A small black contraption hovered 15-feet above the beach and an unfamiliar whirring sound caught the attention of several passersby on Wednesday afternoon at June White Decker Park.
The sound was Brian Boe, with Swing Wing Productions. He was flying his remote-controlled multi-rotor helicopter specifically designed for aerial photography.
“This multi-rotor technology is only about three to four years old now on the market,” said Boe. “We custom built this one, but you can customize it to do just about anything.”
Three years ago Boe joined up with his friend Kris Barton in Austin, Texas to create the unique aerial photography business. Previously a Destin resident, Boe returned to the area in October of last year and launched Swing Wing Productions on the Emerald Coast.
“We have two models in Destin,” said Boe. “We do indoor video tours, real estate, golf courses, sporting events, and boats.”
When asked if the company could do weddings, Boe explained that he prefers to photograph only before or after the ceremony as he said, “I don’t want to take away from the big day, it’s not loud but it gets peoples attention.”
Boe told The Log that a typical photo flight lasts about nine minutes before the helicopter needs a new battery, and if a second go-round is needed he has nine backup batteries charged and ready to go. Prices vary by job requirement, but he described a basic half-dozen photo package ranges from about $350.
Boe and Barton are both commercial pilots, and although a pilot’s license is not a current requirement for operating the aerial equipment, Boe told The Log it may be a necessity in the future.
“They don’t even have rules for this yet,” Boe said. “Congress was told they had to come up with some by 2015.”
However, Boe explained that the Federal Aviation Administration has asked that remote controlled equipment be kept below 400 feet, and within line of sight. In addition, Boe has implemented his own safety precautions as he said, “I try to keep it below buildings and I don’t go over crowds of people or busy streets.”
The electronic helicopter cost about $5,000 to assemble and is comprised of several intricate parts.
“It’s got a motor, frame, flight controller, propellers, battery, transmitter, and GPS system,” Boe said, explaining that the flight controller is the brains of the operation, and the propellers are what direct the craft.
“If I want it to roll left, the right props speed up, and if I want it to go forward, the back props speed up,” Boe described.
As for the photography component, Boe demonstrated that as the helicopter flies an automatic shutter pulse is set to snap a photo every four seconds. He explained that the still camera model does not have a live view function, leaving it to his flying skills alone to get the desired photo.
“At first it was hard, but now it’s not hard at all.” Boe said. “I can get a handful of angles in flight.”
The video camera model does have a live-view function, and Boe explained that it takes two people to operate as one must fly the helicopter, and the other control the camera. Another feature is the automatic stabilizer.
“The GPS antenna will hold the position when the wind kicks it around,” Boe told The Log, and sure enough, as he rocked the helicopter to demonstrate, it righted itself quickly to a steady position.
For more information about Swing Wing Productions, visit www.swingwingproductions.com.
As he looks to the future, Boe said he hopes to explore some innovative techniques.
“I’d like to do some really cool ones with Marlin fishing,” he said. “Everyone’s seen a picture from the deck of the boat, but no one’s got it from the air looking back at the boat.”