A local man is going around the state with his drone to show residents a different side of their towns.
Seth O’Brien of Cabot said Wednesday he has a passion for technology and works in information technology for the University of Vermont. He has also taken up photography as a hobby.
Those two interests are perfect for drones, which are remote-controlled aircraft that can be outfitted with cameras. O’Brien said he’s been interested in getting a drone for a couple of years, but they have been far too expensive.
In December, he found a drone at a price that he could afford, and jumped on it. Including extra batteries, the camera and a backpack to carry everything in, O’Brien said, his drone kit cost between $700 and $800.
With the drone in hand, he spent the first month and a half just learning how to fly it on his property.
Now that he knows how to use the drone, O’Brien has been going to towns such as Montpelier, Marshfield, Stowe, Randolph and Cabot, and filming the towns from above. He’s been taking those videos, which range from a little under three minutes to six minutes long, and posting them to YouTube.
The Montpelier video starts off from the State House lawn and rises into the air. A video from Marshfield shows the drone taking off from a field and then giving a bird’s-eye-view flyby of the village.
O’Brien said it may take a few years, but he wants to shoot a video in every town in the state; all 251 of them.
“It’s going to be a pretty big project,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to complete it or not, but hopefully.”
O’Brien said he decided to shoot and post the videos because he didn’t want to just fly the drone around his property, but to find some interesting use for the drone. The videos give residents the chance to see their towns in a new way.
“(The videos) show a view that you’d normally not be able to see unless you were in a plane,” O’Brien said. “It’s also interesting to see the different building styles in different towns and neighborhoods.”
O’Brien was raised in Vermont and has been to many of the towns he filmed, but even he was surprised by what he saw in the videos. O’Brien said he’s driven through Randolph many times, but only realized after watching his video that the White River runs right through it.
O’Brien does have to follow some rules implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration regarding drones. He has to keep the drone below 400 feet and within eyesight. O’Brien also has to keep the drone away from people, and if he is flying within five miles of an airport like the one in Burlington, he has to call up air traffic control to let them know when and where he will be flying so as not to interfere with other aircraft.
O’Brien is happy with how his drone has performed so far, though he does plan on upgrading to a better device with a higher-resolution camera and longer flight range. He said he’s used other remote-controlled vehicles before, such as model planes, but drones, being quad-copters, are by far the easiest to use.