Flying High thanks to Virtual Reality

Drone start up Spherie

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Nicolas Chibac is taking off: the Hamburg film producer has founded a drones start-up company that enables virtual 360-degree flights around and about the city. An interview about landing and arriving in Hamburg.

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Kim-Lara Oswald

Kim-Lara Oswald has been living in Hamburg for two years and refuses to buy an umbrella.

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Photos: Kevin McElvaney

Nicolas, before you came to Hamburg you spent eight years travelling all over the world as a film-maker. How did you come to wash up in the Hamburg Oberhafen?

I'm from Flensburg originally. In actual fact – apart from my world tour – I never really moved all that far away. I came to Hamburg with my then girlfriend and had actually intended to move on. But then I thought: fine, I can do my thing just as well from Hamburg. And to me, Hamburg is actually the coolest city in Germany. Apart from the weather.

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360-degree breakfast at the FilmFabrique coworking space in the Oberhafen, home to Nicolas' company.

Why?

Hamburg has the appeal of a metropolis, but feels like a village. I love the way it's so close to the water, all the canals winding through the city and the greenery. I cycle to work along the Aussenalster – that's pretty extraordinary for a big city. I’ve also got that closeness in my profession. I've already done flights with our drone “Spherie” for half the neighbourhood, including Warner Music in the Speicherstadt district and big agencies and publishers at the port, such as Jung von Matt, Kolle Rebbe and Gruner & Jahr. All these companies are within walking distance.

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Son Noah and his mum Kathleen Hirsch help him to get some food inside him.

You put your virtual reality goggles on Penny Pritzker, the US Secretary of Commerce, at the beginning of the year – and made her fly through the HafenCity and the Oberhafen. How did that come about?

I moved to the Oberhafen with the Gängeviertel in 2014. When the halls of the creative quarter in the Gängeviertel district were closed due to redevelopment measures, they made the “Alte Bahnmeisterei” in the Oberhafen available to us as an alternative. It's the old Permanent Way Inspector's building for the railway. We're surrounded here by old track beds, warehouses and cobbles. I like this industrial appeal, it's simultaneously harsh and beautiful, and the Elbe is just a few metres away – we wanted to show Ms Pritzker all that when she visited.

And how did it go?

It was another rainy day, and Pritzker was supposed to be flying around the district with our drone and the goggles. It all went great. The one thing was that I'd taken the shots in brilliant sunshine (laughs).

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Grab the first issue of the new Hamburg city magazine "gentle rain" and find out more about the life of the high-flyer: gentlerainmag.com

You've already explored a lot of nooks and crannies in the city with the drone, including the Speicherstadt's moated castle and the City Hall. What would be your next flight of choice?

One thing definitely on the to-do list would be to fly through the Elbphilharmonie.

Thank you for the interview and ahoi!