WAREHAM – Having a bird’s eye view is not only lots of fun for earthbound Homo sapiens, it has a whole flock of practical applications as well.
It’s an early Saturday afternoon and The 107 Guys Drone Service’s Michael and Taylor Dozier are on their second job of the day: taking “before” photos of the Wareham Dog Park’s future site on Maple Springs Road.
The father and son were coming from their first job of the day: pre-construction videos and pictures for Falmouth Hospital.
On the drive to Wareham, an insurance company representative called with six jobs for the Wareham Street, Carver-based business.
“This winter we may have to take on more pilots,” said Michael. The insurance companies use their drone services to get a bird’s eye view of claims, which will increase as the weather turns New England wintry.
Michael recalled another job near the same Maple Springs Road site in Wareham: a search mission they performed for free looking for a little lost dog. They used thermal imaging on that job to try to find the dog’s heat pattern, which turned out to be difficult to discern because of its small size among other heat signatures and unfortunately they couldn’t find the dog in that case.
“We do different kinds of work,” Michael said. “We do lines work, electric and telephone. We actually just got a contract with one of the electric companies and we’re going to be doing some of their line inspections. We’re going up to New Hampshire for additional training for that on Nov. 1. We do real estate shots and inspections. We’ve done a couple commercials. We’ve done a lot of roof inspections.”
The pair was just back from Philadelphia where they took drone shots to help in a new home’s construction. They also have a pending job at the Reservation Golf Club in Mattapoisett providing pictures from above to illustrate its charms. They’re also doing an area Veterans Day Parade. Michael, a veteran, said they’re doing that one for free.
The 107 Guys has also been providing free lessons to the Wareham Community TV crew. They have a drone and want to employ it in their coverage. Taylor worked for WCTV while still in high school, and does some work with Area 58 Community Access Media cable in Carver today.
Christian Fernandes, Wareham Community Television assistant director and education coordinator, said they took flight lessons at the Tremont Nail parking lot off Route 28 in Wareham. There’s a certification test through the Federal Aviation Administration the WCTV pilots will need to pass before they’re commercially certified. The test is known as Part 107 (hence The 107 Guys).
“Michael was teaching us about the birds – which I never thought about,” Fernandes said. “You have to watch out for them. The small ones dive bomb the drone. The big ones try to steal them and eat them. It’s just another bird to them, but you’ll hurt them more than they’ll hurt the drone. But if they knock the drone off tilt, it will just drop to the ground like a rock and you’re getting a new drone.”
Michael said, surprisingly, it’s the small birds who are the most belligerent when a drone flies by.
“We get attacked all the time. The hawks, they look at it, and they’ll fly by. They figure, I’m not going to mess with it. The small birds will come and attack it.”
Taylor, who graduated locally from New Testament Christian School in Plymouth before attending Pensacola Christian College in Florida, said, “It’s never just one small bird at a time. It’s multiple at the same time.”
“Those little birds that attack crows when they get too close, they will do the same thing with the drones,” Michael said. “They will dive bomb it and try to take it out.”
Passing the 60-question Part 107 test is a requirement for commercial drone pilots. You learn about the regulations, weather, air space, airport operations, where you can and cannot fly, how high is permissible etc.
Hands-on instruction is also invaluable. “We came up with a program to actually learn how to fly drones, learn how to do certain moves, learn what emergency steps they should take,” Michael said. That includes how to perform FAA-required pre- and post-flight inspections.
The pair came equipped with three drones Saturday, including one that looked like a large mechanical spider. It’s used for industrial jobs, involving powers lines, train tracks and the like.
The second drone resembles a pair of wings that would look at home in Batman’s arsenal. It’s used for agricultural work, can stay in flight for an hour, and is equipped with a special camera that can indicate whether a plant is infected or even whether it’s adequately watered.
Saturday’s job, though, could be handled by a smaller drone, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. It’s X-shaped and includes four mini rotor blades. It has a 20 megapixel camera that can zoom in on a quarter from 100 feet.
The job was to take some photos of the dog park site as “before.” They’ll come back during construction for more shots, and get finishing shots when it’s completed for the “after.”
Reaching a height of 100 feet should be sufficient, Michael said. The regulation is not to fly a drone higher than 400 feet above the tallest structure. In certain areas, you would need a flight plan, but that won’t be necessary here in this rural section.
The Phantom is set aloft and the Doziers very quickly have the photos needed. Michael flies the drone while Taylor keeps a lookout for helicopters or bellicose birds.
Michael, who originally hails from Alaska, actually began the business after he had retired. He had worked as a physician’s assistant in orthopedic surgery, and had also worked in providing humanitarian aid.
He has a background in photography and was looking for some new equipment to rid himself of the retirement doldrums when he was introduced to drones. “And I said, I want to do that.”
He put some drone pictures on Facebook to start. “Two days later someone called me and said, ‘Hey, can you do that for me?’”
Michael obtained his license in short order. “I started taking pictures and more and more people would call me to do it and it turned into a business.”
And the business, started in 2018, just took off.