Heartland Drone Company started back in 2017. And since that time I've been fortunate to work with and meet people from diverse industries and backgrounds. I think for the most part people feel that drones are pretty cool. It's a flying robot - what's not to like?
So naturally, when I'm flying the drone or talking about drones, people have a lot of questions. Almost every interaction is positive, except for the guy who wanted to shoot it down. But that's a topic for another day.
Here's a list featuring the top 10 most common questions that people ask. These questions come from different sources: Clients, friends, pedestrians on the street, etc.
Q #1: How much does that thing cost?
A #1: The drone costs about $1,600. On top of that, additional hardware costs around $1,000.
Q #2: How long can it fly?
A #2: The drone runs off a single battery. I get about 25 minutes per charge. I could fly a little longer but you want to avoid running the battery below 25%. So on average, 25 minutes. That time could decrease if I'm flying fast, fighting the wind, rapid descents, or anything that stresses the drone.
Q #3: Do you ever use it to spy on people?
A #3: No. Using the drone as a spying device doesn't float my boat. Plus, I could get arrested. Having said that, there have been times when I do capture people on camera. But that's rare. This can occur when I'm conducting a structural inspection of an apartment building or condominium. In that case, I have approval to fly, the building manager has alerted the tenants that a drone is on site, and I carry additional personal privacy insurance just in case.
Here's a photo of an illegal squatter who was trespassing on a clients property. I was taking land real estate photos that day and happened to spot the campsite.
Q #4: Can I use it to spy on my neighbor? (Typically a follow-up to Question #3)
A #4: I think people ask this one more as a joke. And I think they're really just wondering what are the drone rules preventing people from using it to spy through windows. At least that's my hope.
So here's what I usually tell them: Using the drone as a spying device is illegal. Plus, the drone is actually pretty loud so their neighbor will likely hear it. They'll get arrested, their drone will be confiscated, and their mugshot will be posted on the evening news.
Q #5: Do you need a license to fly it?
A #5: If you are flying the drone for commercial use (furthering a business), then YES you need a part 107 license from the FAA. But if you're not using the drone for work (recreational use), then NO you don't need a license to fly it.
Q #6: Have you ever crashed it?
A #6: Sadly, yes. One time. A strong wind drifted me into the top of a tree. The drone clipped a branch and fell to the ground, hitting a few limbs on its way down. I was out in the middle of nowhere so there was no threat to people or property. You live and you learn. I'm a better pilot now because of it.
Q #7: Is it hard to fly?
A #7: I grew up playing video games as a kid. Having a controller in my hands is second nature. Flying a drone requires similar dexterity, so I got the hang of it pretty quick. But that may not be the same for everyone. And that's flying under normal conditions. There are some flight maneuvers and environmental challenges that require a higher level of skill. Like conducting a building inspection 15ft away from the top of a 27-story building while compensating for wind gusts and pigeons. So is it hard to fly? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Q #8: How clear are the pictures?
A #8: Very clear. The drone uses a high definition 4k camera. The camera stabilizes itself with a mechanical gimbal. So every photo and video is clear and in-focus.
Q #9: Are drones legal?
A #9: Yes, as long as you're following the rules. And by rules, this means adhering to policies put in place by the FAA. In addition to that, you need to comply with local drone ordinances for your city or neighborhood.
Q #10: Have you ever hit a pigeon?
A #10: No. Sometimes they'll dive-bomb the drone, then peel away at the last second. They're surprisingly agile.