I don’t consider myself an expert at flying drones, but I’ve had good experiences. I’ve been traveling as often as possible around the United States, and so far I’ve flown in almost ten different states. My goal is to photograph and record something unique from each state – the result of this project will certainly be very beautiful or entertaining, depending on what kind of things I come across with. In California, I captured four drones crashing against each other in the air – completely unplanned.
In Texas, I captured the police chasing a car for quite a while. In Nevada, I took pictures of really strange flowers that remain a mystery to me, and no one’s been able to name them for me. And these are just examples of my adventures that included more accidents, possibly criminal acts, and uncommon wildlife and trees or flowers.
However, how would I have expected that in one of my most seemingly innocent visits I would see all of that at once?
My next stop was Minnesota. One of the most important parts of my project was to keep track of the changes in laws and regulations for flying drones of each state. Mainly because of course, I needed to be aware of all the rules if I wanted to do things safely. But also because it seemed like an interesting project.
You know, something that one day will be history. So I buried my nose on the internet and came out fully informed on all the things Minnesota would and wouldn’t let me do with my drone. It turns out they had quite the number of rules. And, sadly, they strongly limited my options for flying. However, I had just the perfect place, that was apparently legal, and that would hopefully bring me just what I was looking for.
The Paul Bunyan State Forest was just what you’d expect. It was big, green and a gorgeous place for flying drones. I started with a hike myself. I was surprised by all the life I found there. There was just so much to do. As I moved, I caught sight of groups of people moving past – with mountain bikes, with all-terrain vehicles, friends carrying bags to stay the night camping – it was all very nice. Since I got there early and winter was still so far away, I allowed myself to think I had arrived at just the right time. Until I was told I was wrong.
Eager to start flying, I paused near a spot for park rangers, the people that managed the forest, protected it and lived for it. I planned to sit around there, in a comfortable patch of grass, lay out my snacks and just lean back and relax as my drone went up flying and I stared at the view from the screen on my controller. However, I was interrupting. The worker of the park came running towards me. She was stressed, waving her hands around and messing with her mane of dark brown hair.
“I’m sorry, you came just at the worst of times!” I remember she said, “We are drowning in problems and look how early it is!”
I felt bad for the woman and offered my help in any way that I could. At first, she was reluctant, but upon noticing my drone, her face lit up. It seemed that a pair of eyes in the sky was just what she needed that day.
The lady started explaining all her problems to me. First, there was the fact that, unbelievably so, three of her coworkers were absent that day – sickness, vacations, birthday, whatever, they were missing, and she was struggling to juggle the entire park on her shoulders. So, we got to work.
We talked about the most menacing issue first. She had spotted a trail of smoke rising from a zone where it was strictly prohibited, for safety reasons, to start a fire. But since she was dealing with emergencies at her place of work, she had been unable to go check. But, easing our way through the clouds with my drone, we got there in seconds. It turns out it wasn’t an evil forest fire. As she had expected, it was just the result of troublesome young campers.
How to stop them? That was the question. We watched them with the help of the drone, and they were clearly having fun, so maybe my new friend would have to go there and scare them off to save the forest.
However, there were many other problems to tackle, so I came up with something. Slowly, I descended the drone upon them… then I left it perfectly still. The guys noticed it pretty quickly, at first paying it no mind, then staring back at it, then shouting questions at the object as if it were to answer. I knew they would find the presence of the drone strange and uncomfortable, maybe enough to scare them so they would put down the fire and leave.
To my complete surprise, one of the guys actually picked up a rock and threw it at my drone. I screamed, all the way from my place of safety – but hey, drones aren’t particularly cheap. Not only I moved the drone to dodge the rock, but the guy had terrible aim. One of his friends then held his arm and stopped him. They continued to talk, and even though I couldn’t hear them, I had a pretty good idea. They started to look around, worry clear in their eyes, as if they were being observed by more than a drone, perhaps their parents. And that thought alone was enough to convince them to pick up their stuff, put down the fire and effectively move away.
My new friend was delighted with my abilities. And I was convinced that if I helped her with all her other problems, I would have a much better time than idly flying the drone over the trees.