Pilot Sees Bright Future For UAV’s Over Midwest

FAA Granting Permision to Qualified Drone Pilots

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At age 26, Mike Klarenbeek has already been flying airplanes for almost a decade.

A corporate pilot for Karl’s TV and Appliance and certified flight instructor trained at the University of North Dakota he’s going flying today but this time his feet won’t be leaving the ground.

That’s because Mike is also a drone pilot.

“You see how the wind takes it and I have to correct for the wind,” said Karenbeek as he easily hovered the $3,000 quad copter.

A gusty day in Gregory is nothing compared to the navigating he had to do through government paperwork to legally put his now registered quad copters back in the air. Like all commercial drone pilots Mike was grounded when the government slapped strict regulations on drones citing safety concerns

“They don’t want these things running into airplanes,” he says “so they want someone with a certain level of knowledge of airspace.”

Just this year, the Federal Aviation Administration began loosening its grip on the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles. While others have followed, Klarenbeek says his qualifications helped him become the first in South Dakota to get a special exemption from the FAA.

Since then, his company M-Kopter Aerials has seen a steady rise in business.

On this day, he is taking video and photos of a hunting lodge. He files a type of flight plan called a NOTAM that lets pilots know he is in the area with UAV’s.

On the scene he stays below 200 feet while keeping the drone in his line of sight. A wireless camera sends high definition video and photos back to a couple of monitors and the detail is pretty impressive.

Klarenbeek says it’s easy to get the feeling you are flying yourself. He shared video he’s captured with his drones. For instance, following a dear on the run, we get to see how easily they jump over a fence.

Other examples are Gregory’s fireworks show on the 4th, a unique view of the banks along the Missouri River, mountain biking in the Black Hills or a house coming down with a little push from an excavator.

UAV’s are giving us all a new perspective. Even in wedding photos, making it indoors for a special shot on that special day.

Klarenbeek also builds drones including one with 8 rotors he sold to another operator. He says a basic drone for commercial use can be had for as little as $1,000. The model he’s flying costs upwards of $3,000-$4,000. Other commercial drone pilots in South Dakota have received permission to fly including farmers who check on their crops.

According to Klarenbeek, UAV’s can do many jobs easier, cheaper and sometimes better than manned aircraft. There’s no doubt UAV’s are a part of our future, but exactly what role they’ll play, that is still up in the air.

“I see in the future more and more companies utilizing them maybe in a way they didn’t really expect,” said Klarenbeek. “People will come to me and say, hey can you do this? And I’ll be like yes that’s pretty feasible. I want people to kind of get thinking what they can do with it because the more people who learn about it and the more they realize how they can utilize the technology the better.”