Cape Productions CTO Thomas Finsterbusch wants to provide customers with all of the benefits of drones minus the hassle of actually flying them. After raising over $10 million in venture capital funding, Cape began offering its drone video service to skiers and snowboarders at five North American ski resorts last winter. Last month, at F8 developer’s conference, Cape demonstrated its ability to stream aerial video from a drone on Facebook Live.
Drone It seems like the company is really oriented towards ease of access, in terms of this technology.
Finsterbusch Exactly. We believe drone technology is amazing, but it’s very complicated, and it can get dangerous very fast. The core company hypothesis is that the way to bring drone technology to the masses is through service, so people don’t have to touch drones, they don’t have to deal with any of the battery, hardware, or even any of the data, any of the footage, or any of the video. We do everything for them.
Drone There are a lot of companies with exemptions that, based on our research, offer aerial photo and video services. Could talk about how you see Cape as different from the other companies?
Finsterbusch From an internal perspective, what’s going on is, we’re operating the fleet of drones, we have our 333 approval from the FAA—we actually have multiple and one of them is unique to us. We’re actually, as far as I know, the only company in the U.S. that is allowed to fly closer than 500 feet from members of the public who have been briefed and consent to this operation, our customers.
Drone What has been your experience so far in terms of working within the 333 process and what have you heard from other companies that are working within this industry?
Finsterbusch It’s really interesting. I think there are a number of companies that don’t want to engage the FAA, they just do their own thing, stay under the radar. We do the opposite, we engaged them right away and started building this relationship and it’s been great working with them. We’re in it for the long-term; we don’t just want to fly under the radar and screw things up. Obviously, there are additional capabilities that we would love to have and things we would love to do, and they’ll come, but we’ll just have to work on it.
A thoughtful interview, there is a lot of meat here. I am very impressed with their long view of governmental relations as well as their vision for a totally autonomous end-to-end service. You might also be interested in why they selected DJI and how their code makes it impossible for a pilot to get off course.
You might recall that the National Ski Area Association (NSAA),released a sample policy that bans drones without prior authorization shortly after Cape announced their plan last October. Hopefully they had a great year and more mountains will want them to offer their services.