In the face of the COVID pandemic, which only exacerbated my already shaky financial situation, Mad Squid Productions™ could easily have dwindled away into nothing more than the memory of a dream I once had. I was fired from the only good job I’ve had since leaving the Navy in 2003, on Trump’s Inauguration Day. Luckily for me, I had my personal projects at Mad Squid to keep me going. And my food delivery gigs.
In 2018 I became certified by the FAA as a Part 107 commercial drone pilot, and I was gradually figuring out ways to make money with my drone. But when the pandemic hit, my 2-year recurrent test was coming up, and I didn’t see much point in renewing my license if I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere and fly. Procrastination set in, and a few political distractions like January 6th and my TikTok account, and before I knew it a whole year had passed with my drone never leaving the ground.
I do many things under the moniker of Mad Squid Productions™. I sell 3D statues on Second Life. I make MEMEs. I have a handful of social media accounts. I publish music, every decade or two. I do amateur blacksmithing. And on, and on, and on. But the only reliable–and scalable–money maker in the bunch has been my drone piloting.
That money has come primarily in the form of stock media sales, not from for-hire work. I have sold numerous stills and 4k videos captured from the air with my DJI Mavic Air on Pond 5, Shutterstock, and Getty Images, as well as aerial imagery for the Australian mapping company SOAR. There have been a few for-hire gigs, all of them attained through the Drone Base app, but they amounted to less than $1k in all, and often resulted in wasted days and travel time. This was because I would be hired for a gig 100 miles away, only to arrive on site to find that the cloud cover didn’t meet requirements for the gig, or that there was too much snow on the roof, etcetera.
Then, my laptop battery began to expand. My external drives gradually began to fail. My licenses for music and sound f/x expired, and I couldn’t afford to renew them. I had lots of designs for products like posters and metal or glass wall hangers, shirts, hats, etcetera, but zero capital to purchase inventory. Everything that could go wrong with Mad Squid, was going wrong. It was all snowballing on me, and it seemed that the forecast looking ahead would only get colder.
And then the U.S. Small Business Administration stepped in and gave me renewed hope! This is not a joke! First, they approved me for a long term, low interest loan which allowed me to replace my laptop and storage drives. Then, they approved me for a pair of grants that have allowed me to pay off my work car, which I use for both my delivery gig work and my drone missions, upgrade my phone (which is also my camera and drone controller) and, finally, renew my drone license! As of yesterday, I am officially licensed under 14CFR Part 107 to fly drones commercially, again!
Of course, this has caused me to dig back through my 2018 and 2019 drone imagery to consider an improved filing nomenclature that will allow my collection to continue to grow without it becoming impossible to find anything specific. Combine that with the fact that TikTok recently approved me to upload 3 minute videos, and you’ve got a recipe for me to release a TON of content to that platform. In turn, once that is set up and running on auto-pilot, this will free me up to focus on other areas of content there. And, of course, I’ll be flying new drone missions to capture brand new, awesome drone footage.
Stand by to stand by! –Mad Squid