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Bringing a Bird’s-Eye View to You

Alumni-led company brings immersive drone footage to sports, real estate marketing

Six people stand in black shirts with the Epic Drone Tours logo, holding various small drones and cameras.
Zach Reuter, third from left, and Jack Spitser, fourth from left, lead the Epic Drone Tours team bringing unique angles to everything from luxury hotel marketing, to industrial space and San Diego Padres games. Also pictured are the Epic Drone Tours pilots and editors.

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From the campus that brought you GoPro (Nick Woodman ‘97) comes the latest in drone videography: Epic Drone Tours. The company, founded by two UC San Diego student-athlete alumni, uses GoPro cameras mounted to small, customized drones to capture immersive, first-person view tours of indoor spaces, from luxury hotels to commercial real estate buildings. Epic Drone Tours also uses their tech to capture wide-scale outdoor events, including broadcasting the first ever live drone footage during a San Diego Padres baseball game. 

Cofounders Jack Spitser (CEO, international businesses ‘20) and Zack Reuter (COO, mechanical engineering ‘22) met on the UC San Diego swim team, where they competed in the 400 meter individual medley and the mile. A long-time avid photographer, Spitser was the chief photographer for Swim Swam magazine, even getting to serve as the outlet’s official photographer for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. When he graduated at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, jobs were scarce and he didn’t quite know what his next step would be. Through a confluence of connections, Spitser was able to parlay his photography experience into a burgeoning new field: drone videography for residential real estate. 

“Because realtors couldn’t have open houses during that time in the pandemic, people were starting to use drones to create house tours,” said Spitser. “A friend learned how to fly drones, and we got all the proper certifications and tested out the idea in our houses. From there, we blasted samples to a bunch of realtors, and saw pretty quickly that this idea was sticking.”

What started as residential real estate home tours has grown to a business projected to do more than $1 million in revenue this year, including– as their name implies– epic first person footage of luxury hotel resorts like the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines and the W Hotel in Los Angeles, as well as office buildings, manufacturing facilities and large commercial real estate sites including NuVasive and Tysons Corner Center mall. Spitser and Reuter are also hoping that this contract with the Padres is just their first foray into the world of live sports streaming.

Take a Drone Tour through UC San Diego's newest architectural marvel, their $180 million Franklin Antonio Hall building at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

“This year, we’re looking to expand our business into more live streaming of sports, and bigger projects like car commercials, and more hotel and resort videography,” said Reuter.

To capture these stunning scenes, the Epic Drone Tour team uses the latest GoPro cameras hooked up to a first person view drone– much smaller than the typical drone you might see someone flying at the beach. 

“We buy the drone frame, but everything from there is custom built,” said Spitser. “We use a special stripped down motor and camera to make the whole device extra lightweight so we can maximize battery life–it’s a very customized kit.”

“Essentially we have the air units, the motors, and then the propellers and everything else is chosen by the pilots for a best-case-fit for the job,” added Reuter. “They have spent a lot of time figuring out the best pitch for the props, and stripping down the camera. Normally the GoPro is pretty large, and they go and strip it down so it’s just a camera, and add a little fan for cooling. We’ve also found a way to power the camera with the same batteries powering the drone. For some of the bigger projects we’re getting into, we’re experimenting with drones with 10-inch propellers and attaching a Gimbal below the drone.”

Capturing the Padres game with their unique perspective was an even bigger challenge. Aside from the FAA and MLB regulations they had to adhere to, the team had to find a way to broadcast an hours-long game using a drone with a 15 to 20-minute battery life. 

“Ten times or so throughout the game, we were landing and then swapping batteries and then getting back up in the air,” said Reuter. “So there's a lot of communication between the ground crew and the pilot, and then the pilot with the broadcast crew, just making sure that when we're getting into the lower side of the battery we can swap it out at a time when they're not gonna be needing our footage.”

The footage was aired on the jumbotron at Petco Park, as well as on the Padres Network on the MLB. 

Spitser, left, and Reuter, in their swim team headshots while at UC San Diego.
Spitser, left, and Reuter met as student-athletes on the UC San Diego swim team. 

From UC San Diego to the big screen 

Reuter said the skills he learned as a mechanical engineering student at the Jacobs School of Engineering, coupled with leadership skills developed as an athlete on the swim team, come into play every day as COO of Epic Drone Tours. In particular, the mechanical engineering senior design class was a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience working with a team toward a technical goal. 

“The senior design project I worked on was developing pull up bars that could measure the force being applied by each arm,” he said. “We had a group of five of us students working on that, and we were each good at different things. We were able to come together to develop a working prototype by utilizing the skills each of us had.”

Spitser added that the relationships built at UC San Diego, particularly through the swim team, and the ability to have creative outlets while earning a degree, prepared him to start and manage a business. 

“I credit the foundational learning, and my ability to foster my creativity, to my time at UC San Diego,” Spitser said. 

While their days are full running a rapidly growing company, the duo still finds time to swim at Canyonview Pool, back where it all began.

Take flight via FPV drone and our cinematic cameras through the exterior and interior of the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines. Get a sense of destination and story for one of the nicest resorts in all of Texas.

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