May 16, 2017

One of the many cool things about small drones is that we can get awesome photos at a fraction of the cost of hiring a photographer with an airplane.  So, I have been able to take some photos to replicate an older aerial photo. Back in the day, a guy who had a plane and a camera was able to fly up, snap a few pictures from his rickety old plane, and sell them to the owner.  Now we can do it the high tech way. 

One of the first jobs I had was to take an updated photo for a church that was celebrating an anniversary.  They had a 50 year old black and white photo taken from a plane.  We were able to go up and take a photo that was from almost the exact same angle, and deliver it to them.  Now they are side by side on the wall. 

If you have a company, restaurant, lake property, or any other location from which you’d like to get an updated photo, let us know.  We can make it happen. It’s cool to see how the area has changed since the last photo, and you can have one in color!  Plus we can make it a panorama photo if you’d like!      #dronesforgood


May 2, 2017

I get lots of questions regarding my UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) or drone.  So I figured this would be a good spot to answer those Frequently Asked Questions. 

What kind of drone is it?
We have a couple. Both are made by DJI.  One is a Phantom 3 Professional - the most popular drone in the world.  The other is a Phantom 3 Advanced.  They are very similar. The Phantom 3 Profesional shoots 4k video. 
How high can it fly?
Legally we can usually fly to 400 feet above ground level. However, in some circumstances we can go higher.
How fast can it go?
High speed without the help of wind is around 35 mph.  The law says we must stay under 100 mph.
How big is it?
It is 23 inches across and weighs 2.8 pounds.
Is it safe to use?
Yes, we follow all FAA regulations regarding flying.
How much do you charge for video and photos?
It depends.  Each project is different and price will vary.  We will give you a free quote.
What is the quality of video and photos?
Our Phantom 3 Professional records 4k video and shoots 12 megapixel photographs. Check out our main drone page for examples.  We also have plenty on our social media pages.
Can you spy on someone for me?
No. Privacy laws prohibit “spying” on someone. Besides, it’s too loud to sneak up on someone.
Are you licensed?
Yes, our drone is registered with the FAA and we have an FAA Small Unmanned Aircraft Pilot license to operate a drone commercially in the United States.

Please contact us if you are thinking about getting some aerial photos or video for a project.  We can also assist you with our drone in other ways.  See our main page for the list.  Thanks.  #dronesforgood


April 25, 2017

Today we talk about real estate pictures and videos.  I saw this question posted recently on a message board I follow -  “I’m a realtor and am thinking about getting a drone and shooting my own pictures and video.  I can just go to Best Buy and get one and starting shooting right?”  Oh man.

Anyone who flies a drone for commercial usage must be an FAA Licensed Pilot under 14 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 107.  That means you must take and pass a difficult FAA test to become a pilot to use a drone for commercial usage, like taking pictures and selling them.

Just like real estate agents must be licensed to do what they do (by the state), drone pilots must also be licensed (by the FAA) to do what they do commercially. When you hire a real estate agent, you already assume they are licensed.  Have you ever asked someone to see their license?  Usually they work for a broker, and they obviously have to be licensed to do that. 

Right now, there are plenty of people with drones who are shooting pictures and video for commercial gain, without licenses. That’s an FAA No-No.  Most people outside the drone world aren’t aware of the licensing requirements. Hopefully with enough information and education, that will be a thing of the past soon.

For now, keep in mind that if you are a real estate agent and are shooting your own drone photos and video or hiring someone to do it who isn’t an FAA Licensed Pilot, you are violating FAA regulations and can be subject to fines and penalties.  I’m pretty sure a real estate agent wouldn’t want to do a deal with someone who wasn’t a licensed agent.  So why would you want to do business with a drone pilot who isn’t licensed? 

The bottom line is this – make sure if you hire a drone pilot to do commercial work, they are a licensed FAA pilot, and have their drone registered. I will be glad to show you my license and registration when and if we work together.  I’m all about following FAA regulations and flying safely.   #dronesforgood  #hirelicensedpilots


April 18, 2017

Now that better weather is here, I thought it would be a good time to crank up the DRONES FOR GOOD Blog again.  It’s not a good idea to fly in bad weather, as rain and snow can cause problems with the internal parts of a small drone. Over the winter I had many conversations about flying a drone for commercial purposes, which is what I do.  I thought I would address one of the most asked about topics – Can someone just buy a drone and start taking pictures and selling them?  The short answer is no.

