- Associated Press - Saturday, July 5, 2014

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - To hear Daniel Smith tell it, drone photography is here and likely to stay for commercial use.

Smith operates a moderately inexpensive drone by remote control for an Edinboro business - DAS Photo and Design -he owns with his fiancee, Amber Powell.

Check out the DAS Facebook page, and a photo taken from high above Waldameer’s Ravine Flyer provides a unique and interesting view of the amusement park’s signature roller coaster.

“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is attempting to set guidelines and height limits for these drones, which we call quadcopters because they have blades in all four corners,” Smith said.

A staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force National Guard, Smith injured his left eye a year ago while he was deployed overseas. It’s his camera shooting eye and it’s sensitive to light.

Smith demonstrated the Phantom 2, made by DJI, which is a square plastic box about 14 inches wide on each side. It has a tiny, maneuverable camera, powered by a battery that lasts about 25 minutes, with a remote control plugged into a cell phone.

The camera system, with three motors working at the same time to make sure the camera is level, is steady in turbulence high in the air.

Once started, the Phantom 2, which costs about $1,300, locks into six or seven satellites for GPS tracking. It sounds like a swarm of bees as Smith makes it hover, then quickly sends it to a height of about 200 feet.

“It takes lots and lots of practice and I’ve crashed a couple of times,” he said. “But it’s very durable.”

Smith and Powell also own a $4,000 drone that is larger and equipped with carbon fiber blades and components.

Powell, 25, a Cambridge Springs native who majored in graphic design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, met Smith in September while they competed at a 15K race at Presque Isle State Park.

Smith, who grew up in North East, graduated from Seneca High School and Penn State Behrend.

“Dan was behind me (in the race), and just started talking to me,” Powell said. We became best friends, and now we’re engaged.”

After working several jobs following graduation in 2011, Powell worked briefly in the advertising department of the Meadville Tribune, where she said she learned a lot about creating a business.

“I always wanted my own business,” she said. “DAS stands for Daniel and Amber Smith, and our logo incorporates photography and graphic design.

“Our business is growing, with (the popularity of) videography and social media. The drones are complicated, and I’m learning a little bit. It gives us an edge in our business,” Powell said.

Photographers used to rent airplanes for aerial photos, but Smith’s feet are anchored to the ground as he uses his viewer to focus on lining up a photo from above.

“In my opinion, drones should be used only for professional use, because people complain about privacy,” he said. “There is no licensing for these (things), and I think there should be. You don’t want drones flying everywhere and crashing in the air.”

In the Air Force since he was 18, Smith points out the irony of military drones he was assigned to guard.

“I’m on the security force, and we protect drones on the ground. It’s pretty neat that I can shoot a photo from a consumer drone, and then (when on duty) hold a gun that I would shoot to protect a drone that has high quality photos that protect America,” he said.

Smith and Powell plan to marry in September. With the growing popularity of drone photo technology, the probability of a wedding party selfie from the sky is more than remotely possible.





Information from: Erie Times-News, https://www.goerie.com

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