BAY ST. LOUIS No, you’re not paranoid. That really was a small drone flying over the crowds at Cruisin’ the Coast and at BridgeFest.
It’s likely that most people didn’t see the camera-equipped “quad copter” because of its size. It weighs less than two pounds and takes up about the same area on a tabletop as an iPad. The drone has a range of 1.5 miles and top speed of 40 mph. It can’t fly higher than 500 feet, according to FAA rules.
Aside from occasional overhead forays around Old Town, the little drone has a real day job. Ryan Audibert pilots it over the harbor construction site to check on progress from its unique overhead vantage point. Audibert’s father owns Gill’s Crane and Dozer Services, the general contractor on the harbor project.
“It’s such a big area, about 18 acres, I wanted to see how I could get some aerial photographs and some video,” Audibert said. His search led him to DJI, a Texas company that makes and sells unmanned aerial systems for photo and video applications.
“It’s doing exactly what I wanted it do to,” he said. The Phantom model personal drone cost about $2,000.
Audibert, who taught himself to fly the Phantom, already had some flying skills. He, his father and brother fly their ultralight aircraft around Slidell, where they live.
Audibert flies the Phantom over the harbor a couple of times a week. He’s also used it on other job sites. He guides it with a handheld console from inside his truck, which is equipped with a flat-screen television. “Everything the camera is videoing, I can see in my vehicle.”
Check out the footage from the BridgeFest at www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYgrbTOtLqU