Continuing the Journey

To recap – COBI our drone company had been formed and our first experience of ‘UAV work’ came with Team Essence; ‘The SAS Atlantic rowers’.

Team Essence had left Lagos, Portugal to row the Atlantic. (3,807 miles to row, each member rowed for 2 hours on and 2 hours off, sleep?) They were now rowing. I slummed it in a family holiday in Costa Rica, near their end destination Venezuela! I had contact with them and texted inspiring songs to row to. Tim Peake, was also speaking to them from the ISS, with better songs and advice. They rowed.

Once at home, plans were made for the intrepid Colin and me to go to Trinidad, not their final destination but as close as International Law would allow.

We left in late February 2016 with tickets, via Miami, great … two drones, Lipo batteries etc. We had a mission. We got to Miami, slept in some concrete hotel and flew to Trinidad, lipos and Drones ok, but American customs were not fun.

Arrived at night in Trinidad late and got to the Cruise Inn sometime about 2am their time. No room, great, Colin near loosing the plot went and rested by the beautiful pool. I walked out of reception only to see two figures in the road. “Tobi! Is that you”, was a call from the dark figures, “Yes”. I walked towards the figures, these people turned into the warm welcome hugs of Jules and Francesca, the girlfriends of Foxy and Olly Bailey – we were now saved from disorientation and a lack of friends.

Becky, Ross’s girlfriend kindly gave us her room for the night and our reservation was available at the Cruise Inn the next day.

All well. Now enough about us, the Drones were ready and we had arrived in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Meet the crew. Various family members and girlfriends had made the trip to Trinidad to see the guys home; we even had a lady from NBC over to cover the story.

We were all there for one reason. Team Essence, they were still rowing; now 300 miles off mainland Venezuela. Silver Fox, Jason Fox’s dad was navigator/ co-ordinator and the man that never slept. Even at 5am or anytime, he was glued to the screen. “Where are they now’, I would ask sipping a Pina Colada. “200miles south west of Cape so and so and not making good, bad currents and closing in on the drug running area”. I was beginning to worry. The straights between Trinidad and Venezuela are a drug runners dream and a political nightmare. Team Essence was head on to break records but also rowing into treturous waters, not only from currents but pirates.

Now this was a real consideration. Silver Fox put the assembled friends, family, girlfriends and journalists straight. “Once in the rescue boat, if we get incoming fire, lie down on my command. Chances are they won’t hit you. It is very difficult to hit a moving object on a pitching and rolling boat”. Cold comfort but at least we felt that Silver Fox an ex paratrooper had a handle.

Team Essence now had an ETA of that evening, in daylight! Which for us was brilliant for the Drone work.

The rescue boat was readied. Lots of water, cold beers, snacks and medical supplies. A very large Rastafarian owned the boat which was about 30ft long with two large inboard engines.

We left Port of Spain into heavy Atlantic seas. Heading towards the last reported position of Team Essence.

We had a helicopter gun ship kindly supplied by the Trinidad Government, but flown by an RAF crew. This escort was some comfort. At last we saw the tiny rowing boat that was Team Essence. The girls on the front deck of the rescue boat got very excited, waving; then BANG! One of our engines blew up and started to belch black smoke. The Captain shut it down, but now we were down to one engine and on half speed.

Here began the flight from hell. Once Team Essence had been sighted; Colin shouted to me, “Get the drone ready,” “What in this?” “Why are we here?!” I got the drone ready, in a heavily rolling boat that was now stopped to allow the drone launch. I let go of the drone from the back deck. Immediately it was taken by the wind and within seconds it was lost.

I shouted for all present to scan the skies for the drone. At last, one of our crew sighted the drone. Our Captain turned the boat around and headed towards the dot. It was the drone, fighting its hardest against the strong winds. Colin very skilfully managed to get the drone to within feet of the back of the boat. We had a burly medic on board, (Brother of Matthew Bennet, Team Essence’s Captain.) Who volunteered to hold on to my waist as I lent off the back of the boat, on my knees because of the swell.

Colin brought the drone in, I missed it on the first grab, but managed to get a handle on the landing gear on the second attempt. I fell back, being pulled by the big medic Jamie and landed on my butt between his legs, with a live drone. With propellers still spinning. Colin turned it off! Jamie had been hit by a propeller and it cut his finger to the bone, lucky he was a medic!

Second piece of luck was getting the drone back at all. Lessons learnt fast and lots of them.


Check out examples of our work, or get in touch for more information.




















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“These are not the Drones you are looking for…..”

The attack of the mutant drones is imminent!

Sorry not true, they will invade us and our privacy and steal our children! Not been proved yet, but all is possible. So far drones have had very bad press, nearly killed everybody in a Boeing 777 but sorry, Tesco bag at 6,000ft? Was it?

Anyhow belay your fears, a bit. So far drones worldwide have saved 59 lives and mostly by amateur drone pilots. It was calculated in a drone survey that a five man rescue team searching for one day can be done by a drone in one hour.

