Droning on and on and on and on about DRONES


fallsMonday night I was working the late shift and scheduled to shoot a basketball game in Rumford. I had been wanting to get to Rumford and shoot the frozen falls for a while. The weather looked like it would cooperate

I scrolled through my Drone Apps to make sure there were no new NOTAM’s (Notice to Airmen) to make sure there would be no new restrictions since I last flew in the area. A number of other factors all have to be in the green in order for me to legally fly per my FAA Commercial Pilot’s license. Wind speed, number of satellites available, sun flares……etc. That all sounds impressive and “official” but it just means I passed a test that allows me to use a drone for commercial purposes and I know how to read a map and download and figure out a couple apps.

Practice, patience planning, and caution are the most important components of flying a drone.

I called the Rumford Town Office and talked to the code enforcement officer to make sure they had not written any new drone restrictions that I didn’t know about. Some towns, like Bethel, have restrictions or other requirements, like in Bethel where they require a 48-hour notice that needs approval before you can fly  (at least that was the rule last year when I inquired)

FYI….there are many other places you can’t fly and is the pilot’s responsibility to know where they are, like within 5 miles of an airport with a manned tower unless you get approval. And it’s good practice to notify any smaller ones near you. I have an app that automatically sends Auburn Lewiston airport a notice whenever I file a flight plan nearby and usually get a reply text message acknowledging they received it.

I talked with a few people from Lifeflight about it last year and let them know about the app and while I don’t get a reply I’ll bet they subscribe to AirMap or they may even have something more advanced that it communicates with and knows I filed a flight plan. It is amazing the technology that is available and always advancing. I digress again.

I told the Rumford code enforcement official that I tried the PD but nobody answered and he said I should be OK as far as the laws were concerned. I asked him if the town would have a problem if I launched from the tourism rest stop by the falls and he said it was a public place and gave me his blessings.  One of the cardinal rules before flying is to get permission from the landowner wherever you launch. I also like to notify PD in any small town I want to fly over so if they get a call from a panicked or pissed off resident they won’t be alarmed.

I have no problems in LA and in fact they even have called me but that is another story.


Dave Mathieu of D&D Fabrications of Lewiston hands a co-worker a piece of wood to provide temporary protection from the elements at a historic home on Academy Street in Auburn that was ravaged by fire last year. The cupola, at left, will be removed in the next few days and capped. The owner wants to “button up” the property to prevent more damage from the elements while figuring out if it will be possible to renovate.

Before I could leave for Rumford I had to find a “ local feature” to anchor the local section so I loaded up my drone case and laptop into my car and drove around LA until I found a “feature” and boogied up Route 4 toward Rumford.

I knew I was going to launch from the bottom of the falls by the bridge and the big falls were pretty far away. falls2Lot’s of power lines in the area so I drove up the long hill toward the top of the falls to get a better look at any lines across the river or other obstacles or obstructions or issues I may have flying over that area that I might not see from where I was planning to launch and fly the drone. Planning and safety are always paramount.

I had a quick flight as I only had half the life in my battery as it had been sitting for 10 days since my last flight and had started to discharge. I have 3 that I rotate out and always have 2 charged and ready to go. It was also cold as ice and my fingers were freezing. We were at the bare bone minimums of the temperature threshold that is considered safe to fly. People have flown in wicked windy and below freezing conditions that their drone survived but I don’t’ want to take any risks or shorten the lifespan of my “precious” so I don’t push the limits.

I landed, inserted a new battery and drove down the river to the library by the bridge near the mill. I had asked permission in 2016 when I last flew in town but the library was closed and nobody was around so I “assumed” they were still OK with me launching from there, especially since after I flew the first time I got a nice note from somebody at the library thanking me for the beautiful video.

The sun was setting fast but the “golden hour” light still falling on the mill made it look spectacular.mill

After landing and packing up the drone I headed back up the hill and over to McD’s to jump on their free wife and grab a cheap but good Newman’s Organic Coffee and edit and send in my “local feature” and a few stills from my flight. Editing the nearly 45 minutes of video I shot took a lot longer than I expected, partially because I was using a company laptop older than most of my kids.

I lost track of time and before I was finished I realized I had just enough time to get to the game before it started so I quickly chose a song from the free YouTube library and made sure the transitions were decent, added some text but didn’t have time to adjust white balance and lighten up some of the clips like I should have but such is life and it would have to be good enough. I hit export and while the software was doing it’s thing I drove to the game.
At halftime I broke out my laptop and tried to jump on the high school wifi but it was password protected so I turned my phone into a hotspot and uploaded the rendered video to YouTube while I edited the basketball photos.

Put away the laptop and headed back to the car for the uneventful drive home and the end of another day I decided to drone on and on to you about.



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