Scott will be one of our featured instructors for the CPE Academy at our 2018 Carolina Photo Expo at the Sheraton Imperial in Durham, NC August 3-6, 2018.
Our interview today is with Scott Strimple. Scott is an Airline pilot and has over 40 years of RC aircraft experience. His experience in the field is incredible. He will be teaching a Pre Con class, now called CPE Academy. If you are interested in taking Scott's awesome class, be sure to register today at the link following the interview.
A: Hey Scott, It is great to chat with you this evening.
S: Thanks, Adrian... it's great to be here with you!
A: I am excited to have you join us at the 2018 Carolina Photo Expo. I have had the pleasure of working with you on a small project before. It seems like you have a real passion for video?
S: Thanks! Yes! I'm excited to be a part of the Carolina Photo Expo education. Storytelling is a passion of mine and I embrace the art of motion picture to embark upon a journey with my viewer. I enjoy leveraging motion in my video work!
A: You will be teaching something new for our Expo, Drones. So which came first for you drones or video? And, how did you become interested in combining the two?
S: Oh wow! That's a great question and one I get asked quite often. When I'm not running around with my filmmaker hat on, I'm a captain and FAA check pilot for United Airlines. I've been flying radio controlled aircraft for about 44 years. Somewhere in the late 2000's, we began hanging cameras from our radio controlled helicopters to gain a unique perspective. The technology was pretty rough at that point and there were more fails than successes. Fast forward to the 2012 time frame and the introduction of what we have all adopted as "drones" and the workflow became much easier yielding usable results. At that point, I had already been traveling the country teaching the art of filmmaking to event video and photography groups. When the lure of aerial cameras started to become mainstream, I started to get requests to introduce this new found technology to folks and to offer a primer of sorts. From there it has blossomed into me being able to leverage my decades of manned aviation subject matter expertise with my filmmaking and photography passion and desire to help further the education of others under my Drone Flight School brand.
A: Your experience in this field is exactly why we really wanted you to teach the class. What would you say is the greatest hurdle most photographers will encounter when trying to incorporate photography or videography, via drones, into their business?
S: The drone is simply another tool for the visual artist to leverage. The marketing hype would lead folks to think that it's a pretty simple tool. Fact is however that it's probably the most complex piece of gear an artist will use. It flys... which means it carries with it a tremendous amount of liability. The future of your brand, your family etc may ride with your drone as you fly. There are federal laws and limitations as to what we can and can not do with a drone in the US. While I believe that most artists want to do the right thing, they simply don't know what it is they don't know and consequently find themselves in a situation beyond which they have little resources from which to recover without some repercussions be it an embarrassing moment in front of a client or something ugly like a violation of a federal law or endangering people. Too many times, folks will memorize the statute for the purposes of passing a test but fail to understand how to put it to use in the real world. I try to bridge that gap for folks! Not only do I help you understand the laws and how to operate within them, but also how to leverage the technology to produce imagery that can only be captured with a 3D limitless camera platform.
A: That is a perfect answer. It is not as simple as making the purchase, for sure. You are a part of a legitimate drone training program, correct?
S: So here's an interesting factoid for you... the FAA, while requiring an actual "drone" pilots license which requires passing a 60 question aeronautical knowledge written test does NOT require any training or that you have ever held a drone much less flown one. Crazy as it sounds ... the FAA is more concerned that you understand a plethora of manned aviation subject matter revolving primarily around the national airspace system your drone will be flying in, aviation weather, some aerodynamics and human factors issues. There are lots of training programs out there, and I would venture to say that most are facilitated by folks who are making it up as they go. My training is rooted in decades of my knowledge, training, and experience being an aviation instructor and drone pilot... I would consider my training as legitimate as it can get.
Additionally, my background as a filmmaker and photographer make the training with those disciplines that much more valuable. I got into the drone training world because I understood the safety culture that was lacking and I had a plethora of experience flying these Drones and knew just how much of a challenge it could be. For me, it's about paying it forward and helping create a community of proficient, knowledgeable and talented drone pilot artists.
A: You rock. I don't think a better answer could ever be given to that question. Tell us a little about your school. How long is the class and when completed do you feel people are ready to undertake drone work professionally?
S: The Drone Flight School offers a number of education options. Probably our most popular track has been our FAA Remote Pilot Knowledge test prep course. This is a two-day class that covers the subject matter the FAA will hold the remote pilot accountable for understanding to pass the test. My class is unique for a couple of reasons. First, its taught by me in person. In a world of bandwidth and online distributed learning opportunities it's not often you get a chance to truly have semi-custom training with the expert. Second, there is simply no way to leverage the synergies of a small group mixing it up in person to provide an experience that lends itself to not only passing the test but more importantly, know how to operate within the law safely and efficiently the day after you pass the test. Most folks don't realize that the required FAA knowledge test is 100% about manned aviation and not drones. It's typically very foreign subject matter and requires a mature approach to instruction in order to assure meaningful consolidation of the new information. After more than 500 attendees I have had one person not pass the test on their first attempt. Online training cannot provide the experience I do in person.
We also facilitate one, two, three and five-day custom aerial photo and video education. Depending on one's desires and level of artistry we tailor make training.
Once a student completes our 2-day knowledge test prep course they are prepared to pass the FAA test and get their license. Sadly, it does not mean they are safe to fly as there is no requirement for actual drone training in the FAA framework.
After attending The Drone Flight School flight training programs I would say one has at least a basic foundation and hands-on experience from which to hone their craft. It's not unlike the process we all went through for the first time learning photography. Once you understand the basic systems of your camera and someone has shown you some techniques, you can then move forward trying new things while building upon your recent knowledge and experience.
A: I suspect that yours will be a very popular class at our Expo. I am certain that a one day class will not prepare someone to become licensed but I know it will give students a ton of direction that they can use to become responsible, educated, and safe drone operators. I doubt that there is anyone more qualified to teach about Drones and I am honored to have you as one of our instructors for 2018. Before we wrap, what is the most interesting or unique project that being a drone operator has allowed you to work on?
S: Thanks for the kind words Adrian, it's truly my honor to be a part of the education you folks are providing. You are correct that a one-day time frame does not fully prepare folks, but I think the attendees will find it very enlightening. I will cover a primer to 14CFR Part 107 (the law) and how we can operate safely within those constraints as visual artists. Additionally, I will cover a number of techniques I use in both still and motion imagery to provide inspiration for those looking to leverage this new tool. Of course one of the most valuable attributes of in-person training is the ability to ask questions and have meaningful answers, which is my favorite part of this forum.
I have been fortunate to be a part of some very interesting projects in the past. From flying the drone for an Emmy award-winning college football program documentary to working on Disney projects to capturing footage for numerous TV commercials each project carries its own special moments for me. I'm partial to capturing footage of the whale community as this is something without a drone we would have never been able to see.
I look forward to being able to help others leverage the drone in their artistry at the 2018 Carolina Photo Expo!
A: Thank you so much for sharing, We will see you there.