Drones gain in popularity in Tupelo area

Adam Robison

Daily Journal

TUPELO – For many, the idea of utilizing drones in everyday life seems all too futuristic. However, some believe the potential of these unmanned aircrafts is impossible to ignore.

Even in the city of Tupelo, drones have begun taking flight.

“It’s not that this technology didn’t exist before,” said Josh Abramson, executive director of the Tupelo Regional Airport. “It’s that it’s gotten cheaper.”

Abramson believes that the decrease in prices have created a higher demand for drones among recreational pilots. They currently range anywhere from $300 to thousands of dollars.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently allows recreational drone operators to fly their aircrafts with few restrictions. Airborne drones must be within sight of the operator, away from airports and below 400 feet.

When a student approached Braden Bishop, a teacher at Tupelo High School, about purchasing what initially appeared to be a remote control helicopter last August, he was reluctant. After the DJI Phantom Quadcopter drone arrived, however, his opinion immediately changed.

“I really did not know how much this encompassed until it came in,” he said. “I was like, ‘What are we going to do with it?’ (The student) was like, ‘What are we not going to do with it?’”

Today, Bishop and students in his broadcast journalism class make use of the drone by shooting unique aerial videos or photos during sporting events and school-wide functions.

The services that Tupelo High School’s drone provides aren’t limited to the classroom. Bishop said it is also used to monitor the rooftops of the school’s buildings and flow of traffic.

“I think that it’s a great tool,” Bishop said. “I’m proud that Tupelo is able to offer something like this, because that’s an expensive piece of equipment that not a lot of schools are able to provide.”

Jason Palmer, a local videographer, is also among Tupelo residents who utilize drones. He said use of his aircraft has provided him with an affordable way to capture aerial perspective and motion.

“There are already so many people out there who are using this technology,” Palmer explained. “In the past, you would have to hire an actual helicopter pilot and get a $100,000 gimbal to be mounted to the helicopter to get footage like this.’’

Despite increased popularity of these miniature aircrafts, flying drones for commercial purposes remains mostly illegal. The FAA is still in the process of writing rules under which regular commercial drone flights could occur without a special exception for every operator.

Abramson, a strong advocate for the commercial application of drones, said many cities could substitute the manpower used to visually inspect traffic lights, drainage systems and road conditions with drones.

Though he admits unmanned aircrafts are unable to resolve every issue, he believes the technology could make jobs that require manual labor much easier.

“If I can fly them, anybody can,” Palmer said. “Trust me.”


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