Industry Insights: Drone Services with Jonathan Gruber
June 14, 2019
By Michelle Maslanka • Producer

Welcome back to our blog series “Industry Insights”, where we interview members of the production world that we have had the opportunity to collaborate with! This week, we are featuring a talented pilot and drone operator who has helped us take many projects to new heights. Meet Jonathan Gruber!

Jonathan is a lifelong aviation enthusiast. Anything with a propeller (or rotor blade) is fair game in his book! After attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and completing a degree in Aeronautical Science, Jon jumped right into the aviation industry. He currently flies for a large commercial airline out of Los Angeles. In addition to flying large commercial jets, he also flies small piston airplanes, helicopters, seaplanes, and drones. His passion for aviation runs in the family too. His wife, Jennifer, is an air traffic controller based in Chicago. There isn't a day for Jon that doesn't involve flying of some sort. Needless to say if he is not sleeping, you can count on him being up in the sky!

How did you get started in this line of work?

JG: When the drone industry started to take off, I quickly realized I was going to be involved. I was lucky enough to be tied into some fantastic production studios in Chicago that wanted to take advantage of this new technology. With the sharp increase in demand for aerial video, Elite Air Productions was born.

When did you start with Elite Air Productions and how has the company evolved?

JG: We started Elite Air Productions 5 years ago with a single client. We were initially involved with TV ad campaigns. Since then, we have grown our client base substantially. From large scale roof inspections, commercial real estate development bios, and non-profit fundraising promo films, we are constantly surprised by the projects we’re involved with.

How has your background as a pilot affected your work in aerial production?

JG: My career as a professional pilot has shaped the way Elite Air Productions views safety and reliability. Every project we take on is first evaluated from a safety and regulation compliance viewpoint. Once we can meet those objectives, it’s full steam ahead providing clients with the best possible aerials we can!

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest misconceptions regarding drone production?

JG: Many people feel that drone flying is easy. I’d have to say I can agree with that basic statement. Flying a drone IS easy - in a wide open field with no wind and good lighting, just about anyone could do it. The challenges that people don’t see from the outside are all the other facets of drone operations: equipment logistics, safety, regulation compliance, business management, and quality of video capture, just to name a few.

What has proven most challenging thus far about your job?

JG: Managing the company calendar is by far the most intense part of this company. With multiple clients that are battling many timelines of their own, we have to do everything we can to cater to their needs. We strive to be nothing but 100% reliable. That takes a lot of effort!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

JG: The people we meet at projects make the work fun! Helping to tell someone else’s story through video is VERY satisfying.

What inspires you?

JG: I have the goal to accomplish more tomorrow than I accomplished today. If I can continually improve and bring other people up with me, I feel proud at the end of each day.

What is one of your favorite projects and why was it so memorable?

JG: One of the most exciting jobs for our team was filming Soldier Field for a National TV ad campaign. Growing up in Chicago and watching the Bears, I never thought I’d be in a position to film the stadium from above. This job presented many legal and technological boundaries that took perseverance to overcome. Being able to succeed in this was very satisfying.

What is your personal mantra?

JG: “Never peak” and “Don’t live life based on what can go wrong.”

What are some of your favorite movies?

JG: The Hunt for Red October, The Departed, and Jurassic Park

Can you give us a fun fact about yourself?

JG: I can ride a unicycle and juggle at the same time 🤡

We have worked with Jon and Elite Air Productions on a number of projects, and are proud to call them partners and friends. Check out one of the projects we recently worked on together for the Les Turner ALS Foundation at their Walk for Life event.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the Elite Air Productions website at: