Alexander Knight readies his drone by turning a switch on his remote control. The propellers make a loud humming noise as the drone takes off. He flies it higher and higher until it’s a small black dot against a blue sky.
“You just need to be able to see it,” he says, pointing at the horizon.
Knight, a self-styled citizen journalist, drives around Toronto documenting what he might deem as environmental hazards. He then blogs his experiences at alexanderknight.ca. It’s a hobby for him. He makes no income off it.
Today, he’s observing the cleanup of what he says is contamination from a rezoned industrial plant — and is happy to find, during the 15-minute flight, that the cleanup is finished.
With drones coming in at cheaper prices, it’s now easier than ever to acquire and fly one. On Amazon, a Phantom DJI quadcopter with a GoPro camera costs around $1,000, and the Parrot AR drones start at around $500 and can go up to $900. On the lower end, Hubsan models cost around $100 to $200, though their camera capabilities are more limited.
The price, along with increasing cultural acceptance, has led to a new pastime of hobby droning. Aerial photography and videography are popular choices, as Twitter and Instagram will attest. #Droneselfies is devoted to aerial images of people taken from up above. Even Martha Stewart is a fan.
The trend has left Transport Canada scrambling to rein in hobbyists who stray too far. The most pressing concern for the agency has been daredevil flyers operating too close to airports, which can interfere with commercial airline planes. Transport Canada’s new rules limit this, as hobbyists can no longer fly closer than nine kilometres from any airport, heliport or aerodrome.
Knight says he hasn’t had issues with Transport Canada but he worries that may change as regulations try to keep up with the advancing technology.
Patrick Dinnen however has had to rein in his photographic pursuits. The “creative technologist” based in Toronto had been experimenting with lightwriting — the photographing of trails of light through long exposure settings — when he bought a Phantom DJI drone.
One night he and two friends, Brent Marshall and Dré Labre, attached custom LED lights to the drone and flew it over various Toronto parks, turning on the camera and capturing its flight path, exposing trails of ethereal light and colour. They dubbed the paintings Weird Illuminated Sky Paintings (WISPs).
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com