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Amazing Aerial Views of Randolph; Flying Drones and Filming Trend Might Take Off

Christopher Renda

Thursday, August 7, 2014 • 11:02pm

RANDOLPH, NJ- The age of high-tech consumer drones is just beginning to take off, and Randolph will not be passed over by this latest iteration of the remote control flying machine.

One resident, Jody Johnson, has been learning the ins and outs of drone flight – on the fly – since a few weeks ago when she acquired a DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter.

“I researched this for a long time before I learned about this one from the Brockman family who also lives here in Randolph,” Johnson said.  “It does everything that you can imagine in a little thing like this.”

It takes off vertically, and a camera attachment on the underside makes it possible for the flight’s visual record, from the drone’s perspective, to be downloaded and shared on social media.

Johnson’s recent YouTube videos feature unique views of some very familiar locations.  Taken at an assortment of Randolph businesses and landmarks, her web site and videos have already received hundreds of hits.

She said, "Google Earth is one thing,” but working from the ground with the Quadcopter, “you can get pretty much any shot you want with it from any height with perfect clarity.”

However, she says she is careful to ask for permission to fly in certain areas and to take common sense precautions.

Johnson’s flyer is of a caliber reserved for the serious hobbyist; the Quadcopter can maintain its position in the sky above within an exceedingly narrow margin, and supports a GoPro camera on a 3D gimbal controlled from her Android phone.  It’s battery-powered and can go 25 minutes on a charge.

“They’re becoming pretty popular,” she said.

It’s important to point out that the term “drone” is more or less a colloquial application of the terminology of modern warfare to refer to a what is, in actuality, a 21st century reboot of the remote control helicopter. 

But there are some high-tech differences.  Rather than paint the sky with graceful, exuberant motion, Johnson’s drone astounds the grounded viewer by its ability to hold its place aloft with profound stillness, to seemingly own the open space around it. 

The controller can make altitude changes with a clinical precision, cause it to rotate around its central access, send it whirring left or right, out and back, and bring it to a halt at its next vantage point, at a height of up to 400 ft. in the air.  However Johnson said she prefers not to take her drone much higher than 100 ft.

When she arrives on a location, she said, one of the first things she does is turn on the device and wait for the GPS array to lock on to the drone’s position. 

According to Johnson that process can take about eight minutes, but it’s the GPS that provides secondary flight control and the precise stabilization that make the camera’s videos and still shots so smooth and clear.

You can view Johnson’s web site here: www.GlideBy.weebly.com

Links to some of the videos are here:

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