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Flying cameras, Yikes!
I went down behind the Aquarium last night (June 29, 2011) to take a picture of the salt water vessel Orsula coming into port. With tugs helping out and the sun just sliding over the hill behind me, it seemed like a good thing to do. Then I noticed a cute couple watching the ship too. Upon further investigation, they seemed too serious to be simply visitors out for an evening stroll.
When Dennis O’Hara turned and said, Hi Ken, I realized I was not alone, or rather I was alone. All I had was my little camera. Dennis had his wife Debby with him, a couple of interesting boxes and an even stranger, bug-like contraption sitting on the grass in front of him.
Upon further investigation, I realized it was a helicopter. Knowing Dennis, I looked underneath the helicopter and saw what looked to be a camera. A closer look at that box revealed the controls you usually see in the cockpit of an airplane. Despite being a licensed pilot, Dennis had spent a good part of the winter learning how to fly his OktoKopter. Octo from the Latin for 8, meaning 8 blades.
And the first step for that is to know precisely when to take off so you can get your picture and get back with a safe landing. A slow moving ship can cause a problem so they carefully judge the speed of the ship as it came under the Lift Bridge. I assigned myself the task of announcing that important moment in the countdown to lift off. You can see the bow of the ship just coming under the bridge, the tug ready to help and the OktoKopter just taking off. My work was done, successfully, I might add.
Having lost the battle to get exclusive pictures of the Orsula, I decided the only thing left was to get exclusive pictures of Dennis and Debby taking pictures of the Orsula with the OktoKopter.
This is not your average model airplane. For one thing, it will be flying over water so stalling in midair, or worse, is not an option. Nor is your battery running low. Happily all this technology includes a voice that announces how many minutes the battery has left, from the 7 it had when it took off.
I thought of one problem, but they had that covered too. How do you know what the camera is seeing. Debby took care of that with a totally separate system; she was watching a live feed from another camera on the OktoKopter showing her what the camera in the sky was seeing. That allowed Dennis to maneuver the OktoKopter into position. He had rigged it to take a picture every 2 seconds after he pressed the button. Can’t expect him to pilot the aircraft and take pictures at the same time.