Los Angeles-based Welk Aviation has moved into the professional Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) market with the purchase of two AERIGON Aerial Remote Camera Heads (ARCH) from Intuitive Aerial. The AERIGON, for which Welk Aviation has received an FAA 333 exemption, will provide an expanded palette of HD and UHD aerial camera capture for the helicopter company’s TV and motion picture clients.
The AERIGON ARCH is built for use with heavier broadcast and feature film-ready cameras and lenses. With a payload capacity of 35 lbs., the AERIGON can carry over 20 lbs. of camera equipment, along with the gimbal. The AERIGON Gimbal features a proprietary advanced stabilization system for cameras and professional zoom lenses, with full FIZ (Focus, Iris, Zoom) controls. This allows Welk Aviation to operate whatever equipment its clients favor, including cameras such as the Phantom Flex4K, Sony F55, RED Epic and Alexa Mini.
“The AERIGON is revolutionizing aerial photography and adds a powerful new tool to our arsenal, allowing us to go where helicopters can’t,” said Patrick McKernan, UAV and special projects production coordinator at Welk Aviation. “It can fly down alleyways or split buildings in downtown L.A. It expands way beyond what we can do with a stabilized remote camera mount or a camera car. It gives news producers and film DPs the ability to get almost any shot they dream up.”
An FAA-certified helicopter pilot and instructor, pro skydiver and SAG actor with credits on many feature films, McKernan followed the UAV industry for two years, waiting for the technology to catch up to his needs and expectations, before selecting the AERIGON as Welk Aviation’s go-to system.
“Without question it’s the best all-in-one cinema and broadcast UAV available,” said Larry Welk, owner of Welk Aviation. “Our crew of professional pilots and photographers who specialize in this unmanned world made the decision after extensive research, not only because of the UAV but because of the team behind it.”
Welk Aviation offers a variety of services in addition to its news gathering for NBC Los Angeles and KTLA, including film and TV production, inspection and patrol of power lines and construction sites and flight training. Given its FAA 333 exemption, Welk Aviation can use the AERIGON legally in all aspects of its work.
The requirements of each TV or motion picture project will dictate whether the company chooses to use the AERIGON or a helicopter. While helicopters can carry full-size camera gear and the personnel to operate it, handle windy conditions and fly further and longer, the AERIGON will be used when a smaller, more agile vehicle is needed.
“Having remote access to the AERIGON means we can fly into situations where our helicopters can’t,” Welk explained. “It can fly under bridges, near power lines, around obstacles, and inside buildings whenever we need to gather HD or UHD footage. It’s a lot less expensive to operate and has a lower impact than a helicopter. We don’t have to close down two square blocks in Hollywood every time we want to get some footage with the AERIGON.”
“We’re trying to set the standard for the industry and create a structured, safe and knowledgeable environment by training the pilots of the future,” McKernan said. “I see so many UAVs being used in ill-advised ways. Safety has always been our paramount concern and the AERIGON goes above and beyond being safe, while meeting the quality standards for aerial camera capture.”
“We’re at the dawn of a unique opportunity in broadcasting and film,” said Welk. “I like to compare it to the introduction of TV. Who knows how many new applications we’ll find using these aircraft? We’re already working on innovations for sports broadcasting and our production business will be enhanced and grow as a result of our relationship with Intuitive Aerial.”