Drones are now everywhere - for better or worse. They arrive in Christmas stockings, crash into your eggnog and get ensnared in the tree. You’ll see them flying with their little green and red lights above the next outdoor event you attend. You might even see one floating around in your backyard. Some people have even shot them down. Drones have also been attacked by raptors, seen as a threat to their young. A commercial pilot friend tells me he has seen them on final approach to an airport with 200 passengers on board. He has a pilot friend that saw one nearly get sucked into the turbine engine of the commercial jet he was flying, also about to land. These latter stories reflect the realities of the new Wild West of unmanned aircraft proliferation. (A drone being flown this close to the airport without tower clearance is also very much illegal, not to mention other rules about flying in flight paths of manned aircraft, altogether.) But again, drones are a new part of our reality.
The good news is a drone can be a powerful tool. They have removed the risk of human injury or death in any number of industries by taking the need for a human to enter a hazardous situation out of the equation. Drones have been used to inspect the currently erupting volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, helping officials understand the nature and course of the eruption and subsequent lava flows. Friends of mine in the maritime archeology profession have located previously undiscovered shipwrecks in Lake Huron on the shores of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary near Alpena, Michigan, giving investigators a crystal clear bird’s eye view of anomalies along difficult to observe parts of the coast. Drones are being used to inspect bridges, wind turbines, cellular towers and other important infrastructure that not long ago could only be done so by helicopter or by climbing a ladder. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) have also radically changed the image-making industry, putting professional quality video capability into the hands of everyday people who can now glide through the sky with constantly improving drone/camera technologies that have the potential to make anyone with a thousand bucks look like a Hollywood aerial cinematographer.
I recently studied for and took the FAA Part 107 exam, which is used to qualify a person to operate a drone for commercial use. Video production falls under this category. Preparing for the exam was both intense and exciting - it’s only slightly less difficult from the test a civilian pilot takes to get their certification and based off the same materials. I did really well, which felt great since the last test I took was the eye exam they give you when you renew your driver's license. It was worth taking just for the knowledge of the national airspace, which is actually quite fascinating and something I would otherwise know little about.
Having the Part 107 certification gives us the capability to serve clients in a dynamic and exciting way. We can illustrate ideas or processes from a different - albeit frequently necessary - perspective. Quality footage acquired by drone can instantly increase the production value of a commercial video product, large or small. Some things are just better when seen from above, giving context when the only other perspective was from a sidewalk or a rooftop. The possibilities are only limited by the FAA rules one must follow under Part 107. The U.P. isn’t exactly crawling with airports and restricted airspace so - quite literally - the sky is the limit. Can we help your business with our drone? METAR report says “SKC” ahead!
We are always uploading new drone footage on Facebook and Instagram. Check it out to see the area in a way you probably haven’t before!-David