Preston Ward: go behind-the-scenes with Sky Elements Chief Pilot


Preston Ward is the Chief Pilot of Sky Elements Drones, the leading supplier of drone light reveals around the U.S. His coworker, Rick Boss, just recently welcomed me behind-the-scenes of his business’s Star Wars drone light reveal at the Oakland Coliseum as part of the group’s Star Wars Night. I got to talk with both of them about what enters into the task– and how they manage such stunning drone stunts.

There’s a giant recap post of the event here, consisting of lots of pictures. I likewise put a video on my YouTube channel including a few of the behind-the-scenes highlights, which you can view here:

And yes, you can read the Q&A with Rick Boss here, however not before you initially read what Preston Ward needs to state listed below. He’s got the coolest task in the world:

Drone Girl: I’m here with Preston. He’s the primary pilot for our program tonight. He’s going to inform us more about what remains in his hands. What is this?

Preston Ward: This is among our light program drones. It’s similar to any other drone you may see, other than that it’s just got a light. It does not have an electronic camera. The other distinction is that it’s got a really advanced GPS.

DG: Because it needs to be way more precise than, simply, my typical electronic camera drone.

PW: Absolutely. This will get precise down to 1 centimeter.

DG: How much does this thing weigh?

PW: This weighs about 2.5 pounds.

DG: So we’re standing in front of a stack of 500 drones today. Why are they in this stack?

PW: They’re stacked simply for ease of transport. That’s how we move them from location to location. After this, they’ll get set out in a grid format. Since our very first frame in the animation for the program tonight is a grid, that’s. We’ll match that on the ground so they can fly up into the grid.

DG: So this program has simply you as the chief pilot. There’s a relatively robust team here, too. It’s not simply you. What are all these other individuals doing here to assist personnel the program?

PW: A great deal of the team is adjusting the drones. Whenever we go to a brand-new website, the drone needs to be adjusted, so we go through the calibration procedure similar to you would with any drone. They lay out the grid and get it set up. From there, they’ll simply wait till the program is done to choose them all up at the end of the night.

DG: Your program tonight is 500 drones, however you’ve done others with 1,000. Is it harder to do a program with more drones included due to the fact that it’s more things to establish? Or is it mainly the exact same with more drones in a program?

PW: More drones merely indicates more individuals. Recently we had 1,000 drones so we had a team of 30. For tonight’s program of 500 drones, we have a team of 14. It took a lot longer to do the calibration for each one of those.

But in fact flying a program, whether it’s 100 or 1,000 drones, it’s in fact really comparable. We’ve made a great deal of enhancements network to make it simply as effective to do a program that huge.

DG: Okay, so you have basically the coolest task title being Chief Pilot. What is a day in your life like?

PW: I do a couple things, consisting of handling our entire pilot core. We have 14 pilots who I’ve trained as much as run programs for us. I likewise do programs like this one, and I’m taking a trip typically for them. I just recently began the day in Dallas, however then I flew out to LA, and then that night went home. I’ll be doing programs all over the nation, however it’s a great deal of enjoyable. It’s been a wild trip.

DG: When you’re piloting the drone program tonight, what will you be doing?

PW: Once they’re all set out, I’ll get them prepared for the program. That indicates setting their geofence, upgrading their areas, providing their specific flight courses and after that searching for any mistakes or discrepancies in their headings or anything that might trigger a problem.

After that, I set the time to the drones. That’s the huge performance of the software application. It integrates all the clocks, so they understand precisely when that program is expected to begin.

When they’re flying their preprogrammed courses, there are no sensing units. They’re simply counting on their GPS and their time program.

DG: How are you feeling when you’re running as the Chief Pilot? Are you worried? Is it enjoyable?

PW: Initially I utilized to get stressed out, specifically for the very first number of programs. I suggest, you’re simply thinking of the large dollar quantity with the drones in the air. As soon as, 1,000 drones indicates $2.5 million in the sky at.

But at this moment, I’ve done so a number of these. Anything that might fail, I’ve seen fail, so at this moment it does not get to me any longer. I’ve discovered how to get rid of concerns, so at this moment I simply have a good time and fracture jokes with the team.

DG: So what could perhaps fail?

PW: The most significant thing that might fail is if they lose that signal from the advanced GPS. They’re not relying on the accurate GPS if that takes place. They’re just counting on a more basic GS that you may see in other drones. That equates to the images that the audience sees not being as accurate.

DG: So the drones fly over this huge parking lot and they simply remain here? They do not in fact fly over the arena?

PW: Correct. They’re going to be over this huge location that we have actually sectioned off and limited, per FAA requirements.

DG: And speaking of the FAA, we are quite near Oakland International Airport. Inform me, what went on to get approvals to fly in limited airspace?

PW: We did need to get permission to fly drones here. Typically drones can’t fly here at all. We’ve worked carefully with the MLB and the FAA to even get drones authorized at all for programs like this, getting approval to utilize drones in post video game activity.

DG: You’ve done so lots of drone programs. Which is your favorite?


Mine was one we did a couple weeks ago with 1,002 drones. It set a Guiness World Record, and integrated fireworks too.*) Related(*)


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