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Civilian drones

Yeah, it’s kind of windy but I’m just going to try to stay low. Until recently, Daniel Garate made his living with this remote controlled helicopter, also known as a drone. Drones are generally associated with military missions. But falling prices have inspired a rise in the civilian use of un-manned aircraft. You can now get a simple drone equipped with a camera for as little as three hundred dollars. Real estate agents in the Los Angeles area have been enthusiastic customers for Mr. Garate. His drone can get shots like this on the cheek. Shots that would otherwise require helicopters, cranes, and large crews.

You can be sitting down at home and open your laptop and see the house in every angle, every perspective you know. And industry of drone videographers has sprouted up in recent years. But the LAPD recently grounded people using them to shoot real estate. Amateurs can still fly, but commercial drone activity has been forbidden by federal authorities for several years, leading to crack-downs. Mr. Garate now works mostly in his native Peru. Where he shoots commercials like this one.

So I was flying this helicopter in the places not even crane or a dolly or a jeep can be. Other uses for drones are also taking hold. In Louisiana, Si Brown created something he called the de-hoger flyer. It’s a miniature airplane outfitted with a heat-sensing camera that he uses to hunt feral pigs. They stand out as little moving blips in his brother’s rice paddies.

Then there’s drone activism. Last year a group of Polish civilians flew what they call the “Robocopter” to film a confusing confrontation between rightwing nationalist, anarchists, and police officers in Warsaw. In New York, a group of drone videographers called “ Team Blacksheep” showed off their chops with a stunning trip around the city, which they then posted online.

Authorities aren’t that thrilled with the idea of remote controlled aircraft for hire buzzing buildings. But there is also recognition that this phenomenon is not going away. A law signed by the president this week requires the federal aviation administration to let drones fly in U.S. airspace within the next few years. When the new law kicks in, Mr. Garate’s drone can once again take flight.

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