Stay safe, save money, make money: Extreme Aerial Productions’ ‘Chief Geek’ makes the case for professional drone services
We can all agree: drone technology is cool. But, in order to be safe, reliable and cost-efficient, it also needs to be managed by experienced operators. That is the message that Mark Taylor, CEO (and self-titled “Chief Geek”) of Arizona-based Extreme Aerial Productions (EAP), is passionately shouting from the rooftops.
Mark first discovered the immense benefits of drone technology while working as a mortgage broker, recognizing that real estate drone photography could help drive sales for his agent partners.
Fascinated and impressed, he learned everything he could about the technology, ultimately founding EAP in 2014. What started with aerial drone photography quickly blossomed into full-time production and cinematography, and eventually led to construction surveys and progression videos. Today, the company is FAA approved for commercial drone use in all 50 states, with special waivers to fly at night, over people, in restricted airspace, and much more. They offer drone cinematography, surveys, and inspections for construction companies, homebuilders, roofing agencies, film producers and any other industry looking for great marketing material or compelling data.
The Value of Experience
Mark considers his highly experienced and licensed team to be “visual storytellers with a passion for technology,” consistently improving what is possible for the construction industry. He remarks, “Construction companies see the value of a drone program. We have a lot of major firms with internal drone departments, but they still hire us because of the workflow we’ve built over time. We’ve been doing this for six years, 10,000-plus missions; our clients had to build trust in our accuracy, consistency and safety.”
Mark adds that internal drone departments are often conflicted with a host of distractions. He explains, “When I go on-site and the guy’s flying, his phone’s ringing, people are coming up and chatting with him; he’s rushed. It’s very difficult to provide an insular environment for internal drone pilots, so that’s why they just quickly churn out a few progress photos. By hiring us weekly, we come out at the same time, the same day, every week. This process has taken years to establish, and the workflow we’ve built allows us to capture hyper-accurate surveys and progression data with safety as the top priority.”
Mark likens internal drone departments to someone who’s just getting a learner’s permit and then immediately trying to race in the Indy 500. It’s not safe and it will certainly not yield the same results as if you have a trained professional behind the wheel. He says, “I’ve been hired by major construction firms and I’ve asked these guys, ‘You’ve had your license how long? A few weeks? And you’re flying 38 stories with three cranes?!’ They admit that it is incredibly dangerous. Additionally, they aren’t licensed to fly over people, and this doesn’t account for the required permits of flying sites near no-fly zones. I can train their drone department, but ultimately they realize it makes more sense to just hire us to do the work. Either way, we’re here to help.”
Save Money, Make Money
Beyond safety, EAP’s professional drone program benefits the bottom line. Every job is different, but Mark explains the benefit of consistency, noting that his customers ‘get addicted’ because the quality is noticeably superior. Often, what starts out as a monthly visit turns into every week.
“When we fly our missions, we repeat the same flight pattern,” he says. “The big push is away from manned helicopter flights where you get one picture. For the same price, we give you the same multiple shots every single week from the same angles chosen on the initial flight setup, within 2 inches of accuracy. And we create a video where they can pause it, freeze frame it, grab an image, send it and check with the PM where the materials are from a couple of days ago. An airplane or helicopter just can’t do that.”
Using EAP’s services saves customers money by having actionable data on-site and incredible communication tools at their disposal. For example, Mark says, “EAP provides an orthomosaic. They enlarge the orthomosaic into one huge picture of the job site like Google Earth. But it’s accurate every time we fly. They can instantly communicate to new hires and to vendors the progress or lack of progress toward the plans. That in itself is invaluable in time and cost savings.”
Also, EAP’s drone technology allows customers to compare to design at better than a tenth of an inch accuracy, which reliably equates to huge cost savings. Additionally, EAP is up-to-date on waivers and legalities, minimizing the risk of substantial fines.
Another money-maker for customers is the end-product video that EAP provides. Mark says, “We can do periodic time lapse updates and marketing videos that go to current owners and future clients to help them win more business. We’ve done projects all over the country—long-term, short-term—whatever people need.”
Mark shares that he is constantly amazed at how PMs on individual job sites view and utilize the data in new and different ways. “I’m always learning, too,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we love this business; every day presents a unique experience. And with the rate this technology advances, we are regularly finding new applications and solutions to our clients’ pain points.”
What made me smile about the way Mark and his team do business is their customer-centric approach that illustrates a hopeful, positive outlook on the future of the industry. EAP believes they are incredibly fortunate to do what they love: making their clients’ lives easier, and overcoming new obstacles as they help ‘pioneer’ the drone industry. “There are no sick days, no holidays. There are no ‘sorry I got to work late’ days. It’s consistent, repeatable, scalable and increasingly-accurate.” As he states, “We are very blessed to do what we love, and we enjoy every new day on the job.”
Mark sums up his philosophy: “I have three rules in the drone world. No. 1: I’m only as good as my last flight. No. 2: I’m only as good as my last flight. Rule 3: Apply rules 1 and 2.”