Quadcopters rising in popularity

John Goerzen captured this view of the Goessel Threshings Days this summer with his camera-equipped quadcopter. Courtesy photoFlying cameras, also known as drones or quadcopters, are becoming a popular item. John Goerzen of Goessel thought the idea of having one sounded fun.

?I bought my first quadcopter in July,? he said. ?I had seen some photos and videos online that were taken by this sort of device and thought it would be a lot of fun to use.?

Goerzen said his hobby has been photography for many years and the quadcopter seemed like an interesting extension to it.

?I can get landscape photos with a perspective that just isn?t possible any other way,? he said. ?Even just 50-feet up in the air gives a completely different look to things, and then 400- or 700-feet up is different again.?

Goerzen said the aerial camera has given him a new perspective.

?Our earth is beautiful, and this is another way to appreciate it.?

He also enjoys the quadcopter because it?s a hobby he can share with others.

?Once I get it above the treetops, even people that have never flown before can fly it around without risk of crashing into anything, since it will automatically maintain its altitude,? Goerzen said.

How it works

As for the mechanics of flying it, Goerzen said there is a controller, which is similar to the set-up used in other model remote-controlled aircraft.

?There are two control sticks?one controls elevation and rotation side to side, and the other controls motion forward, backward, left, and right,? he said.

The camera is controlled via a smart-phone app that uses a separate wireless link.

In addition to the excitement of seeing things from a different perspective, Goer?zen said he also has used the quadcopter for weather-related applications.

?We had some flooding around Labor Day,? he said. ?We got five inches of rain in a day,?

He sent the quadcopter to see the creek out of its banks, with flood waters in the pasture and over the road.

?I could have hiked through the mud, but this was easier,? Goerzen said. ?I am looking forward to winter and taking photos of a snowy landscape from up in the sky.?

Growing popularity

Although already popular in some areas of the country, Goerzen said he believes the popularity of quadcopters is only going to grow.

?Quadcopters have only recently become inexpensive and widely available,? he said. ?They are much easier to fly than remote-controlled helicopters or airplanes.?

As for the terminology, Goerzen said ?drone? has come to be used generically, which is why he tries to avoid the term.

?Many people make assumptions that are incorrect,? he said.

The proper term for this device is a UAV, short for unmanned aerial vehicle.

As most commercially available quadcopters are small-sized, they also are considered model aircraft, he added.

?Under the model aircraft regulations, they must always be flown within line of sight of the operator,? Goerzen said. ?I am always standing where I can see the aircraft. They can stay in the air only a few minutes, and can carry only a few ounces.?

When people think about ?drones,? Goerzen said, they often think of reconnaissance or weaponized aircraft, which carry hundreds or thousands of pounds of equipment.

?These are usually airplanes rather than a quadcopter,? he said. ?My quadcopter is only about a foot wide, and the lens is wide-angle, suited only for landscape work.?

Public response

The first reaction Goerzen said he usually hears from people when they see his quadcopter for the first time is: ?Wow! What is that??

Most people have been interested and excited to see his ?flying camera.?

?I am happy to share the excitement, too,? he said. ?I have offered to come out to people?s farms and take aerial photos for the fun of it.?

Goerzen said he can give people images for free and they can make prints if they want.

?It is a fun way to spend an evening,? he said.

Regulations

Goerzen said a lot of applications are emerging; the only thing he believes is holding them back is the ?murky legal situation due to ambiguous FAA rules.?

Goerzen said: ?The FAA is trying to assert UAVs cannot be used for commercial purposes, which is one of the reasons I don?t accept payment for my work.?

Courts have disagreed with the FAA, Goerzen added, which adds to the lack of clarity.

He said UAVs have a lot of potential benefits in agricultural settings, too. Citing one example, the quadcopter can be used for surveying the status of crops.

?Journalists have been interested in using them for reporting,? he said. ?Search-and-rescue companies and non-profits are trying to obtain exemptions from the FAA so they can use UAVs to help locate missing or trapped people.?

Another important factor when owning a quadcopter, is safety. Goerzen makes sure people who fly aircraft outdoors, even small model aircraft, do it responsibly.

?I am sure this will all sort itself out in the coming years,? he said.

Goerzen said the quadcopter has many advantages that are too compelling to ignore.

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