August 7, 2014
Entrepreneurs out to prove that the drones are
coming -- to help us...WITH SLIDE SHOW
By CATHERINE KOZAK
Davis wants to switch the focus on drones from their nasty reputation
as missile-carrying killing machines and privacy-invading spies.
Davis wants people to focus on what’s good about drones. And for a
remote, storm-vulnerable place like the Outer Banks, drones could
become the public’s best friend.
Davis, the owner of Drone
Camps RC in Rodanthe, said that drones have become very popular with
people who use them to video “lifestyle adventures,” such as
kiteboarding in Canadian Hole, kayaking in Pea Island, or hooking blue
marlin on an offshore charter fishing trip.
But once the regulators catch up with technology, Davis said drones will quickly become invaluable workhorses.
my company is trying to do is to educate the public on the real-world
uses,” he said. “There’s an unlimited number of things that drones can
do to help out society.”
It’s easy to imagine what they could do here on the Outer Banks.
could fly over overwashed roads and take footage of storm damage. They
could assist firefighters in finding hotspots. They could use thermal
cameras for nighttime search and rescue missions. They could monitor
wildlife and assist in management. They could guide rescuers to sinking
boats, shipwrecked passengers, or struggling swimmers, examine utility
lines and poles and inspect bridges, could show off tourist attractions
and the beauty of the Outer Banks close up from the air, look at
rooftops of houses for insurance purposes, measure beach erosion and
survey shoaling, or provide real-time traffic reports during hurricane
evacuations or holiday weekends.
In recent months, Davis, a
former broadcast video editor in New York City, has volunteered
to help the community by taking footage from the air of a house fire as
well as storm damage after Hurricane Arthur.
default as unmanned aircraft such as model airplanes, drones are not
supposed to be used for anything but recreation or hobbies. They must
be flown under 400 feet and not used within five miles of an airport
The Federal Aviation Administration is
already five years behind in issuing its unmanned aerial systems
regulations, but it has promised to publish them by the end of the year
– although it could be years before a regulation is effective.
the FAA issued a statement recently declaring that any commercial use
is not authorized without an exemption. So far only two have been
issued, to an oil company and a utility company.
after the FAA made its announcement, the National Park Service issued
its own policy temporarily banning drones in national parks until it
develops its own regulation.
“It’s kind of a gray area right
now,” Davis said. “It’s not against the law, but the FAA could
give you a warning letter or fine you.”
He added he now uses
his drones only for fun over private property within Cape Hatteras
National Seashore. But he has seen no malicious users of drones or
their video in the seashore.
“The worst thing somebody is
going to do is put it up on YouTube and it’s going to be free publicity
for the park,” said Davis, 39, who grew up on Hatteras Island.
shop sells remote-control planes and cars, but he said more and more
people are buying personal drones because, thanks to vast improvements
in technology, they have gotten affordable and easy to operate.
good for just about anyone who wants to see anything from above,” he
said. “I’ve had a very positive reaction from the public to my
Smaller drones, which he sells to those 14 or
older, range in price from $99 to $500, he said, not including a
camera like a GoPro. Or a bigger drone with a built-in camera, for
those age 18 and up, can be had for about $1,200. They are
operated with a remote control device with two joy sticks that the user
“It’s like driving a RC car, except it’s flying,”
he said. “They’re very, very easy to use. I could teach someone
to fly one of these in about 10 minutes.”
Gimbals on modern cameras stabilize the machine so that video is clear even in windy conditions.
Antoine Verville and Andy Knutson started their video business AV
Productions this summer in Avon. Verville, who is from Quebec, has done
video work for seven years and recently started using drones to take
footage of kiteboarders and surfers. He also took aerial video of
storm damage in the tri-villages after Hurricane Arthur.
Knutson said they would not use drones over Park Service land.
new businesses are just two examples of entrepreneurs making their way
in a hazy regulatory environment. Two recent court decisions that ruled
against the FAA’s authority to regulate unmanned aircraft added
to a Wild West attitude about drone usage.
flight operations manager at North Carolina State University’s NextGen
Transportation Center, said that test flights for several types of
unmanned aerial systems –aka drones - are being conducted by the center
at Hyde County Airport.
Zajkowski said that programs like
NextGen, which is funded largely by the Golden Leaf Foundation, is
helping North Carolina advance drone development in the U.S.,
especially as it relates to emergency management and agriculture. Law
enforcement is also interested, but they are waiting for legal issues
and privacy concerns to be resolved.
“I believe we are ahead
of the curve,” he said. “We have support from the governor on down. We
have money from the General Assembly.”
The state wants to
attract more drone-related businesses, he said, and is working to
establish drone training at N.C. State. PrecisionHawk, which
supplies drones equipped with high-tech sensors, GIS and radar to use
in agriculture and other industries, is already interested in expanding
its Raleigh facility.
Zajowski said that the newest and more
advanced drones allow users to point and click on a screen rather than
use joy sticks. Small recreational drones, he assured, are
not stable enough to hold weapons.
New technology has WiFi on
it that beams a signal back to a computer tablet in real time, allowing
the camera to adjust as it’s flying. Drones are being developed that
can fly overhead and follow a subject as they’re skiing, or mountain
climbing or paddle boarding. The drone would be tethered to a digital
leash “held” by a cell phone app or a small programmable device.
regulation the FAA comes up with, the reality is that drones are
already used widely, Davis said, and there is a huge network of drone
dealers throughout the country.
“There’s going to be drones on all
levels,” he said. “So everybody’s going to have their version of their
drone and we’re all going to get along.
“It’s already happening right now,” he said. “Everybody is just waiting for the green light.”
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