Photo courtesy of Ryan Nelson.
Hoover resident Ryan Nelson often takes his drone with him when he travels and has taken aerial video in places such as Hawaii and Las Vegas.
Ryan Nelson stares into his iPhone screen, which is attached to a small, white remote control. With a flick of the wrist, he sends his drone whirring 400 feet into the air.
“There’s Hunter Street Baptist Church…and there’s Highway 150.…” Nelson said, narrating the tiny aircraft’s journey across the Hoover skyline as he watches the view displayed on his phone screen.
Within minutes, Nelson uses his thumb to maneuver the controller, and the drone comes flying back in sight, landing gently in the same spot from where it left. Data such as average speed and distance is saved, and Nelson can later view the information on his computer.
A drone can be loosely defined as an unmanned aircraft system. Nelson said that while many people are not fond of the use of the word “drone,” he doesn’t mind that label for his aircraft, which is officially called the Phantom 2 Vision+.
Unmanned systems have been in use by American armed forces since 1917, according to the Aerospace Industries Association. Nelson, a Hoover resident and registered airplane pilot, said he “caught the aviation bug” awhile back and has been flying his drone for years now.
“I got really into photography, and the worlds just merged,” said Nelson, who also owns an engineering company in Hoover.
Drones are available for purchase online at Amazon.com. Currently, prices range from about $200 to $1,500. Nelson said he predicts the prices will go down over the next few years. He often takes his drone with him on his many travels, which include scenic destinations such as Hawaii and Las Vegas. He describes one of his favorite moments as flying the drone over the ocean and getting video footage of the sea life below.
A survey by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles and Systems International estimates that in 2015 drones will have a variety of uses including wildfire mapping, moviemaking, environmental monitoring and disaster management.
“There are so many potential uses for these drones for fire departments, real estate and more,” Nelson said. “Fire departments could fly these over skyscrapers and be able to immediately see what’s happening inside.”
Rules set by the Federal Aviation Administration in the early 1980s include not flying a model aircraft higher than 400 feet, and when flying within three miles of an airport, one must notify the airport operator. Nelson said he did notify the control tower of an airport one time and they did not have a problem.
Drones are mentioned in several lawsuits across the country over privacy issues related to drone photography. However, Nelson sees drones becoming more common. He hopes to have commercial use of his drone when Congress passes a law allowing it and has already set up a website, Drone Productions, LLC.
“The general consensus is that something will get passed by the end of this year,” Nelson said. “Drone technology is starting to become more advanced. I have a feeling over the coming years it is going to explode.”
For more about Nelson’s aerial photography, visit droneproductions.com.