Bird's-eye view

Interest in drones soars as new uses for the aircrafts are explored

Bob Myers of DeKalb, owner and operator of Hawk Aerial Imagery, performs a pre-flight safety check on his two drones, a Yuneec Typhoon H (left) and a DJI Phantom 3 Professional, before flying them at Afton Forest Preserve on Aug. 3.
Bob Myers of DeKalb, owner and operator of Hawk Aerial Imagery, performs a pre-flight safety check on his two drones, a Yuneec Typhoon H (left) and a DJI Phantom 3 Professional, before flying them at Afton Forest Preserve on Aug. 3.

Bob Myers of DeKalb loves being able to see the tops of buildings, the layout of towns and rows of cornfields from a bird’s-eye view – all while standing safely on the ground.

Myers owns and operates two drones for his business, Hawk Aerial Imagery. He has a remote pilot certification and uses his drones to take pictures for the Joiner History Room in Sycamore, events, such as the DeKalb County Barn Tour, and for businesses, such as local real estate agencies.

Myers, who flew with the Air Force and did aerial photography while in the service, describes drones as a mix between two of his favorite things: photography and aviation.

Myers has taught four drone classes at Kishwaukee College in Malta and will teach a class about commercial licensure for drones at Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby in September.

“Most people who purchase a drone have no idea how to fly one and they don’t know the rules,” Myers said. “In my beginners class, I cover that. In the advanced class, I talk about photography, certification and licensure.”

Doug Howie of Genoa took Myer’s Drone 101 class and loved it so much, he bought a drone and enrolled in the Drone 102 class. Howie now flies his drone almost every day.

“I am retired and wanted something fun to do, so I thought I’d take a class to learn about drones,” Howie said. “Flying a drone is so interesting and so much fun. I love taking my drone out, it keeps me active.

“I fly my drone around the neighborhood and look at the cornfield in my backyard and the flooding in the crick down the road,” he said. It’s unbelievable what you can see with a drone.”

Myers said that although flying a drone can be a fun hobby, it also can be dangerous: drones can legally fly up to 100 mph, up to 400 feet and share the same airspace as airplanes.

“It’s important to know the basic rules of drones before flying,” Myers said. “You are sharing the same airspace as manned aircraft, so [you] have to remember to do a pre-flight inspection and be safe at all times.”

Drone rules

The Federal Aviation Administration, refers to drones as unmanned aircraft systems. All UAS weighing 0.55 to 55 pounds must be registered online with the FAA and labeled with a registration number. Registration costs $5 and is valid for three years. To register, the owner must be 13 years of age or older and either a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.

Drones must fly only during the day, at or below 400 feet, fly at a maximum of 100 mph and never fly near other aircraft or over groups of people or emergency response efforts. Operators must keep their drone within sight at all times and never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If a drone is being used for business or commercial uses, such as surveying or photography services, operators must receive remote pilot certification.

According to Tom Cleveland, manager of the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, one of the most important rules of flying a drone is to be aware of airspace requirements and restrictions.

Drones must fly in Class G airspace and cannot be flown within five miles of an airport unless they give notice to both the airport operator and air traffic control tower, if the airport has a tower.

“It’s important for drone operators to read the FAA’s rules and regulations,” Cleveland said. “They have to follow rules, be safe and keep drones out of airplanes’ airspace.”

Drone uses

By 2021, the FAA predicts there will be three times as many, or 3.5 million, hobby drones and 10 times as many commercial drones in the sky.

Cleveland predicts that the use of drones will continue to grow.

“Drones are used in aerial photography, in agriculture, real estate, police departments and fire departments,” he said. “The uses for drones are endless.”

On December 14, 2016, Amazon completed its first delivery by drone in the UK. Amazon is testing different vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages. In the future, Amazon Prime Air will deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using small drones.

Local police and fire departments are not currently using drones, but drones are available for their use.

John Petragallo, deputy chief with the DeKalb Police Department, said his department has trained with drones and that they have the ability to use them when needed.

“Drones are being used across the country right now by law enforcement. ... A drone would be an excellent tool with an active shooter or violent criminal on the run or on the roof of a building,” Petragallo said. “Drones can also be used to take overall scene photography of car crashes and traffic accidents. There are a lot of uses, it’s really up to your imagination.”

DeKalb Fire Chief Eric Hicks said drones also are becoming popular in the fire service.

“We currently do not own a drone, but there are many available to use,” Hicks said. “We could use them for a variety of reasons, including accessing large fires and surveying damage after a fire. It’s just not cost-effective for us now, but eventually we will get one.

“I think that they are like cell phones years ago: they’re becoming more and more popular and everyone either wants one or has one,” he said.

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