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In the drone industry, it’s hard to say when someone is “new to the game” when the game itself is pretty new. Still, having just bought his first drone in 2019 (a Mavic Pro, since upgraded to the Mavic 2 Pro), Matthew Weber is new to the game. Not new to the sky, though.
For twelve years, up to 2013, Matt lived in helicopters as a Navy Search and Rescue Swimmer. He had dreams of flying them himself, but his eyesight betrayed him. All the more reason he gravitated towards drones once he started learning what they can do.
“I don’t remember figuring out I can make money off it,” he said. “For the longest time drones were just a nuisance. People wanted to shoot them down thinking they were spying on people. Then you learn about the accurate mapping, inspecting bridges, and towers. News, creative photography. The bad aura around them is going away.”
His very first job was mapping an empty parking lot where he lives, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He downloaded a .kml file, sent the drone up, it captured the images, and he sent them in.
“It was almost too easy,” he said. “I knew the drone had many different capabilities, so it sparked my interest.”
He’s been assembling a portfolio of his drone work and hopes to turn it into a full-time gig, but it’s a competitive field. That’s partly why he came to DroneUp, and we tapped him for an interesting job.
A DroneUp client specializes in revamping lighting in spaces like parking lots, making them brighter and safer. They needed before-and-after aerial shots showcasing the improvement. The flights had to be done at night—something new to Matt.
So DroneUp gave him the necessary training to fly under our Part 107.29 Daylight waiver, mailed him the necessary anti-collision lights, and provided mission support as he took off on a new frontier for him.
“It was one of the most interesting but difficult flights I’d ever done,” he laughed. “There were high-tension power lines you couldn’t even see, so I had to map out exactly where they were. It was difficult to get the camera to focus on the lighting, and the first shots turned out dark. After some adjustments, I flew it again and the shots were beautiful.”
He’s looking forward to flying more with DroneUp. In the meantime, he’s working on branding himself and advertising his drone business. He’s hoping to get a job with the Minnesota Department of Transportation helping to manage their drone program. At the same time, he’s got some input for the agency regarding policy.
“There’s just too much extra regulation in place,” he said.
Extra registration, extra licensing on top of the federal requirements make it more difficult and expensive for pilots in the state to get started. He thinks that the rules punish professional drone pilots when really they’re aimed at the people flouting the rules.
“‘Look at me flying above the clouds!’ Those are the people causing that,” he said.
Stay tuned for more installments of our Drone Jobs series, as we highlight some of our best pilots and the missions they fly.