Comments to FAA re: UAS Prohibition

This is a follow up to my post earlier today, detailing the FAA’s proposed prohibition on flying RC aircraft via “first person view” (FPV) as well as operating commercially.  If you missed that post you can get caught up HERE.

For those willing to comment on the FAA’s memo of interpretation, I wanted to share what I had written to help and perhaps inspire others to take the time to write a comment, however brief.  Every comment counts!

YOU CAN (and I encourage you to) SUBMIT YOUR OWN COMMENT HERE:!documentDetail;D=FAA-2014-0396-0001

Here’s what I said:


FAA aims to outlaw RC “drones”

I’ve been doing some research into the laws pertaining to flying my quadcopter with a camera attached.  I’m contemplating pursuing it commercially, since it’s a rare occasion where I have a skill-set that could potentially be used to make income for my family (most of my skill-sets are next to worthless in terms of supporting a family).

The short result of my research?  It is LEGAL!  But of course it’s not that simple… (more…)

Lake Minnewaska AP

Huge thanks to my parents, “Mimi and Poppy”, for watching Scarlett this afternoon!  I finally got the lawn mowed, and had just enough time to run up to Lake Minnewaska State Park to catch the ‘golden hour’ of spectacular lighting.  Well, technically I was a little early for golden hour, but that late in the day the shadows of the tall trees can block the light from the cliff faces… anyway, as luck would have it I hit it about right.

Aerial video a really great… but I am absolutely loving this little quadcopter as a photography tool lately!


(click for high res)

Aerial Photography

I’ve been doing a lot of ‘AP’ lately (which is what cool people call Aerial Photography).  I’m really enjoying the aerial perspective and having a new and exciting method of image capture.

Here is my 1-minute demo reel showing my favorite shots so far:


The industry surrounding using these remote control drones- for lack of a better name- is blowing up right now!  And with my experience (growing up within micro-aviation), education (video production), and skill set (only child who’s spent of LOT of hours flying radio control toys already!)… I think this just might be a case of right place at the right time?  Time will tell…

Until then, enjoy some images from aloft! (click to view higher res)


Sky Out Thursday

When my dad offered to babysit Scarlett so I could get some errands done, and maybe even fly… how could I say no?!

The forecast looked ok, not great… but ‘flyable’ to some degree for sure.  I got up to launch and no one was there yet, it was pretty cross from the N or even NE, but with decent thermal cycles coming through.  I flew my RC Zagi a bit to get a feel for the conditions and wait for others to arrive.

As more pilots rolled in, they began setting up their wings.  I didn’t.  I’ve been looking for just the right day to soar my paraglider at Ellenville… and this looked like it could be the day.  The winds weren’t the best direction, especially for making it to the LZ on a slow and performance-challenged aircraft… but the winds were light and it’s not often we get thermic days without much wind around here.  I decided to give it a shot, not so much worried about the conditions or my abilities, but worried about being able to soar since I’m not nearly as skilled in a paraglider.

The launch was uneventful, as was most of the flight.  But on my way to the LZ I was fortunate to stumble into a thermal.  It wasn’t very strong, but it was fairly well formed and big enough to turn in… so I did.  I was able to take that single thermal up to about 3600 msl, for my first climb-out and soaring flight on the paraglider at E!

IMG_5294 IMG_5299

And from 3600 ft… I sunk out.  I was climbing under a nice cloud but was slowly drifting farther and farther back, and I’m not that comfortable being far from the LZ in the paraglider, especially at a site like Ellenville where I know there can be widespread areas of sinking air.  The thought of top-landing crossed my mind, but that seemed like asking for trouble so I let the feeling pass (maybe another time?).

I landed in a pretty active LZ, which required quite a bit of input to keep the wing overhead.  One last thermal at 10 ft and the wing slowed behind me slightly… I knew the following surge would not be kind to me and I’d be looking at swinging onto my butt at best… so I waited for the wing to start it’s move forward and checked it with brake- leaving me almost nothing left to flare with.  A few running steps and it was a safe albeit less than graceful landing.  Will have to work on that!

