Tiny drone keeping an eye on Bay harbor construction

This aerial taken from a small drone by Ryan Audibert shows the contractor installing concrete piles at the end of Pier 2.

This aerial taken by Ryan Audibert with a small drone shows the view looking east of the Bay St. Louis harbor site.

This small drone is keeping an eye on  construction progress at the Bay St. Louis harbor and pier. That's an iPad placed next to it for scale.

This small drone is keeping an eye on construction progress at the Bay St. Louis harbor and pier. That’s an iPad placed next to it for scale.

This view shows the camera that takes video.

This view shows the camera that takes video.

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.”

The aerial and video he takes of the construction progress is posted at http://bslharbor.blogspot.com/

Check out the footage from the BridgeFest at www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYgrbTOtLqU

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