Pilot demonstrates how he uses drone
By Angie Landsverk
When Jeff Robinson bought a drone last spring, it was because he wanted to videotape his friends doing water sports.
He soon did that and much more.
“I ended up taking pictures of my parents’ home, because they put it up for sale,” he said.
When Realtors saw his work, they wanted to hire him for projects.
“I didn’t have an exemption when I bought it. As people got more interested and wanted to pay me, I got the exemption (from the FAA),” Robinson said.
He went through a five-month process in which he asked the FAA if he could operate the drone commercially.
After receiving approval, his new hobby quickly developed into a business called August Aerial Imagery.
This week, Robinson showed students at Waupaca Middle School how his drone works.
The presentations came about after Joan Holman noticed him working with his drone in her neighborhood this past summer.
Holman is the technology integrator at WMS and began asking Robinson questions about his work.
Robinson gave five presentations on Monday and three on Tuesday.
“This is a game-changing technology,” Holman said.
She also said Robinson’s visit was a kickoff for what students will soon be doing themselves at the school.
A MakerSpace is being developed in the school’s library.
These types of spaces are meant to open up opportunities for creativity, Holman explained.
The school district purchased four tiny demonstration drones for that space.
“We want kids to see what they can do,” Holman said.
Robinson did that, showing the students how he already uses his drone to take photos and videos for residential and commercial real estate.
After he sends his drone up into the sky, he gets more than 20 images in about 10 minutes.
Robinson’s presentation included information behind the technology, and he also told the students he often uses the words “Unmanned Aerial Systems” or UAS instead of the word “drone” when he talks about it.
That is because there have been some negative perceptions related to drones in the media, he said.
Robinson’s interest in flight dates back to when he was a high school student.
The 2000 graduate of Waupaca High School earned his private pilot’s license while he was in high school.
He then received his commercial pilot training at Fox Valley Technical College in Oshkosh and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a degree in organizational administration.
Robinson has been a commercial pilot for about 10 years.
He works for Endeavor Air, which is owned by Delta.
Robinson is based out of Detroit and lives here.
When it comes to his work with the drone, he uses a transmitter to tell the drone what he wants it to do.
A key component is how the camera on the drone is always steady.
“Realtors love it,” said Robinson, who also travels to Door County for real estate work.
Buyers are able to see how a house is located on a property.
Other uses he sees for drones include inspections of towers and buildings, precision farming, mapping and search and rescue work.
“Precision farming is something I want to get into in the spring,” he said. “A farmer can see the health of a field at any time.”
The technology could save farmers money and result in better yields from their crops, he said.
A farmer could also send a drone up to map an apple orchard, Robinson said.
“Under normal circumstances, it can zoom in to one centimeter,” he said.
Robinson showed the students images from Google Earth versus images from his Inspire I drone, noting how much more detail his images have.
“The little camera can take images that look more like a painting than a photograph,” he said.
The top speed of his drone is 50 to 55 mph, and Robinson told the students that when he goes out to do job, he tries to protect people’s privacy.
“About a year from now, regulations regarding drones are expected to be done,” he said. “Right now, everything is a gray area.”
While the drone he purchased cost about $5,000, Robinson said students would be able to find one at a hobby or toy store that costs about $50.
“I think there’s a lot of people out there interested in it,” he said of the technology. “And, it’s just beginning.”