To become a commercial drone operator, you must be a licensed FAA pilot and register your aircraft.  To become an FAA licensed pilot you must take and pass the Part 107 Knowledge Test.  This test is to ensure you know about drone safety, how to read sectional charts and know the different airspace designations and where and when you can and cannot fly. After you pass the test, you are then allowed to fly in airspace that is not controlled.  If you want to fly in controlled airspace, like Class A,B,C,D, or E, you must apply for and receive a waiver or authorization.  You must tell the FAA where and why you want to fly, and they will decide whether to give you the ok. I have authorization to fly within Kalamazoo’s Class D airspace, up to within 1 mile of the airport. 

There are other kinds of waivers that you can attempt to secure: Operate from a moving vehicle, fly at night, operate multiple aircraft, or fly over people.  Unless you have a waiver from the FAA, you cannot do any of those things, even with your FAA license. So if you see video from a drone flying over a running race or over a big crowd, not only is that against FAA regulations, it’s not smart or safe.

The FAA considers you a commercial operator if you are using your video or photos for profit or for your business, or if you are using them to promote yourself.  So if you buy a drone, fly at the beach, then post them on YouTube, the FAA considers that commercial, because YouTube videos have ads, and if you are not licensed, you are subject to FAA penalties and fines. The bottom line is that if you intend to benefit from your drone photos and videos, you must have an FAA license.  So if you know someone who is flying a drone and selling their photos and videos or using them in promotion of their business without a license, they are doing so in violation of FAA regulations.   

If a realtor buys a drone and figures he’ll just get drone shots himself without a license, he’s also doing it against FAA regulations. Just like he wouldn’t want to do a real estate deal with someone who doesn’t have a real estate license, a realtor shouldn’t deal with a drone operator who isn’t licensed.

We would love to help you get some great photos and video this summer for your next project.  There are plenty of examples right here on our website.  #dronesforgood #hirelicensedpilots


December 12, 2016

One of the questions I received last week was about weather.  Can I fly my drone in the snow and rain?  Yes and no.  Yes, you can fly in bad weather, but it probably isn’t a good idea.  Moisture will hurt our little flying friends.  They have 4 motors, props, lots of sensitive material inside, and a really nice camera onboard. 

I try to stay away from flying in bad weather.  The snow and water will get into the tiniest places on the drone and that’s never a good thing.  Snow and rain will also clog up your lens.  The only way to avoid it is to fly backward.  I did fly in fog once, and when I landed, noticed that my drone was damp.  I immediately took it home and dried it out so there would be no problems down the road.

With bad weather usually comes high winds.  It’s never a good idea to fly on a windy day. I’ve done it, but the results usually suffer.  Imagine moving around while taking photos with your camera.  Same thing. 

So yes, you can fly in bad weather, there are no laws stopping you, but what’s the point?  Unless you are intentionally looking to get photos or video of snow or rain, it’s not a good idea. Usually the goal is to get the best looking photos and video, so I stay away from bad weather.    #dronesforgood


December 5, 2016

I was recently asked about the legality and specifics of flying a drone for business reasons.  There are still some misconceptions about flying a drone and how it can be done properly, so let’s take a look at some of the facts.

My Phantom 3 aircraft is registered with the FAA.  If you purchase or build a drone that weighs more than .55 pounds, you must register it with the FAA.  Micro drones do not have to be registered.  The idea behind it is that if there is an accident, or if a drone is lost, it can be traced back to the owner.  It is considered an aircraft operating in United States air space, so it needs to be registered. You are actually registering yourself, and putting the registration numbers on your aircraft, no matter how many you own.

In the last couple of years, the FAA added regulations, and tweaked them to try and keep up with the popularity and prevalence of small drones in the United States.  They’re still trying to catch up. If you are going to use your drone for commercial reasons like taking photos and video and selling it, you must be licensed. Originally it was a Section 333 Exemption license.  This year they changed the license to 14 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 107.  That is the license I have. To obtain that license, you must take an FAA test, much like a regular airplane pilot would take, except for a Small Unmanned Aircraft System Pilot. Obviously, flying a drone is much different that flying an airplane, however, the FAA wants you to know much of the same information regarding airspace, weather, and reading aviation charts and maps.  It is not an easy test, unless you are already a licensed pilot.  The test costs $150 and you must score 80% or better. Yes, I have taken the test, and passed.

