Monday, October 19, 2015

The future of journalism may be looking up

For media outlets, sometimes getting the scoop on the competition means presenting a particular story from a bird’s-eye perspective.

With that in mind, not even the sky’s the limit anymore for an area company that believes drone technology represents the future for journalism.

Earlier this month, representatives from Soaring Sky — an FAA-approved and insured company started by Daniel Barres in December 2013 — attended the Excellence in Journalism 2015 conference in Orlando to share their expertise of “dronealism” with some of the heaviest hitters in the industry.

While staffers from such giant media outlets such as CNBC, Fox and CNN listened in, Soaring Sky officials touted the journalistic benefits of drone technology, including rapid deployment time, a cost reduction of up to 80 percent and the fact that drones can reach areas helicopters and news teams cannot.

“We noticed that a lot of photographers and journalists are taking on multiple roles these days — basically one person doing what used to be five jobs,” said Soaring Sky Managing Partner Ryan Cowell, whose business in downtown Fort Myers employs around a dozen people. “They’re shooting their own stuff, they’re writing their own stuff, they’re doing the whole story by themselves, so we really think drones will be the next big thing in journalism. They’re a great way to take your journalistic career to the next level.”

Cowell said the ability to take cameras to the next level and into the sky offers journalists the chance to tell stories from a fresh new perspective.

“It’s really a whole different way of telling a story, and it just adds so much more to anything you’re covering,” he said. “With all the downsizing going on in the industry, it’s also a great way to cut down on costs.”

Locally, Cowell said Soaring Sky has already partnered with WINK News on some live shots.

“Drones are limited at 400 feet by the FAA, and we’re commercially approved to no higher than 200 feet,” he explained. “And you don’t really want to go any higher than that.”

Soaring Sky owner Daniel Barres, who is expecting a child with his wife, Sarah, in a couple of months, said he decided to start his new venture after using drone technology in his other business, a land-development and holdings company.

“We needed to survey some of the properties we owned and I love technology, so we started playing with drones and realized the opportunity to integrate the technology into other areas,” he said.

From producing TV commercials to minimizing risk to builders and developers who need to inspect hazardous areas in job sites, Barres said his company sits on the cutting-edge of what he expects to become commonplace technology in the near future.

“Four or five years from now, we’ll have drone highways similar to the vehicle highways we have now,” he said. “There will be the cars, then the drones, then the small planes and then the big planes. NASA and the FAA have already begun implementing the structure for that time frame.”

A Tampa native who grew up in Wisconsin before moving to Southwest Florida 16 years ago, Barres said he expects widespread drone use in everything from emergency-response situations to package deliveries to security surveillance. For that reason, he said educating the public about the new technology marked one of his top goals.

“Ryan is teaching a class in drone technology at Oasis High School in Cape Coral, and we’ve also teamed up with the STEM programs in 50 high schools in Collier and Lee Counties to offer a drone-building competition,” he said.

On the public front, Cowell said Soaring Sky also offers drone-education classes to individuals at the cost of $299 per person.

“We have a training academy for enthusiasts and people who want to learn how to fly drones,” said Cowell, who moved from California to take his job with Soaring Sky. “You can buy a drone online, but it doesn’t come with any personal interaction or education. They give you a quick-start guide that’s three or four pages long, and then you go out to fly it and lose control.”

To cut down on that risk, Cowell said Soaring Sky’s training academies represented a solution.

“The classes are held on a sign-up basis, and when we get to a group of about 30 we schedule a full day of both classroom and outside training,” he said, adding that Soaring Sky typically holds two training academies a month. “It’s a really fun experience that gives people the chance to become educated on drone technology, and also be entertained at the same time.”

For more information, call 239-333-2447 or see

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1 comment:

  1. Impressive! Thanks for this very detailed information.