Matt Roderick is the owner and founder of Rapid Aerial, LLC here in Boise. Matt is a real pilot, proud father and a self-confessed aviation nerd. Matt loves shooting photos, videos and collecting data for the architecture, engineering and construction industries.
Q: How did you get into drone photography and videography?
It’s been a journey that just sort of led me here. I’ve been an aviation nerd since I was a kid and I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. I went to flight school in 2001 at age 19 and earned my private pilot’s license. After 9/11, the aviation industry changed dramatically and I began to realize how difficult it would be for me to find a flying job. I backed away from aviation and thought perhaps I could get back to it someday. In 2014 was looking at buying a drone with a GoPro on it, just for fun. I credit my friend Corey from Power Engineers for the “Ah ha” moment when he told me “They’re using drones for photogrammetry now.” At the time I had no idea what that meant so began to learn as much as I could. Around the same time I learned of the FAA’s 333 exemption process to fly drones commercially. One of the requirements for operating under the 333 exemption was having, at minimum, a private pilot’s license. I applied for and received this exemption in early 2015 and I started Rapid Aerial LLC the next day.
Q: What is your favorite thing to shoot?
This is tough. I’ve shot everything from a hemp farm to a drag race but construction projects are probably my favorite. Progress photos and videos are fun to shoot and clients love seeing progress on their sites. I feel like I have the most to offer to a construction/land development project due to my broad mix of data, pictures and video.
Who is your ideal client?
Anyone who has a “little nerd“ in them seems to especially love what I do. But truthfully, anyone who sees the potential for drone technology to aid their business. Land developers or stake holders on construction projects seem to get the most from our capabilities.
Q: Tell me about the technology you use?
We have a fleet of six drones in the company, our primary flyers are our two DJI Inspire 1s. These are “prosumer” level drones which anyone can buy but they start at around $3K. These can fly for about 15 minutes per battery at a speed of up to 45MPH. They can shoot 4K video or take 12MP or 16MP still photos. These have proven to be real work horses, one has even survived an osprey attack. We’ve modified one of these Inspires for carrying a thermal imaging camera. We can carry a Flir Vue Pro which is a radiometric thermal imaging camera. We’ve also developed a payload drop capability with one of these drones, we can carry and drop up to about 3lbs.
We use a variety of software platforms for flying in the form of Mobile apps. My favorite for photogrammetry is called Maps Made Easy. This seems to be the most capable application and it has the benefit of “terrain following” which keeps our drones an even distance above the ground in varying terrain.
Lastly, we use Photoshop, Filmora, and Premier Pro for photo and video editing. And we use Maps Made Easy, Drone Deploy, or Pix4D to generate our mapping data, things like cut and fill analysis, ortho photos, point clouds, etc.
Q: Why should your clients hire you rather than go buy their own drone and camera?
I believe it comes down to experience, ease, and peace of mind.
First, yes, anyone can buy a drone and learn to fly it but I’ve been flying for nearly three years with a perfect safety record. Frankly, I’ve already made all the mistakes an inexperienced pilot will make along the way.
Next is ease, if you’re flying for any commercial purpose, you’ll need to become licensed. This license only allows access to certain airspace so you’ll likely need to apply for a waiver to be able to fly where you want. This can be a lengthy process. We already have all this in place so clients don’t have to deal with licensing, registration, air space or the FAA.
Next is peace of mind. You’re taking a risk by deploying a drone, does your company’s insurance policy cover this should something go wrong? Ours does.
Q: What are some of the applications for what you offer?
A colleague told me “There’s a drone for everything.” and I truly believe that. Of course aerial video and pictures are eye-catching so if you want to promote something, we can definitely help. Here’s some other, lesser-known applications. Using photogrammetry we measured stock piles for a construction project in Burley, Idaho. We flew the Plantation Golf course to aid with an ALTA survey. We flew some undeveloped land for a real estate company so they could animate a conceptual drawing of a home on the land. Using our thermal camera, we were able to locate an underground sewer line. Also using thermal imaging, we found a pattern of moisture under a roof to determine the location of the leak.
Q: What are some of the misconceptions about drones and aerial photography?
Drones were introduced to the masses in the same way everyone learned about atomic energy, in the form of a weapon, so I have a little bit of public relation work to do. Many are concerned about drones being used for spying. I go out of my way to notify anyone in the vicinity of my flights to let them know why I’m there and what I’m doing. I’ve never had anyone upset with me for giving them a “heads up” about a flight. As with any new technology, someone will find ways to use it for evil. I make it my mission to demonstrate and educate about all the positive uses for drones. Another common misconception is that drones fly themselves. This is true when everything is working correctly but when a sensor fails, gps loses a signal or when an Osprey takes offense to your presence, you really need some skills to brewing everything back home safely.
What else should people know about what you do?
We’re here to help, even if you’re not hiring us to fly. We offer drone training and we frequently consult on equipment. Additionally, no project is too crazy, if it can be done safely with a drone, we’ll figure out a way. We’ve even been asked about spreading someone’s ashes with a drone. We’ve also done tons of STEM education events like the Science and Technology Festival at Boise State (Feb 3rd this year, come see us!)
Q: What do you do when you’re not shooting aerial photos?
I have a six year old son that keeps me incredibly busy, he’s quite the budding drone pilot. I also enjoy hunting and drag racing my old Pontiac at Firebird.
Additional Information from Matt:
3D site terrain example: