Don't Call It a Drone! It's a Multi-Rotor Aerial Machine, Hobbyist Says
A local hobbyist uses a personal drone to take striking aerial video of landmarks in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay.
Bill Welch flies his GPS-driven personal drone like a hobbyist with a model airplane.
Yet his small flying machine is just two-feet high, runs on batteries and takes spectacular aerial photos and video.
Welch, a 56-year-old florist by trade, uses the "quadcopter" to fly over landmarks in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area. His amateur videos, posted to YouTube, include the tall kapok tree at the city's art museum, the church spires in Tarpon Springs and an accident scene in Palm Harbor. (See YouTube videos with this post.)
But don't call Welch's personal device a drone. He prefers "multi-rotor aerial machine," or quadcopter.
Speaking for other hobbyist-geeks like himself, Welch said that "the word 'drone' we do not like because of its negative image publicly."
Welch prefers quadcopter or multicopter, because drone conjures images of government surveillance devices. Currently, the Florida Legislature is trying to limit the government's use of drones.
But camera buffs playing with these flying contraptions is another matter. Welch says his quadcopter is a lot of fun.
It "is a multi-rotor aerial machine that flies similar to a helicopter but is much more stable, making it a perfect photo and video platform," Welch says. Some of the devices are so small that they fit in a person's hand, though Welch's is much larger.
Patch talked with Welch about his most unusual hobby.
Patch: Did you build your quadcopter?
Welch: I had it built using carbon fiber for strength and weight limitations. It is GPS driven and runs on batteries. Most multi-rotors size are expressed in milimeters. This is a rather large machine at 650mm.
Patch: People worry that drones are invasive and surveillance tools of the government. Yet you are a hobbyist. How did you get involved?
Welch: Overall the worry is media-driven. I have yet to have anyone express anything but curiosity over this thing when they see it.
I've been involved with radio control since the '80s and was never good at it, but with this device almost anyone can fly right out of the box.
Patch: Why is the video so clear and steady?
Welch: Because it uses GPS satellites to fly for the most part. The satellites keep it fairly steady in the air. Having said that, there is input on my side to make sure that it's going where I wanted to go.
I use a couple of different cameras; my favorite would be the GoPro 3 black edition, which is very very popular with hobbyists, sports people, and television crews. In fact I've done some commercial work and reality TV work.
Patch: Where do you plan to film next?
Welch: Locally I fly almost every day. I do stand on the ground. I have a monitor that shows me what it sees, so I don't necessarily have to see the quadcopter, I just need to see what it sees.
But there's nothing that can keep me from flying from a boat or a vehicle or wherever I need to be flying to get the shot that I'm looking for.
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