One of The University of Findlay’s multimedia equipment pieces incited some inquires this past summer. People tweeted about it. People called UF. It was tiny, fast, and briefly being flown along Main Street. Was that a drone?
Yes, it was. A second generation DJI Phantom, to be exact, with a GoPro camera attached. UF’s media technology specialists Aaron Osborne and Ben Walton had stationed themselves at Dorney Plaza, on the south side of the Hancock County Courthouse, and recorded aerial footage for a “First Year Experience” video that will provide new students with a virtual tour of the city.
It wasn’t the first time that the University’s drone attracted attention, and likely won’t be the last. “Every single time we go out with this thing, we get approached by anyone who walks by,” said Osborne. “When we were downtown, one guy stopped us before we launched it to ask questions. When we were recording on campus one day, one guy followed Ben around for the whole half hour he flew it, snapping pictures every now and then.” The team is happy to oblige with information. After all, while drones are frequently flown in other parts of the country and the world, they have yet to become commonplace in Flag City, U.S.A.
The University of Findlay’s drone is the size that hobbyists use. It is flown in keeping with Federal Aviation Administration rules for “Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” Guidelines for its use were also developed by UF’s Marketing and Communication Department. Footage is obtained for business purposes rather than academic reasons.
Check out a demo video:
Not so long ago, drones were strictly used by the military. Now that they’re used commercially and privately, compelling drone footage of everything from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site to TV tower climbers to the evening illumination at Flag City Balloon Fest is capturing attention and imaginations. Their affordability, easy maneuverability and travelling range are contributing to sales increases. According to a January 2015 article in Forbes.com, drone sales on eBay included more than 127,000 devices and amounted to $16.6 billion since March 2014.
Along with getting downtown video footage, UF has used its drone to record and capture still photos of such scenes as kayakers on the Blanchard River, football practices at Donnell Stadium, and ceremonies for new and graduating students at Griffith Memorial Arch.
“It’s fun to fly,” said Walton, and relatively easy. Weighing about three pounds (the GoPro weighs about eight ounces), it has a GPS tracking device and safety features that force it to land slowly and safely when it looses signal. The operator can see what’s being recorded, and consequently where the drone is, with a cell phone, which shows what the GoPro is recording and monitors speed, altitude and other factors. Sporting four propellers, the device has a battery life of approximately 30 minutes and a range of about 1,500 feet, although Walton and Osborn say they never fly it that high or that far away.
Walton and Osborne always team up for drone use, which enables one of them to operate it and the other to identify obstacles, visually keep track of its whereabouts and answer curious onlookers’ questions.
Osborne and Walton say privacy violations are not a concern. The controller can tilt the camera to get different angles, but the camera’s wide-angle lens doesn’t lend itself to window peeping unless the drone is made to hover very close to the glass. There is no zooming capability.
UF bought its first drone just over a year ago. The videographers have been using it to shoot more footage of outdoor events and aerial scenes for other projects arise.