Featured NewsTrending NewsPilots StoriesPilot Story: Jonathon R. Leach


1 May 2024

By Jonathon R. Leach

I was born and raised in Southside Raleigh, NC. While attending Broughton High School, we were forced to have over 100 community service hours in order to graduate. Most kids volunteered for numerous groups, in order to complete the task. I volunteered to be on the film team at Broughton High, as well as the cinematographer at my church (Providence Holy Church).

During this time, I learned basic filming techniques and developed a love for story telling through the lens. After graduation, I joined the U.S. Army and I went into the finance field. I served in two deployments in Iraq and brought my first camera in 2004 ( Sony Cyber shot).

In 2013, I purchased my first DSLR camera and in 2015, I was introduced to my first drone while on set filming The Oust by Vision Twenty Films. I landed a role playing a part as a security guard officer who comes home from work and finds a woman disturbed. Once my role was completed, I noticed my friend flying his drone for a part in the film. I asked him, “Hey man, that’s pretty cool. How could I learn to fly?”.

I don’t remember hearing his exact response because I was called over to take a quick photograph for the team. But I do remember this began my interest in flying drones.

In 2017, a friend came to visit me from Greensboro, NC. I had no idea why he was excited but he kept telling me on the phone we need to get together to fly and film. I had no idea what he was talking about. Later that evening, he text me and told me he just got a DJI Phantom 4 drone.

Now I understood why he was excited.

That day, we took amazing pictures of downtown Raleigh. I was so amazed at the capabilities that I had to fly, and I was very surprised that I would even fly that well. My friend allowed me to post the pictures, and, immediately, I got inquiries for drone work.

But I didn’t have a license or a drone.

In 2022, my film business began take off. I was getting a lot of behind the scenes credits for a local music artist. I had made a few artist album covers with my photography work, and I was known for filming documentary style in the area of Raleigh.

I finally purchased my first drone—a DJI Mavic 1—which I still fly today. I began to explore the areas of aerial photography and videography more but then I realized I was still missing the education and licensing in order to do this legally. I asked my friend who sold me the drone what I should do in order to purse this journey. He told me I needed to pass the part 107 testing. I had no idea what that was, but when I found out I immediately went into training with the Drone Pilot Ground school in order to get me prepared.

Even though I had the information, it took me one year to successfully complete the course and pass the test. Life’s trials and tribulations tried to stop me along the way but finally I am here doing what I love to do.

My dream is to teach Kids how to properly fly drones. I think it would be so cool to educate and expand to teens across the world what we know as drone pilots. This is why now I am starting a non-profit organization called “Flight Skool”.

Flight Skool will sponsor events and organizations that teach kids across the U.S. about drones, equipment, and techniques that could help the economy and save lives.

I would love to fly for Michael Bay doing a Hollywood production but if I could help the community that would mean so much more.

Get Our Newsletter!

Don't miss out on essential news, industry updates, hot videos and photos, gear reviews, and more!