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Google Maps Gives ‘Spin Tours’ of Businesses on Mackinac Island

Google Maps Gives ‘Spin Tours’ of Businesses on Mackinac Island

http://www.dbusiness.com/daily-news/Annual-2014/Google-Maps-Gives-Spin-Tours-of-Businesses-on-Mackinac-Island/

Visitors no longer need to take a ferry to visit the many unique and interesting shops on Mackinac Island. As of this week, 80 percent of the island’s businesses can now be viewed with 360-degree virtual tours on Google Maps.

To create the “spin tours,” Mackinac’s Tourism Bureau collaborated with Novi-based LunaTech 3D, which sent three employees to capture more than 10,000 photos of the interior of participating businesses and along a 1.5-mile stretch of Main Street, between the ferries and the Grand Hotel.

“The plan was to help businesses update Web content to be more interactive,” says Tim Hygh, executive director of Mackinac’s Tourism Bureau. “We are excited to see businesses start to include these tools on their own websites in addition to the work LunaTech 3D has done with Google.”

Among the 72 participating businesses were the Grand Hotel, The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House, Pink Pony Deck, and JoAnn’s Fudge.

Douglas Willett, CEO of LunaTech 3D, began working with the Google Business Views, previously called Google Business Photos, three years ago. His portfolio spans the state, with projects for businesses including Andiamo Detroit Riverfront, Zehnder’s Splash Village in Frankenmuth, and Port Huron Music Center.

“This is a visual way to show (potential customers) exactly what you have to offer,” Willett says. “With one click, a person can virtually be inside your restaurant or store.”

While this particular project was on a larger scale than most of his projects — it took three days to shoot — at least one aspect of the island simplified the editing process. “We have to blur faces and license plates, (the latter of) which isn’t really an issue on Mackinaw Island,” says Willett, laughing.

Willett says he will return to Mackinaw Island this October to develop additional tours for businesses who have contacted him since the company’s first visit and plans to expand the project to other Michigan cities in the future.

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Crain’s Article – LunaTech uses Drone technology

See the article here, http://www.crainsdetroit.com/mobile/article/20140330/NEWS/303309969/firms-set-drone-flight-plans

The forecast for local businesses tied to hobbyist or commercial drones? It’s taking off, although uncertainty pegged to pending Federal Aviation Administration rules makes it an unchartered area to do business.
Here’s a look at five Southeast Michigan companies focused on the world of drones — and how their business is hinged upon the federal discussion on regulation.

R4 Robotics

Karl Sachs is CEO of Birmingham-based R4 Robotics, which has been developing drone technology since 2011.

Sachs suggested that to speed up the approval process, the FAA should separate the rules for drones that operate in controlled settings (such as R4′s public utility work) and those that travel long distances across urban areas, like delivery drones.

R4 is focused on work like scanning utility lines for leaks, hot spots or other issues.

Sachs said R4 ran a pilot program with a utility company to test how drones can be used to check power poles. But he used extreme caution.

“We put out cones, rang people’s doorbells to tell them what we were doing and left notes if people didn’t answer to make sure no person would be under one of our devices,” he said.

Detroit Aircraft Corp.

Detroit Aircraft specializes in drone work for first-response, commercial and creative applications.

Jon Rimanelli, CEO of the Detroit-based company that designs, integrates and tests drones, said opening air space, even temporarily, to hobbyists opens the door to hobbyists using drones for commercial purposes.

But, he said, hobbyist drone flights potentially pose a risk to the public.

“The reality is the ruling basically will allow for a number of people — some of whom lack a proper electronic background — to go out and use drones for commercial purposes without testing their reliability or airworthiness,” he said.

In the meantime, Rimanelli said Detroit Aircraft is working with customers from the government and military, who can operate drones with certificates of authorization, and with the Detroit Fire Department, to develop a drone training center.

LunaTech 3D LLC

The Plymouth-based marketing firm has been fielding requests for aerial photographs taken by drones for six months from clients that include golf courses and real estate agents as it produces spin tours and other visualization services for clients.

The all-clear for certain categories of drones has been helpful to the company.

“Now that the doors have opened, even if it’s only for a short period of time, we will be going at it full-bore,” said company President Doug Willett.

The company integrates aerial images with Google Earth and other media to create presentations and tours for websites and other uses.

Hello Aerial LLC

Detroit-based Hello Aerial, a subsidiary of tech innovation and design company Hello Innovation Inc., has invested $1.5 million in drone technology in the past year, said Joe Joachim, CEO of Hello Aerial.

Joachim said his six-person team is focused on developing drones that will fall in between those hobbyists use and those the military use in anticipation of the FAA’s commercial drone regulations.

“We are the biggest fans of regulations because we want to get rid of the people who are operating drones without knowing what they are doing,” he said.

Hello Aerial already operates its nearly 20 drones like an airline, with pre-flight checklists and other safety measures.

FlowerDeliveryExpress.com

In perhaps the most publicized local business response to the drone ruling, Wesley Berry, CEO of Commerce Township-based florist Wesley Berry Flowers, said he would restart the testing of using drones to deliver flowers after such tests were halted by the FAA last month.

He said drone delivery would have many advantages over the trucks his company uses for flower deliveries — such as not having to follow roads or get stuck in traffic.

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