Who flies these drones? Well we do. COBI. As we all know you can buy a drone in Universal stores or Amazon etc. Here lies the problem. Drones that can fly inside, just get stuck in the curtains; drones that can fly outside are expensive, but available and unregulated. Whoopee you may think, get a Phantom and annoy your neighbour and that you will.

We, COBI have professional licences to fly UAV’s or drones, but many do not. All drones need to be licenced to their owners. That’s only COBI’s and my opinion. This is emerging technology not something we should diss. Far from it, if used ‘sensibly’ these drones are lifesavers, house sellers, golf course designers and medical supply carriers in emergencies. There are so many potential uses.

Privacy has always been the question asked, isn’t it something that drones can invade? Again all is possible, but let me supply you with the rules set out by the CAA for drone flying. Simply put:

1) No person can be within 50m of a drone at anytime, unless totally aware of the drone.
2) A drone pilot must have permission to fly from landowners land.
3) A drone must be in line of sight to the pilot at all times.
4) A drone must never exceed 400ft above ground level.

There are drone pilots that know the rules and most are sensible, but the sad few don’t seem to care or are uninformed.

If you see a drone ‘invading’ your space. What should you do? No don’t get the shotgun out, you will be culpable of criminal damage. Walk around and look for the car with the drone evidence in the back, usual signs will be a drone box, spare propellors etc. Take the number plate down and call the police. That said 59 lives saved versus non lost and some great images and maybe your dog will be found swiftly, or the leak in your roof, or the size of your land can be calculated. This is a future that will and is happening. The first drone deliveries have been made, albeit short distances and light weight goods, by Amazon and UPS.

So next time you see a drone, please don’t be so fearful, if you think that the drone is being flown by an amateur with no sense, you know what to do. If you have any questions please make contact through our website:

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Aerial Filming, making magic with Drones

In addition to first class aerial images, COBI also offers aerial filming.

Gyro-stabilized 360 degree 3-axis capabilities allow our cameras to create ultra-smooth full HD cinematic footage up to 4K resolution.

The ability to fly up to 400ft provides images not always possible to capture.

Property, landmarks, events – you name it, COBI can film it.

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel by clicking on the image below or take a look at some of our drone videos for more examples.


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Drone Laws and Legalities for Estate Agents

Drone Hire is proving ever popular in the UK property industry. Drones provide incredible aerial images of property and land, allowing potential purchasers to gain a unique perspective before a purchase.

A recent blog post by DroneSafe Register highlights the potential pitfalls of not being aware of legislation when hiring drones.


The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has warned that it has been alerted to many estate agents that may have broken the law by hiring unqualified drone operators.

Any drone operator flying for commercial reasons must have permission from the CAA. All pilots should have CAA PfCO (Permission for commercial operation) status and have the correct insurance.

Hiring someone without these qualification could result in prosecution and fines up to £5000.

A report carried out in 2016 found that almost half of UK estate agents were unaware of this fact.

Reassurance from COBI

COBI team Colin and Tobi are both fully qualified and certified by the CAA, with insurance and PfCO.

For more information or to read the full blog click here

Example of COBI property aerial image

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Drones for Team Essence Filming

Where it all began….

At the very beginning of 2016, my son Alfie wanted to compete in a new TV series called ‘Airmageddon’, or Drone War! We went to Pomlico to be interviewed. I have been a pilot since 1994 and a professional Photographer for over 30 years. At this interview, I started talking to the man sitting beside me. This person was Mark Boyte, a professional drone pilot. He showed me a short clip he had shot for Sunseeker, the luxury boat company. I was staggered and sold. I had to learn to combine my skills with a drone. We didn’t get to be on the TV, but Mark did!

Soon after this meeting, I was working with Jason Fox or ‘Foxy’ from SAS Who dares wins program. He was promoting a breathing device, called ‘second breath’ made by Salvare Worldwide. Anyhow after the shoot was wrapped, I asked Foxy what he was up to next. He said that he was rowing the Atlantic, “Really” ..

“Can we come and drone you?” “Yeah Buddy, we are leaving from Lagos, Portugal in a couple of weeks.”

10 days later, Colin my new found professional drone pilot and myself were on our way to Lagos; with 2 DJI Phantom 3 pros. ‘Team Essence’ is made up of five crew members: Crew Captain Matt Bennett, Aldo Kane, Jason Fox, Ross Johnson and Oliver Bailey. We were made to feel very welcome by the crew and their support team. After sea trials and some very skillful drone piloting by Colin; Team Essence left for their record breaking row. Mainland Europe to Mainland South America, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, for fifty days. 6 World records broken!

Colin and I decided, we must go to Trinidad to see them in as we found ourselves being spoken of as part of the support team. COBI was now born….

To be continued

P.s. The drone footage of Team Essence can be seen on our website

Drones for Team Essence Filming
Team Essence Filming

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