Shortly after landing, the resident XC god Dave Hopkins launched in his ATOS and was able to get up, so a few of us rushed back up to launch for another flight.  Having scratched the paraglider itch for the day, and with there being a little more wind now, I opted to fly the hang.


There was some ridge lift, but it was still mostly thermals.  After a while of climbing near launch I spotted Hopkins headed up the ridge to the North so I followed.  I “let him” race ahead since he had the performance advantage anyway (not like I had much choice in the matter), while I flew as efficiently as a good and watched for where he found lift and where there was sink to be avoided.  We connected over the doctor’s house and began climbing in a pretty decent thermal for the day.  He was higher than me when we got there, and he opened separation even more as we climbed.  Damn good pilot on a damn fine wing, tough combination to beat!

We climbed to about 5k where the lift seemed to slow and I was able to catch up to him.  There were these really sweet low clouds over the back (over my house!) so I took a few photos of the clouds, the scenery, and of Dave flying next to me.  We hung out of there for a few, long enough that I got a little chilly, before Dave headed further North and I headed back to launch.

IMG_5310 IMG_5322

When I got to launch there were several gliders in the air, but not as high… which seemed like the perfect time to practice some aerobatics to get down and say hi to everyone.  The lift was plentiful over launch, and I was able to do several sets of maneuvers, which was a lot of fun.  It was especially fun flying with my blue-and-yellow brother-from-another-mother Justin (he’s got my pervious T2).


Hopkins and I ended up landing about the same time, around 6:30.  The LZ was still pretty bubbly.

All in all it was a great day in the sky (twice!) and an excellent example of how fun the community and the flying is here at Ellenville.  The site has never looked better, and the community is as active as ever (there were easily 15+ people there on a random Thursday, for example).

Thanks to everyone that made the day possible for me- Especially my dad for babysitting!


Ellenville Aero-Photoshoot

So there’s a photo I’ve been wanting to get for a long, long time… and I decided the clouds and trees and everything looked just right to try for it today.  To get the shot, I’d need to fly with my nose-boom camera mount and my Panasonic GH2 (GoPro image quality doesn’t even come close!).

As with all good plans, things didn’t go quite as I saw then playing out.  First, I forgot the second battery to the GH2 at home- where I had put it on the charger to top it off just to make sure it was absolutely full.  No biggie, I’ll use the battery that’s in there, it’s showing it’s half full still.

Then I put the nose boom mount together, which is two pieces that sleeve together and a pin/safety ring secures the one inside the other.  Well I couldn’t for the life of me get the pin through the hole I usually use, so in my frustration I used a different one (more on this later).

After changing nose-cones on the glider (nose boom requires a hole to exit the sail), installing the nose boom with the safety string that runs through it and secures it to the inside of the keel, I aimed the camera and installed my RF remote shutter.  I go to take a test shot and it doesn’t fire.  Try again.  Oh, I didn’t turn it on!  Turn it on… test shot… nada.  Dead battery in the shutter receiver.  DOH!  No prob, I guess I’ll just shoot video instead.  The GH2 shoots amazing vid, and the lens system is so good even though they’re less megapixels than a GoPro the color and image quality is superb.


I launch and begin climbing my way up.  Now the shot I want is of me, at the top of a loop, with the horizon level and Ellenville launch in the background.  To get this with a nose-boom I’ll need to fly out in front of launch, turn around, and then loop towards the mountain… with enough room to exit the maneuver and not hit the hill of course.  The tricky part… besides looping in active conditions towards a mountain with a camera boom and 5-lb weight on the keel… was that I need to be at roughly launch level in order to get that in the background about at the apex of the maneuver.  Now before everyone flips out about low aerobatics, being in front of launch a ways gets me decent vertical clearance.

