GREENVILLE, S.C. — Brothers Carlos and Sergio Loaiza of Greenville want to be on the cutting edge of the next great innovation in photography — drones.
So far, the "aerial" part of their aerial photography/videography business is within sight but just out of reach.
But that hasn't stopped the pair from preparing for their big opportunity, if and when it comes.
The brothers, who each have a background in marketing, combined their twin hobbies of drone technology and photography into an entrepreneurial concept that launched late last year as Pro Bros Productions, a full service photography and video business that has a secret ingredient: the ability to shoot photos and videos with a drone's eye view.
For them, a hopeful future outweighed an uncertain present in the business of flying drones.
It isn't yet legal to fly drones for commercial profit without a special permit, which just one company in South Carolina possesses.
The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed new rules to govern how and where drones can be flown, but those rules haven't been finalized yet, and a growing mass of drone enthusiasts are waiting to turn their pleasure into profit.
The Loaizas want to be ready when the FAA does finalize its drone rules, as soon as this year. In the meantime, they are applying for one of the special permits to allow them to add their drone hobby to their business repertoire.
For the time being, they are content to experiment and to add any drone footage as a bonus for customers.
Carlos, 30, and Sergio, 28, were born in Colombia but moved to the United States when Carlos was 7 and Sergio was 5.
The Loaiza's settled in Travelers Rest, a fortuitous decision that would eventually shape each son's direction.
Carlos loved technology. He would take apart and rebuild computers, their Xbox, and anything else electronic he could get his hands on.
Sergio took to photography, especially loved nature photography.
Carlos took a job as a computer technician while Sergio went off to college, where he graduated from the University of South Carolina.
Both brothers ended up in event marketing, and they crisscrossed the U.S. organizing and marketing events for big-name national clients. They worked state fairs and festivals, Indycar races, traveling exhibitions and more.
Sergio would shoot photos — mostly as a hobby — but he would package his photography into the marketing campaigns.
Three years ago, Carlos was at a motocross event when he saw a small drone capturing videos of the riders from above.
"We gotta get one of those," Carlos told Sergio.
When they did purchase their first drone, a DGI Phantom 1, three years ago, it led them down a path to launch their own business.
Their new drone came equipped with a GoPro camera, and the brothers began to test it at events they worked.
Footage and photos they captured became an extra they passed along to clients. And any time they could, they took their drone into nature to capture its beauty from a new perspective.
One video shows a section of the Grand Canyon located on a reservation. The drone flies up a sliver of river and then zooms above a bright blue pool of water at the base of a waterfall.
The drone zips up the waterfall and whips around as it ascends to give viewers a glimpse of the cascading water and pool from above.
"It's almost like you're flying," Sergio said. "It's almost like you're up there. And you're filming it, so it's really cool."
One day it dawned on him that this could be their niche, Sergio said.
"I thought, 'Maybe I could make a living doing nature photography,'" Sergio said. "I never would have thought it was with a drone."
The brothers launched Pro Bros Productions in December.
They began to ramp up their photography/videography services. They shoot events, weddings, landscape, real estate, sports and more.
They hope to go full-time soon, but now Sergio splits time between Pro Bros and event marketing.
"It's hard to make that transition over from 'I'm doing this for fun' to 'How do I make a living off of it?'" Sergio said.
Carlos is the more-experienced drone pilot and edits footage to send along to clients.
Sergio has the eye for photography — the angles and light from a whole new dynamic taking shape in the sky.
They own three drones now, progressively bigger, better and more expensive, though each can be carried in a backpack.
And they can work together using one drone — the DGI Aspire 1. It has a dual control function that allows Carlos to fly and Sergio to shoot simultaneously.
"To be able to capture the type of stuff that we capture, you have to be a very skilled pilot," Sergio said. "If you're not able to keep that same steady motion, you're not going to be able to get that great cinematic content. You're going to get jerks here and there."