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Meet James Crawshaw, Action Sport Drone Pilot

BY Alan Perlman
14 October 2015

James Crenshaw Drone PilotMeet James Crawshaw.

I asked James if I could feature his aerial videography work in an interview here, because I liked the footage he sent me, and he’s setting a great example as far as safety and professionalism and getting into the UAV industry the right way.

James pilots a DJI Inspire 1 and originally got into the UAV industry with an interest in shooting action sports and high-end real estate.

He’s in the process of getting his private pilot’s license and lives in Reno, Nevada, working at a local fire department.

Check out the below video and interview to learn more.

For what it’s worth, my favorite shot in this video starts at 0:35.

Aerial test footage of DjiInspire 1 by GregStevensmedia

James, what do you do for a living?

I joined the U.S. Air Force in 2000 as a firefighter and now work as a civilian Firefighter/EMT. I currently work as a Lieutenant.

I wanted to fly helicopters, but I’m colorblind so that didn’t happen. I am, however, getting my private pilot license for Rotary wing.

What’s your background in UAS?

I learned to fly single blade helicopters about 8 or so years ago, and I flew my DSLR before it was cool and the whole drone craze.

I have a few helicopters, a couple of battery-operated ones, and 1 gas.

What was the first UAS you purchased, and why?

The DJI Inspire 1, because of the forward speed, the 4K camera, and the ability to fly a good distance. I purchased the dual operator system. I bought a fairly large package deal--it came with 5 batteries, two iPad minis and three chargers.  I have since added another battery and the 4-at-once charger.

How long did it take you to get the shots in that YouTube video?

We shot it all in one day.

I talked with our motorcycle rider just before the shot with what I was thinking and the look I was going for. Greg Stevens, a friend and fellow UAV pilot, helped organize the shoot and captured footage alongside me. In particular, he shot the slow mo action in the latter part of this clip with a GoPro.


What were you flying, who was the biker?

I was flying my Inspire 1 and the MX racer is Aron Harvey #776 out of Carson City, Nevada.

Did you do the post-processing yourself?

Greg Stevens helped with that, he was also the camera man operator on the second remote.

What tools were used to stitch everything together?

I believe he uses Adobe Premiere Pro, that’s what I use also.

You’re going through the 333 exemption process right now, what are your business plans?

Yes. I am waiting to hear back from the FAA now.

I first was going to do aerial video for real estate sales but found out that I love filming action sports, so I’ll probably focus my attention with that!

I have also sent all my info to the local sheriff and police department to assist in SAR if that need ever arises.

What one piece of advice would you give a new pilot looking to make money as a pro drone pilot?

Fly smart, follow the rules, don’t end up on TV ruining it for others that are trying to do it right!

Too many stories of someone going out and try to fly over a wild land fire or structure fires that put others in danger or fly over a stadium with lots of people with little to no experience and end up crashing and hurting spectators, why???

For nothing, to show off to your friends? Go out and shoot a sick video safely (again not ruining it for the people that are doing it right) show it off on YouTube or other social media outlets.

So much you can do with these badass toys!!!

There are plenty of jobs out there and this is only going to grow even more!

My vision went in a whole new and exciting direction when I tried something different (action sports) just that 2 min video opened so many more ideas that I never thought I would love!

Awesome, thanks for your thoughts, James. And keep flying safe and putting together great footage like this!

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