Ashburn-based drone company captures sky-high views

By Chris Wadsworth 

It’s a moment Missie Ellis will never forget. Two in the morning. Hiking down a narrow trail in the wilds of Iceland. Arctic cold. Strong winds blowing. And the volcano erupting nearby.

“Fighting through those conditions and concentrating on flying was exhilarating and worth the discomfort for the shot of a lifetime,” Ellis said. 

Flying? The shot of a lifetime? Yep, Missie Ellis is a professional photographic drone pilot. And while her company, Vantage Point Drone, is based here in Ashburn, she has traveled around the United States and the world capturing video and photos of places both mundane and mind-blowing: Florida, California, Tahiti, Scotland, Switzerland and more.

Originally from Miami, Ellis dabbled in photography while moving around with her husband, Mark Ellis, an Air Force pilot. But her life took a turn after a chance encounter in 2014 with a little white drone. She spotted it buzzing over her head at the Reston Town Center. It was there to record a local 5K race, but Ellis was captivated. 

“On the way home, I Googled ‘white quadcopter,’ and I had one ordered by the time we got home,” Ellis recalled. 

She started experimenting with her new miniature aircraft and soon became quite proficient at it. She decided to start selling her images – but that came with new hurdles in the form of a pilot’s license and special certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ellis was one of the first people in the country to earn a Part 107 certificate for commercial drone pilots when she passed the test in summer 2016. She’s also one of a small minority of women who are professional drone pilots. Statistics show there are roughly 300,000 certified drone pilots in the U.S., but only about 8% are women. 

“Three years ago, I was on a women’s panel at the New York Film Festival and got to talk with a lot of women and answer a lot of questions on how I opened my aerial photography business,” Ellis said. “I love helping people, so it was great.”

Vantage Point Drone officially launched in 2016. Ellis’ services include commercial and residential real estate photography, aerial marketing, before-and-after construction images, mapping, time-lapse videography, 360-degree photos, consulting and drone instruction. 

Typical clients include real estate agents, general contractors, marketing companies, event coordinators, homeowners associations and even television and film producers. Yes, Ellis’ video work has appeared in shows like the “Depp v. Heard” docuseries on Netflix. 

Sandeep Sharma is a bi-coastal filmmaker working out of both North Hollywood and Ashburn. He has been working with Vantage Point Drone since he arranged for Ellis to get aerial imagery of a family member’s wedding in 2020. Since then, he has incorporated her video into several of his projects, including some of the material captured in that wild Icelandic shoot. 

“From wild horses, volcanoes, to the countryside of Iceland, I now have an immaculate choice of footage to choose from to incorporate in my film,” Sharma said. “I have repeatedly asked Missie for reassurance that she will not be retiring any time soon as I do not want to lose such a valuable asset for my projects. Fortunately, [she] has assured me that she will be working for many more years to come.” 

Vantage Point Drone has many other local clients, including homebuilder Stanley Martin Homes and L.F. Jennings, a construction company. Ellis captured photos showing Loudoun United’s Segra Field in Leesburg while it was being built, and she works with the folks at EatLoco, who put on many of the area’s big farmers markets.

Dan Hine, the CEO of EatLoco said the drone photos are important because they can capture the size of the markets.

“That’s one of the things that draws people – and the only way to really do that is with drone footage,” he added. “You can see all the vendors. You can see all the visitors enjoying themselves. You can even see the big parking lot, because that’s so important for people going to a farmers market.”

Flying a drone in Loudoun County can sometimes be dicey thanks to airspace restrictions around Dulles International Airport.

Ellis says maps aren’t always correct or fully updated. Her drones also use “geofencing,” which means they are programmed to stay out of restricted areas. It is possible to fly in and around a restricted area, but only after receiving proper authorization.

Another challenging skill is learning how to fly a drone indoors. In the business, it’s called FPV – or first-person view – and the video gives you the sensation that you are flying through the building yourself. Ellis has tried it once – and plans to do more training on FPV videography so she can add it to her services.

“There’s dust indoors. There are sometimes wires. There are a lot of things you have to take into account when you’re flying indoors,” she said. “At Smokehouse Live [a former restaurant in Leesburg], I flew through the bar and over to the concert area and it was pretty cool. The client was really excited, but I was sweating it, let me tell you.”


Learn more about Vantage Point Drone and its services at