Featured NewsTrending NewsPilots StoriesPilot's Story: Travis Tuddle


18 June 2024

By Travis Tuddle

It all started when I was a kid, watching the 1980s hit television show Airwolf with my dad. It was then that I developed a love for helicopters.

As a kid, I would run around the house with whatever handheld helicopter my mom would buy me, pretending to be the high-powered, multi-skilled aircraft I'd seen on television. By my teenage years, I moved on to gas or electric-powered helicopters, as these units could actually fly. As much as I loved these units, my involvement with them was minimal, due to the high cost of both purchasing and repairing them. 

Fast forward to 2012, and I saw a quadcopter at a Brookstone store called AR Drone or Augmented Reality Drone. The purpose of the drone was to use augmented reality to play games through the camera lens. Kind of like a real-life Asteroids game, the idea was cool, but I never really saw the release of any games. That made me take the drone to a local park one day to see what this thing was capable of doing outside. 

I pushed upward using the joystick on my tablet, reaching about 150 feet. Looking at my tablet, I could see downtown Sacramento, as well as so many other things. From this moment on, I was hooked.

I would move on to buy multiple no-named cheaper drones before buying the eHang Ghost Drone, then moving on to purchase my first DJI Drone, the Mavic 2 Zoom Pro. 

In 2019, I learned that some people had been using drones for business purposes, and I became very interested. I also learned this required a license, Part 107. From there, I began a new journey, becoming a certified drone pilot.

While this can be a profitable business, it means so much more to me. I get so much enjoyment from flying drones and look forward to doing this as long as I can. 

As I delved deeper into the world of drones, I discovered an entire community of enthusiasts and professionals. Forums, social media groups, and local meetups became my new hangouts. The camaraderie among drone pilots is incredible. Sharing tips, troubleshooting issues, and celebrating each other's successes brought a new level of enjoyment to the hobby. 

One of the first significant milestones in my drone journey was mastering aerial photography. Capturing stunning landscapes and cityscapes from unique angles was exhilarating. I remember the first time I took my Mavic 2 Zoom Pro to a nearby beach at sunrise. The golden hues reflecting off the water and the tranquil morning atmosphere made for breathtaking shots. The sense of achievement from those pictures was unlike anything I had felt before. 

With my growing portfolio of aerial photographs, I began to think about the commercial potential of my hobby. Real estate agents, event planners, and even local government agencies were increasingly using drone footage for various purposes. I realized there was an opportunity to turn my passion into a side business. The thought of getting paid to do something I loved was incredibly motivating. 

Getting my Part 107 certification was the next step.

The process involved studying aviation regulations, weather patterns, and airspace classifications. It was challenging, but the sense of accomplishment when I passed the exam was worth every hour of study. With my certification in hand, it was time to put in the work required to accomplish my goal. 

Flying different types of drones has definitely given me an advantage getting into the industry. Flying everything from the Zoom 2, to the DJI Avata, to the mini 4 pro has helped me to see that every drone has its place in the industry. And without a doubt I love having a hand in all aspects. 

As my interest grew, I invested more time into my craft. The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom became my go to drone for recreational flight. Its superior camera and stability allowed for even higher-quality footage. I also explored new sofware for drones, such as video and photo editing tools and increased my gear in the process. The versatility of drones amazed me, and I enjoyed the variety in my hobby. 

But it wasn’t just about business.

Drones also became a tool for exploration and creativity. I have a group of friends that I stay in touch with that also have a passion for drones. From mountain ranges to abandoned industrial sites, we sought out interesting places to fly and photograph. These adventures were not only fun but also helped me improve my flying skills and expand my creative vision. 

One particularly memorable occasion was when I was flying in Monterey with my brother. He was his mini while I flew my Mavic 2 Zoom. While photographing a rock a distance from land, a flock of birds decided they didn't like what I was doing. My guess is they had a nest somewhere on the rock. Either way, about seven birds started to come after my drone. I was concerned about hurting them and crashing my drone. This was my chance, I used some of those Airwolf style maneuvers I saw on TV and evaded any direct interaction with eager creatures of flight. 

Safety and responsible flying became increasingly important as I took on more projects and ventured into new locations. Understanding and respecting airspace regulations, maintaining line-of-sight, and ensuring the safety of people on the ground were paramount. I attended trainings to stay updated on best practices and emerging technologies in the drone industry. 

In 2020, during the global pandemic, drones played an unexpected but crucial role in various areas. They were used for delivering medical supplies, disinfecting public spaces, and monitoring social distancing in crowded areas. Seeing how drones could contribute to public health and safety was inspiring. 

As the world began to recover, the demand for drone services continued to grow. Sharing my knowledge and passion with others was deeply fulfilling. Seeing they're  excitement as others took their first flights and captured their first aerial photos reminded me of my own journey and reignited my enthusiasm. 

In more recent times I just started to learn about drones used for agricultural purposes, they have drones such as the DJI Agris that are used to fertilize crops. This is a field that has definitely captured my interest and I hole one day to explore. 

Reflecting on my journey from a kid fascinated by helicopters to a professional drone pilot and entrepreneur, I realized how far I had come. The challenges, the learning, and the adventures had all been worth it. Drones had transformed my life in ways I could never have imagined. They had become more than just a hobby or a business; they were a source of joy, creativity, and connection. 

Looking ahead, I am excited about the future of drones. Advances in technology, such as improved battery life, autonomous flying, and enhanced imaging capabilities, promise to open up even more opportunities. I am eager to explore these advancements and continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible with drones. 

Whether it's capturing stunning aerial footage, contributing to innovative projects, or inspiring the next generation of drone enthusiasts, I am committed to making the most of this incredible technology. My love for flying, ignited by a childhood fascination with helicopters, has taken me on an amazing journey. And as I soar above the world, capturing its beauty and potential from new heights, I am grateful for every moment of it.

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