Eyes in the sky: Rockwell couple start drone photography business

Published 12:10 am Saturday, March 25, 2023

ROCKWELL — At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Jacob Warner found himself like many others: quarantined, not working, nowhere to go and, frankly, bored.

Warner always had an interest in drones and with all that time on his hands, he decided to buy a toy version from Amazon. He would fly the drone around his house and in his yard to practice, slowly starting to work his way up to bigger and bigger drones.

Now Warner, along with his wife Hali, have started a drone photography business called Droney Island. It was Hali’s dad, Gregory Paleologos, who really pushed the couple to start the venture. He recently died, and now Warner and Hali view the business as a way to keep his memory alive.

“He was one of the people that was like, ‘Just do it, you guys got it,’ ” Warner said.

But flying drones recreationally is different from flying them as part of a business. You must have a drone pilot license if you want to start selling pictures and footage. To become a pilot, you must pass the Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 Exam. After a year of studying, Warner traveled to Alpha One Air Service in Concord to take the test. He passed and received his license on July 29, 2022.

Since then, Warner and Hali have been working non-stop to get their business up and running. They thought about hiring others to help, but decided the two of them can handle it. Droney Island is a family business.

“He does the flying and I make the calls,” Hali said.

The Rockwell couple have two drones: a small gray version called the DJI Mini 3 Pro and a larger one called the Autel Evo Light Plus. Both have tiny cameras that can rotate and Warner uses them to hover over events and take aerial photos and videos. They recently booked the town of Mooresville’s 150th birthday celebration, with events all year long. Warner flew his drone during Mooresville Day on March 4 and took photos of the large crowds that were gathering, as well as the fireworks show at the end.

With summer coming up, Hali said they expect to book more events because the weather will be nicer and clearer for the drone’s images. The plan is to continue to keep searching for other events online, make calls telling people about the business and offer their services. They specifically want to target real estate agents, construction jobs and contractors since those areas usually need drone footage.

The overall dream for the business is to acquire enough clientele to be a full-time job.

“We want to do the business all the time and not have to do any other jobs and literally just focus on the drone work,” Hali said.

Warner said he also wants people to appreciate their photography.

“I want to deliver really good pictures at an affordable rate, letting people enjoy our photography and overall helping people out,” Warner said.

For more information, call Droney Island at 704-213-9443.