Anyway, I go out and do one maneuver.  I don’t say “loop” because I wasn’t quite wings level at the top, which meant my exit heading didn’t match my entry, which means it’s a great climbover but not a loop.  Anyways, I climb back up and do it again, this one I hit some nasty turbulence and bailed on the loop, doing a climbing rollover to expend the built up energy of the dive.  Climb up again.  I go out for round 3 and I’m lined up perfect!  Things feel good, I dive… wind noise building… let the pitch out very slowly and smoothly and as I climb I’m looking up and focusing on keeping it wings-level.  At the apex I can see launch just past my nose-cone and I know I NAILED IT (if I do say so myself).  And as I’m diving through the exit I hit a nasty bump and all I see is my camera coming towards me.  I knew immediately what had happened…

When I used that other hole to assemble the mount, that left the hole(s) I usually use (two holes about 45 degrees off so I can mount it with the bend straight or going off to one side) on the outside of the oversleeved portion.  To keep weight down it’s pretty thin aluminum (not aircraft grade or anything nice READ: expensive).  It broke at those exposed holes.  No biggie, because I always tie a spectra safety line onto the camera, run it through the inside of the boom, and attach it to the glider inside the keel.  So now 1/2 my boom is hanging from that string.  I guess I won’t be doing anymore aerobatics on this flight!

I debate flying around a while more… but I’m envisioning the safety line rubbing against the broken tubing and slowly cutting away.  I’m worried about losing my camera, but more importantly I’m worried about it falling and hitting another pilot, someone on the ground, a car, whatever.  Slim chance?  Not risking it more than I have to… head out to land.

Uneventful landing.  I packed up and and laughed the rest of the daylight away with the great Ellenville pilot community.  When I was done packing up I tried to check out my footage but the camera battery was dead.  I get home and excitedly download the video.  It’s only about 14 mins?!  I guess that 1/2 charged battery wasn’t very “fresh” after all.  DOH!


On the up side, I got some really nice shots of launch and the surrounding area, and I got the first of the three attempts at “the shot”… and I have to say, I’m pretty satisfied.  I may have to revisit this idea when the remote shutter release is working, and grab a 16MP sharp-as-hell image now that I know just where to be on the way over the top… but until then, a great day and “mission accomplished” (mostly).  Never boring!


Beach Bummin’

It’s been beautiful weather, but the last two days has been the absolute least ideal wind DIRECTION… so we’ve opted to recreate in other ways than hang gliding.  It’s a little bit of a bummer we haven’t gotten to fly more, but the forecast for Sat & Sun is promising.

In the mean time, on the beach we play!

photophoto 1 photo 2Nags Head  photo[1]Jockey's Ridge State Park

Kitty Hawk Dolphins

Enjoying the beach life in North Carolina before the Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding Spectacular- the longest running hang gliding competition in history.

We’ve had dolphins like crazy swimming in front of the house, so I’ve been sending out the quadcopter to shoot some video.  Yesterday I was a little more conservative, keeping my distance from the dolphins and the water.  Today, I got a little more brave- and a very curious dolphin came over to check it out.  Here are a couple frame grabs from the video…

Dolphins Curious Dolphin

TBT: Baby harnesses






One of the questions I keep getting as a new parent is whether I’ve made Scarlett a harness yet and when will I be taking her for her first flight.  My answer is that she needs to be old enough to ASK to fly with me.  If she wants to fly with me, you can bet I’d love to have that happen.  But I’m not going to force it.

All the questions about baby harnesses got me to digging up some photos of mine…

My first harness, circa 1988/age 3
(Unfortunately outgrew this harness before my first flight)

First flight: July 1, 1989/age 4


Down at Wallaby Ranch in Davenport, FL doing a landing clinic sponsored by Wills Wing for their annual “demo days” and anniversary celebration event.  We had favorable weather and filmed landings this morning, with the first of two classroom sessions after breakfast was served.  Tomorrow morning looks like rain, but we’ll be doing the second classroom session after breakfast.

And I even snuck a flight in this afternoon!  My dad and I towed up at the end of the day for a quick flight together and mini-photo session to document the event.


I stuck the GoPro Hero 3+ on my dad’s glider, and then we did some close flying together over the Ranch.