Ken Wilkins
Ken Wilkins
White Bird Aerial Imaging

Ken Wilkins
Drones in Putnam air space

February 14, 2017

What's overhead in Putnam County air space?

It could be a helicopter headed for Valley Park. Or a private plane. Or a hot air balloon drifting over from Fox Fire Resort.

Or it could be Ken Wilkins piloting a UAV from his desk in Hurricane -- so long as he keeps visual contact on the vehicle. Wilkins is the Owner & Pilot in Command of White Bird Aerial Imaging, a new business bringing new technology to the area.

The UAV -- an unmanned aerial vehicle, better known as a "drone" -- has been a fixture for years in the military and lately among hobbyists. Drone aircraft now routinely provide video reports on floods, fires, and wind damage by flights over disaster areas.

White Bird provides a wealth of information services with aerial photography equipment mounted on state-of-art drones.

The UAVs are fairly low in cost and easy on maintenance. The major expenses come in the equipment which the aircrafts carry. And drones are able to inspect projects and compile data at a fraction of the cost of photography by plane or helicopter.

The federal government now requires registration for drones over 55 pounds in weight, and tests have been set up for UAV commercial pilots.

The test is somewhat rigorous, Wilkins told Putnam Rotarians today: "We have to know everything that is on a sectional map," he said.

"We have to know air space types. Most of Putnam County is in Class G, so I really don't have to notify anybody when I go fly."

Class G is near the ground, usually under 400 feet. There are no requirements in a Class G air traffic area for clearance or radio communications.

Leslie / Sluss Rotarian Stephen Sluss introduced guest Nikki Leslie at the club's luncheon meeting today. Leslie is an assistant with Attorney Sluss.

Miller & Son Rotarian Jon Miller entertained a club legacy, his son Cayden, at today's meeting.

His drones can be outfitted with a variety of cameras -- zoom lenses for close up observations, infrared cameras to register temperatures, cameras for mapping, and three-dimensional photography to monitor construction projects or view the lay of the land.

Wilkins also has guidance equipment, GPS monitors for geographical mapping, and remote controls for direction and focus of cameras.

While a drone must operate within visual range of the remote operator, Wilkins is able to receive an "on-board view" on a control monitor. He transmits control commands over three ultra high frequency bands close to those assigned for cell phone usage.

The aerial-imaging technology with UAVs has grown from a hobby to a serious business in a few short months because it provides information quickly at low cost and with increased safety.

Construction managers are able to view projects daily from a hundred miles away with reports from the White Bird drones.

An electrical transmission line or a radio tower can be inspected without the risk of physically scaling a structure. Roof damage for insurance purposes can be quickly surveyed without the bother of setting ladders and the risk of a climb.

In farming, Wilkins said, crops can be surveyed by a drone. Fertilizers and pesticides then can be limited to the specific areas where needed.

Even livestock numbers can be checked by a drone aircraft. With an infrared camera, body temperatures can be checked for individual animals. Body temperature is an indication of wellness or possible illness.

With his birds-eye vantage, Ken Wilkins has introduced an innovative technology into the area providing services which promise to be an integral part of continuing growth for the Putnam community.

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      Rotarian Cyndee Adkins has prepared a video of the program today. To access the video, click HERE!     

More Putnam Rotary News? Click HERE.