Luisa Winters is a private pilot and commercial drone pilot with Mid-Atlantic Drones. She has logged more than 1,000 hours of piloting drones — with more than 700 of those on active construction sites. Luisa is a well-known industry leader and often speaks at conferences and trade meetings.
I had the opportunity to ask Luisa a few questions about being in the drone industry. She shares with us her experience and six of her go-to tips for getting into the drone business.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
“I’ve been in the video industry for a little over 30 years. When these smaller drones started making an appearance in the industry it was a no-brainer. A tripod that flies!! Wow! I could not believe it. I started flying drones in 2012 and fell in love with the whole process. That led me to get my private pilot’s license. For most people it is the opposite, they fly planes, and then fly drones.”
What are some things you can do to set your work apart from others when creating commercial drone footage?
“I take great pride in my craft. I am not saying that others don’t, but the ones that do, are few and far between. I practice my shots and I study how to get the most out of different situations. Things like knowing where the light is coming from, using existing objects to frame the shot and trying to create tension/release with the shot sound very simple. But they are, in fact, what I miss seeing in most of the commercially available drone footage.
“I am also different than most of my colleagues because I deliver quickly. I deliver most of my construction projects in less than a day. The reason I can do that is that I have power behind my processes. I am lucky to have a Dell Precision 5750 Workstation and it simply flies! While I don’t necessarily do any editing or picture adjusting any faster (it’s still me and my work pace), the system flies through all of the number crunching and that’s something to rejoice about!”
What types of commercial work do you enjoy shooting the most?
“I enjoy shooting anything. It gives me pure joy to get up in the air and start recording what I see using video or photos. Having said that, I enjoy shooting above water. There is something about enjoying the shooting process and not having to worry about hitting a tree or (God forbid) a person.
“When shooting above water, the worst that could possibly happen is that the drone loses power, and it goes in the water. I’d lose the drone, and while that is sad (and expensive!), it doesn’t compare with the responsibility of hurting people or animals. Give me water anytime!”
Luisa’s six go-to tips for anyone considering entering into the drone business?
1. Learn your craft
“Practice, practice, practice! Don’t pretend to know it all because you don’t — no one does. Do the best you can and always maintain safety. You see, a drone is an instrument that can be replaced: people can be hurt, and that’s not so easy to fix.”
2. Don’t underestimate the amount of time that you will spend editing videos or photos
“I’ve been a video editor for over 30 years, and I still spend a decent amount of time putting my shots together.”
3. Don’t skimp on quality editing equipment
“As mentioned earlier, I personally use a Dell Precision 5750 workstation (laptop) which does an excellent job of rendering and number crunching. Not only that, but it plays all my drone footage real-time (even 4K) and lets me process any effect in real-time. Years ago, it would have taken many hours to process images but thanks to modern technology, it can be done in minutes. It’s an invaluable time-saver, giving you more room to experiment and try new things.”
4. Charge what you are worth
“Too many people are getting into the business, charging very little, and then realizing that they cannot maintain the business because of lack of income. Things like drones, batteries, insurance, and systems to edit the footage are expensive.”
5. Get the right drone for the job at hand
“Many of us get the ‘latest and greatest’ only to find out that this is not what we really needed. Do your research before purchasing your drone.”
6. Get the job first, then get the equipment
“This last one is related to the previous one. I see many drone pilots spending a ton of money on fancy, high-quality drones. In their mind, if they have the equipment, they’ll get the job. It never works out that way, and they end up going out of business because they overspent. Get the job first, then you can justify acquiring the necessary equipment. Speaking of which, do not skimp on your editing system. As mentioned before, a slower system can cause a real bottleneck in your workflow. Get something fast, and will deliver on time, and with high quality. In my case, I found that solution with the Dell Precision 5750.”
Do you approach stills vs. video differently?
“Yes, in a way stills are much harder because you need to be able to tell a message with a still instead of moving video. So, I find myself spending more time framing stills than capturing video. Since I am a video editor, my mind tends to go for the moving shot a lot easier than the stills, which means I need to practice my stills more!”
Are you planning on any other courses for ThinkTAP Learn? If so, what can viewers look forward to?
“Currently, I am working on a drone course with Francis Torres, who is a talented local drone pilot and a wonderful video editor. In this title, we will discuss getting into the business of drones, and capturing images and video for construction, real estate, cinematic 360 and hyper-lapse videos, etc. I am very much looking forward to working with Francis on this course and I know that it will be amazing!”