REDDING, Conn. – Boston Marathon officials may use drones for next year’s race to improve security on the course. Redding’s Adam Pemberton has already used the devices for running - but with a far different purpose.
Pemberton used drones to capture video of the Run For The Cows earlier this month in Redding. He also used them to produce a video from a bike race in March and the Pequot Road Runners Thanksgiving Day race last November.
Although Pemberton used the low-flying aircraft with miniature cameras to capture scenes from those events, he believes the devices probably won’t be effective as a security tool.
“I think they’ll have a limited appeal and utility,’’ said Pemberton, who started his company Vidifly in Wilton last year. “My helicopter is stable for about eight minutes, and then it has to come down to change batteries. Even if you had a smaller helicopter, and a bigger battery, you can get 20 minutes in as an optimal goal. That means you’ll have gaps in your security coverage. I just don’t think it’s the right tool a legitimate platform for continuous security.”
Drones can be used for such as tasks as inspecting property, determining where forest fires are burning and detecting migration patterns of animals. Pemberton figures he’ll use them for real estate, corporate campuses and promotional videos for colleges and private schools looking to show off their properties.
“We still don’t know what everyone will want us to fly for,’’ he said. “It can be used for marketing, race promotion and real estate. One request came in from a group in upstate Connecticut that apparently is creating the 'Guinness Book of World Records' largest chalk drawing ever created. They need a picture of it from 80 feet in the air. It’s all very innovative.”
Pemberton’s helicopters are dual-operated. One person controls the aircraft, while another manipulates the camera. “The camera operator has a field monitor and sees what the camera sees, so we know what we’re getting in real time,’’ he said.
The video is taken with a compact digital single lens reflex camera. Each drone costs about $25,000 and requires several months for an operator to learn to fly it. “Crashing is expensive, so we avoid rain and wind … and telephone wires,’’ Pemberton said. “They’re very costly, and some of the hardware can be quite sensitive to adjust.”
The idea of using drones at the Boston Marathon came after last month’s tragedy when two terrorists allegedly planted bombs near the finish line that killed three people and injured dozens. Boston police Commissioner Ed Davis said aerial surveillance technology during next year’s race is “a great idea,’’ according to a Boston Herald story.
Pemberton’s not so sure that battery-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are the solution for that, but he’s finding the technology great for races and sporting events.
“We were thinking it would appeal to road races and security charity events to help cover a lot of territory from a different perspective,’’ he said. “We still don’t know what’s going to emerge as the biggest and best source for us. I think it could be part of the security mix, but I don’t think they’ll be able to rely on it exclusively.”
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