So yes, my drone is registered with the FAA and I have and FAA pilot’s license.  I have been flying my Phantom for almost two years, and I love it.  It is fun to fly, but seeing the photos and video that we get is the real reward.  I hope we can help you get some unique and amazing photos or video for your next project.  If you’d like to see what kind of results we get, check out some photos and video here on our website and at our Social Media websites. We’re recording history one flight at a time.    #dronesforgood


December 1, 2016

One of the frequently asked questions I get about my drone is “What kind of camera is on that thing”?   Well, let me tell you about it.   My drone is a DJI Phantom 3 Professional.  The camera has a fixed aperture of 2.8, which means it will not zoom in, but is always in focus. So to get a closer look at something we have to fly closer. 

It is a 12 MP camera, which means we can get some very nice shots.  Most of the pictures I take are going to be used on the internet, so that quality is plenty.  However, I have printed out some larger prints, and they look great.  You can improve on any photo you take with Photoshop or other editing programs, so you can always save or improve on most photos. I have taken panorama photos as well, vertical and horizontal.

The camera is just like most DSLR cameras, and has almost all the same settings.  I can use the Manual setting and custom set the white balance, shutter speed, and ISO.  There are other minor settings you can tweak as well.  Plus I can add a filter if we’ll be shooting on a bright day. That’s perfect for video.

The video on my Phantom is awesome.  It will record up to 4K video.  I usually shoot in 1920 x 1080 HD at 60 fps.  It will be a while until 4K is the norm, so for now, regular HD is fine.  Just like taking photos, I can tweak video settings as well, including frames per second. Photos and video are recorded onto a micro SD card that is inside the body of the Phantom. 
Check out some of my video and photos at my website if you’re wondering about quality.  This magical machine is amazing and delivers some awesome results. We would love to help you get some special photos or video for your next project. 


November 28, 2016

Drones can be used for many things other than getting cool looking photos for real estate agent listings. Aerial photos and video can help someone who has a large piece of land or a property or business that can’t be seen in its entirety from the ground.  It’s a great way to see the “Big Picture”.

For example, someone who owns a farm may want to see what their crops look like, but doesn’t want to spend hours on foot or in a vehicle.  A quick flight can show them all they need to see.  A Christmas tree farm could use aerial video to see where their biggest trees are located, or if there are any dead trees.  It could also be used to help a customer pick out a tree they like. 
A construction company might want to see what their new neighborhood looks like from the air. They could take daily or weekly photos to track progress and to chronicle the building of the neighborhood.  It could also show a potential customer a piece of land they may be interested in buying.

Anyone who has a large piece of property could benefit from aerial photos and video. Some businesses may not have ever even seen a photo of their full property from the air.  A quick peek could reveal a problem with a fence line or show issues with a roof. Sometimes it’s just good to see the “Big Picture”. We would love to help you see it.       #dronesforgood


November 21, 2016

Today’s blog is going to address the negative aspect attached to drones, mostly by the media.  The coverage they’ve received over the last year or so has been disturbing.  I’ve seen articles online, tv news pieces, and received emails from people who believe that small drones, like the one I use, are pure evil and should be shot down.  Well, let’s set the record straight. 

First, small drones like my DJI Phantom 3 Professional are not even close to being in the same class as military drones.  I think this is where the disconnect lies. My Phantom is actually a quadcopter, but I get weird looks when I use that word.  Yes, the military has drones that are for war and surveillance.  Small drones were made to take photos and video. My Phantom weighs about 2 pounds.  It’s hardly something you want to send into enemy territory.  It is also a felony to shoot down an FAA registered aircraft.  I am an FAA licensed pilot, and my drone is an FAA registered aircraft.

Our small drones are tremendous tools.  They are not toys.  If you get your hand or arm in the way of the props, you are going to the hospital.  So when someone says “Man, what a great toy!” I just laugh.  When I fly my Phantom for business, it’s usually connected to more than a dozen satellites, which keeps it where I want it to be, so I can get high quality photos and video.  It can also follow me and fly pre-programmed flights, all by itself.  It is a highly sophisticated piece of equipment. 

