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Drone business set to soar

  • David Korpiewski flies his quad copter rigged for aerial phots and video. Recorder/Paul Franz

    David Korpiewski flies his quad copter rigged for aerial phots and video. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • David Korpiewski and his quad copter rigged for aerial photography and video. Recorder/Paul Franz

    David Korpiewski and his quad copter rigged for aerial photography and video. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • David Korpiewski flies his quad copter rigged for aerial phots and video. Recorder/Paul Franz
  • David Korpiewski and his quad copter rigged for aerial photography and video. Recorder/Paul Franz

MILLERS FALLS — The thing takes off vertically from David Korpiewski’s lawn with a sound like a swarm of bees, streaming video directly to a pair of goggles.

The operator sees what the camera sees, in real-time and with only the occasional flicker to calm the spine-tingling feeling that you’ve just shot 20 feet up in the air.

But that’s not what the device is for. If you need before-and-after pictures of a construction project, an aerial view of your property, want to check the roof for holes without walking on the roof, Korpiewski’s got the drone for that.

“My business so far has been around contractors, because they like before and after pictures, and, actually, solar panel installers, because from the ground you can’t see solar panels.

“I’m about a quarter of the price of a normal rental pilot, taking pictures from the air from a real airplane,” Korpiewski said.

Korpiewski is an IT professional and a dedicated remote control hobbyist, and he’s decided to make the hobby pay with a new enterprise, TransAerial.

“I started a business because if I’m going to spend all this money I decided to get the money back somehow,” Korpiewski said.

Individually, remote control planes and helicopters can be surprisingly inexpensive, but his fleet runs over 50.

He says the new drone is providing some of the most fun he’s had with the hobby ... he’s got some great sweeping views of Turners Falls centered around the steeple of his church, and now he feels he’s ready to charge about $100 for a set of photos or video.

“12-megapixel single shots and it’ll do 4k video, 4k being the latest technology,” he says, “it’s as high as resolution can get for your television and or monitor, and the pictures are fantastic, I don’t understand how they can get such good pictures out of something this small.”

He’s built a drone before, a styrofoam glider with a video camera to simulate the experience of flight, but his latest is for more practical purpose: aerial film and photography. It’s not a new idea, but he believes he’s the first to offer it in the area, and he’s well-positioned to know as the past-president of the Franklin County Remote Control Club.

This drone is based on the models used by hobbyists, and the whole thing is made of mechanisms that can be found online or in hobby stores. The four-rotor helicopter itself is a toy, the camera is a GoPro — a lightweight video camera marketed to the extreme sports crowd — and the gimbal it’s mounted on is steadied by an accelerometer acting as a gyroscope would.

Korpiewski said he put the whole thing together for about $2,000 — and the know-how to decided what parts were needed.

Ready to fly, the quadcopter weighs 2 pounds and eight ounces, can hover, dip and pivot in any direction and has a range of a little over a mile and a flight ceiling of 400 feet.

The flight ceiling is a legal thing, not an equipment limitation.

The Federal Aviation Administration regulates flight but, as Korpiewski understands it, they recently lost all control over low-flying commercial drones in a court case.

In 2011, a man named Raphael Pirker flew a remote controlled glider over the University of Virginia and shot a video which he sold to an advertiser. The FAA sought a $10,000 fine, complaining that Pirker had “operated an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

A National Transportation Safety Board judge this year dismissed that fine, writing that the FAA has historically differentiated between model and manned aircraft but has not issued enforceable guidelines for the former.

As far as Korpiewski is concerned, that means he’s fine as long as he stays out of the upper air where real airplanes fly with flight plans.

“Right now I’m a free man to do whatever I want, take pictures wherever I want. That said, you want to be careful because if the drone suddenly hits a bird, falls out of the sky and hurts somebody, I’m liable for that,” Korpiewski said.

“That’s why the business is focused on buildings and real-estate.”

The technology is the other thing working for him. He says the building blocks of his quadcopter — light cameras, light batteries, a light, maneuverable aerial platform — have probably been around for about a decade, but has only lately come within the price range of private citizens.

Korpiewski books jobs through his website, transaerial.com, or by phone at 413-695-2191.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:

ccurtis@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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