, which we use if we are flying indoors or near someone or something. We are based outside of London, but are allowed to fly over the city. We have an in-house editing team and also crew for ground filming when required.
Michael: Our largest drone has eight propellers and eight motors. Having that puts us right at the top end of the aerial filming service we provide. We have progressively been getting in with large production companies in London to do recurring documentary work with the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
PRESUMABLY YOU HAVE TO HAVE A LICENCE?
Michael: To licence, you have to get something called an operations manual, and we have got three other pilots on ours, so they are licenced to fly under our name. We have a PFAW (Permission For Aerial Work) from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and are fully insured. We have £5million public liability insurance, which can be increased. Our licence means that 400ft is our limit height-wise, and then 500m horizontally from the operator.
IS YOUR PRICING STRUCTURE QUITE VARIED?
Marcus: Yes, because we have a range of different sized drones our pricing point varies from job to job. The top end is £1,000 upwards for a day’s work, as we can fit into a bracket where any camera can go on our system, and often we will be renting a £20,000 camera. We are quite reasonable at the lower end, which can start from £200 to £250.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE THE BUSINESS GOING FORWARD?
Michael: We want to get more pilots based around the country on our operations manual, and more people working for us in a general expansion of the operation as a whole. We are getting more contractual work with various production companies, and thermal imaging has so much potential, so getting contracts on that basis is a big thing for us.