I called my blog “Drones For Good” because I felt drones were getting a bad reputation.  Sure, there are always going to be a few knuckleheads out there who ruin it for the rest of us.  I’m sure you’ve seen a story or a video of someone attaching a gun to their drone, or spying on someone with it.  Both of those things are illegal.  Unsafe use of a firearm is illegal whether there’s a drone involved or not.  Same with spying on someone.  In fact, if you really wanted to spy on someone, all you need is a telescope or a nice DSLR camera with a zoom lens.  My drone does not have a zoom lens, and it is really too loud to sneak up on someone. I made a video to show what my drone sees from different heights.  You can find it here.

Drones can get great video and photos. They can also help with search and rescue missions, wildlife assessment, crime scene coverage, construction inspections, and so many more applications. I urge you not to freak out the next time someone say “drone”.  I’m using mine for good.  Maybe we can get together soon, and let me show you how we can help you.   #dronesforgood


November 17, 2016

Drones are becoming valuable tools for many different purposes. Other than using it for taking photos and shooting video, I’ve been part of a couple of search and rescue missions.  With its speed and high quality lens, it covers acres in a fraction of the time it would normally take people to search. 

Earlier this year I helped with a search and rescue mission in Fulton, Michigan.  We were looking for a missing man.  He was eventually found in a corn field. The family wanted me to focus on the bean fields in the area, which weren’t as dense as the corn fields.  I searched around 40 acres.  We looked at the live video while the drone was in the air, and also later at the recorded footage, where we could slow it down and zoom in for a better look. 

We can also get a closer look at roofs, towers, trees, or anything that’s out of reach of a normal camera or higher than your ladder can go.  While I am not a licensed inspector, I can help assess something that may need repair or attention.
They’re not just cool flying machines.  They can help us see what we’ve never been able to see before.  And if we have a little fun along the way, that’s icing on the cake.   Remember, we’re recording history one flight at a time.    #dronesforgood


November 14, 2016

Is shooting photos with a drone the same as my DSLR camera?

Shooting photos and video with a drone is just like shooting with a regular camera.  In fact the camera on my DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone is virtually the same as a DSLR camera.  You can manually adjust all the settings for both photos and video. It shoots 12 megapixel photos and HD video all the way up to 4k video.

So the possibilities for usage are endless. I’ve done search and rescue missions, business photos and video, tv commercials, real estate photos and video, and a demo for a Police Department.  Of course I've also taken photos and videos for friends and family and just for fun.

The cool thing about drone photos and video is that you can get that never before seen angle.  Before drones, you had to spend hundreds, even thousands to hire a helicopter or airplane to get such photos.  Now, even though we are still regulated by the FAA, and need to follow all airspace rules, it’s much easier and affordable to get that perfect shot.
We’re recording history one flight at a time.    #dronesforgood


November 10, 2016

Shooting photos and video with a drone is just like shooting with a regular camera.  In fact the camera on my DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone is virtually the same as a DSLR camera.  You can manually adjust all the settings for both photos and video. It shoots 12 megapixel photos and HD video all the way up to 4k video. The small camera is mounted below the drone on a gimbal, that keeps the camera level and steady during movement.  This helps deliver clear photos and smooth video.

So the possibilities for usage are endless. I’ve done search and rescue missions, business photos and video, tv commercials, real estate photos and video, and a demo for the Portage Police Department.  

The cool thing about drone photos and video is that you can get that never before seen angle.  Before drones, you had to spend hundreds, even thousands to hire a helicopter or airplane to get such photos.  Now, even though we are still regulated by the FAA, and need to follow all airspace rules, it’s much easier and affordable to get that perfect shot.  Hopefully we can do it for you.  We’re recording history one flight at a time.    #dronesforgood

November 7, 2016

Welcome to the first post in my new Drones For Good Blog.  In case you aren’t aware, one of the things my media company does is aerial photography.  That means we use a small drone to shoot video and photos for people and businesses.  Yes we’re registered and licensed by the FAA to do it. 

One of the questions I get the most is – “What is your favorite thing to shoot?”  Well, as much as I love video, my favorite thing to shoot is home or business photos. When we get a great shot, one that the owner has never seen before, the look on their face is priceless.  When someone is seeing aerial footage of their home or business for the first time, they are amazed at how it looks.  In fact, the word they use the most is amazing. 

There is nothing better than getting a photo that captures a business or home, with a beautiful sky.  It's a great tool to use for promotional items like pamphlets, websites, or business cards.  If you’d like an aerial photo, we’d love to make it happen.  We’re recording history, one flight at a time.    #dronesforgood