Randolph County Youth Get Experience with Drones

SPARTA, Ill.— Soaring at speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour, a small drone hovered over the wheat fields and farmlands of rural Randolph County as local 4-H members had a hands-on experience with the equipment.  Alan Piel, local resident and owner Flyin High Photography and DAM Drones LLC, led a workshop on the use of drones during the 4-H drone photography club.

During the two-hour event, Piel demonstrated how to properly mount propellers and calibrate the drone. Unlike the propellers on airplanes, drones propellers are angled opposite so they can lift straight up and keep the equipment steady. The GPS location settings allow the drone camera to stay stable even during windy conditions and the map on the tablet screen will record the route of the drone and assist with navigation.

The specific model that was demonstrated uses DGI Go App software, which allows for high quality 12 mega pixel images to be captured. The drone can take still photos and videos as far as one and a quarter mile away. The point of interest setting allows the user to program the elevation and distance from a subject and will continuously rotate around the point of interest. Once the drone reaches a battery life of 30 percent or less, it will indicate a warning. Once that drops to 15 percent, the drone will land itself.

Piel shared important information about drone use. Per FFA restrictions, drones cannot be flown above 400 feet as it could interfere with air traffic. Drones are not allowed in restricted areas or national parks and should only be used during daylight hours. Drones are used for a variety of tasks but they have proved beneficial in critical search and rescue missions. A drone’s aerial perspective allows a large area to be surveyed in a small amount of time. In addition, drones can be mounted with thermal imaging cameras to help local missing persons. 

Flyin High Photography was founded about five years ago. What started as a hobby evolved into a business with the creation of DAM Drones LLC in 2017 when Piel and his business partners, Jeff Herrell and Scott Marquardt, began working with the commercial agriculture industry. Using the drone for a hobby does not require any specialized training or licensing. Those that plan to use a drone for commercial use, must become certified with the FFA. 

The drone photography club will continue to meet throughout the summer.  It is open to 4-H members ages 8-18.  To join the club or learn more about 4-H, contact the University of Illinois Extension office in Randolph County at (618) 443-4364.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in programming, contact your local registration office. Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time for meeting your needs.

News writer: Heather Willis, 618-357-2126, hdwillis@illinois.edu