Flying cameras, Yikes!

Dennis O'Hara and his OktoKopter at the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge 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.
Dennis O'Hara and his OktoKopter at the Duluth Aerial Lift BridgeWhen 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.
Dennis O'Hara and his OktoKopter
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.
OktoKopter takes off to get a picture of the incoming ship Orsula
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.
OktoKopter in the air
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.
Dennis O'Hara guides his OktoKopter so he can get a picture ofhe incoming Orsula
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.
Dennis O'Hara hat and his OktoKopter
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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.
Meanwhile, the voice was giving Dennis an update of the status of the battery. Click here to go to his web page at Northern Images to see the picture he, Debby and the OktoKopter took last night. His home page at Northern Images Photography is here.
The OktoKopter comes back to earth

Waiting …

 

White House situation room watching attack on Osama bin Laden

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Assistant Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Standing, from left, are: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Tony Binken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Audrey Tomason Director for Counterterrorism; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Click image for large version)

News notes for January, 2011 …

… as of Wednesday, January 17, 2011
Winter layup in Duluth
The Adam E. Cornelius, American Victory and Edward L. Ryerson have been in port for an extended layup. The H. Lee White arrived in port for winter layup on January 4th, 2011. The American Spirit arrived here for layup on January 12, 2011 and the Roger Blough arrived on January 14th. Both the American Century and the James R. Barker came in on the morning of January 17, 2010; the American Integrity arrived on January 18th. The John G. Munson arrived on Wednesday morning  January 19, and is the last arrival for layup for the winter. Weather will not allow the American Mariner to be as originally expected. You can check the schedule page at www.duluthboats.com for up-to-date information.
Soo Locks According to the Cheboygan Daily Tribune, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted a request from the Lake Carriers’ Association to extend the closing date of the Soo Locks for three days. The Poe Lock will officially close for the season on Tuesday, January 18th so that low inventories of iron ore pellets could be replenished to meet the wintertime needs of industry. The locks traditionally close on January 15th each year.
bridgepainting20100224_1581Bridge painting The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge will close at 6 am on Friday, January 14 so that the south tower can be painted (the North tower was painted last winter. See picture at left). That means all traffic after the 14th and until the end of the season (defined as the time that the last boat arrives in port) will use the Superior entry to access the port. It is anticipated that the bridge will reopen for traffic at 10am on March 14th. Watch paint dry!! You can still watch the paint dry, or at least watch the tent that covers the bridge paint while it dries, at our live 24/7 web cam at www.duluthshippingnews.com/dsntv I may find something even more interesting that paint drying before the winter is over!

What’s your name?

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The Ypermachos should be arriving off the Duluth piers late this afternoon. It will likely come in on Tuesday morning to load grain at the CHS terminal in Superior. This ship has visited here under four other names, one of them quite memorable. It was the Mecta Sea from 1997 until two years ago. Between 1992 and 1997, it was the Union. The name that is very important to Duluthians was the name between its launch in 1984 and 1992, the Socrates. In early November of 1985, this ship, as the Socrates, also dropped anchor off the Duluth piers to wait for a berth. Several days later, high winds, not untypical on Lake Superior in November, blew it off the anchorage, pulling ship and anchor towards the shore. Before getting there, the ship went aground and was stuck there for a week before tugs were able to pull the boat to deeper water. It eventually came into port, loaded grain and finally departed the Twin Ports. Above, the Ypermachos comes into port last November.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 05-26-2007

Vlieborg undamaged

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The Vlieborg is in the inner harbor, at anchor, after its collision with the north pier of the ship canal on Wednesday afternoon. It appears that the ship has suffered no structural damage. If several additional inspections reveal no damage, the ship may depart Duluth sometime later today for Europe with its cargo of beet pulp pellets.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 08-26-2005