Startup Has a Higher Purpose in Funding a Flight School for Drones

[Updated 8/19/14 1:40 pm. See below.] The motivation for a Kickstarter campaign that San Diego-based Spark Aerial began last week is made almost comically manifest following a short introduction that includes some spectacular outdoor video shot from remotely operated drones.

It is a compilation of out-of-control drones, careening and crashing into rooftops, trees, lakes, and chasing their operators with buzzing multi-rotors in full-throttle roar.

As founders Radley Angelo, Kurt Selander, and Austin Hill explain, Spark Aerial intends to raise $5,000 to create an online “flight school” and Web-based resource for wannabe drone pilots and aspiring aerial cinematographers. As they explain, “Our goal here is simple: we want to teach the world how to have fun, fly safe, and capture amazing content.”

[Updated to show Spark Aerial reached goal] Spark Aerial exceeded its $5,000 target with more than three weeks remaining in its fund-raising campaign, according to a statement yesterday. The free video training series (with some premium content) is intended to emphasize flight safety, and would move from such basics as taking off for the first time to advanced piloting maneuvers like the buttonhook sweep, which enables a video camera to remain focused on one place while the drone circles around.

Spark Aerial logoThe founders, who are all recent graduates from UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, say you’d be surprised at how often new drone owners try to fly their unmanned aircraft into fireworks shows and over football stadiums, outdoor concerts, parades, and other no-fly zones.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Spark Aerial’s Kickstarter campaign itself serves as an example in the use of rewards-based crowd-funding as a key tool in strategic marketing—a niche that San Diego-based Velocity Growth, which advised the campaign, was created to exploit.

“We looked at the training services campaign as an opportunity [for Spark Aerial] to reach some new customers, create some new sales and marketing channels, and as a way to establish … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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