Flying a hundred drones over Tumon meant all-hands-on-deck for the team members of Bella Wings Aviation to make the event the success it turned out to be for the island’s 77th Liberation Day celebration.
Greg Barnes, a Part 107 remote pilot, said in early 2020 he never imagined that he would be a part of the historic event let alone be an actual drone pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration, under Part 107 of its Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems rule, issues a certification that a drone operator understands the regulations, operating requirements and procedures for safely flying drones, according to the FAA.
He said the idea all unfolded when he was at a friend’s house.
“I saw his drone on a shelf and I said that is so cool. He said, ‘Well you know you should get certified and fly a drone.’ I said, ‘I don’t know how realistic that is and it would just be for fun.’ And he said, ‘Why do it just for fun if you can get certified and make money at it too.’ I thought well that seems to make sense,” said Barnes, who became certified earlier this year.
“Sure enough the day I bought my drone, which was a month after I got certified, a friend came to me and asked for some photos and videos of their church. I thought, wow, it’s already happening,” he said. “I just love flying a drone. We are bringing technology on Guam that will help a lot of people. It’s just a blessing to be a part of this team.”
For Michael Quitugua, who is also a Part 107 remote pilot, being a drone pilot wasn’t the ultimate career path he had in mind.
“I used to fly helicopters when I was younger. Just little RC’s and then later I saw the drone quadcopters. I thought that’s too easy. I don’t want to do that,” said Quitugua. “But, then I saw the world of FPV. They fly with goggles on, and they fly really, really fast, and they race them. I thought, wow, that takes more skill, and I am very impressed and wanted to do that. So, I just delved into it. I saw Youtube videos, and it went from there.”
He said he’s been flying drones since last August, during the pandemic.
“It was the perfect time for me to have the time and energy to put all my focus into flying drones. I’ve always wanted to for many years, but I’ve never had the time to do it,” he said. “It’s surreal. I feel very fortunate to be part of an industry that I personally am very attached to. Nobody told me to get into drones. I did it out of my own freewill. So, to be in a place where my kind of dream job is coming true, I am very happy.”
The third Part 107 remote pilot on the BWA team, Sophie Farrer, is the youngest of the group at age 19.
“I’ve always been into aviation. I got my private pilot’s license first and the next step was just to build upon my certifications and getting my drone license was pretty quick, pretty simple for me,” said Farrer. “I feel completely honored to be part of this pioneer… team. It’s something special, and I think this is going to go really far. I am already proud of our team for what they’ve accomplished, but I am really excited to see what’s to come.”
Two other team members can be found flying much larger aircraft.
But, when Miyukiko Kostelny is not in the cockpit, you might find her exploring the world with a drone in hand.
“I’ve had a drone for a couple of years now. I love to travel. It started out with me taking a drone on places that I would travel to or go hiking. In Guam, I really love having the drone because it’s great when we go boonie-stomping. Not only to get really good photos of where we are hiking but also sometimes I love taking it to the waterfalls or sending the drone ahead in case the trail might be a little weary,” said Kostelny. “When I am not flying for work, I do love flying for travel and for fun. I most recently took it to Iceland and flew it around with some glaciers. We hiked to an active volcano and got some really great photos and it’s been awesome.”
Airline and now drone pilot Pierre Frenay picked up that same passion for flying the unmanned aircraft after he met the owners of Bella Wings.
“It was Bella Wings Aviation that got me into the drones. The excitement, the energy that they are putting together with what we see here today, and the industry is I think is just about at the beginning stages of something that is going to change the world,” Frenay said. “This is going to be another huge step towards changing our lifestyle. I’m an airline pilot by trade. But this is another piece of aviation that is exciting because of the developments. I’d like to be a part of this future.”
Both airline pilots along with the rest of the Bella Wings team thank the community in Guam for coming out to watch the first-ever drone light show.
“I think it is really awesome that we are bringing the technology that is new and fresh to Guam. I’ve been fortunate to see drone shows at air shows and other events. But, many people even in the mainland haven’t seen this technology. So, I think it’s real exciting that Guam has this,” Kostelny said.
“It was a spectacular event. It created so much more excitement out there for the community, and with that excitement, it is giving us that extra energy to push further.” Frenay said.
Bella Wings co-founders Charlie Hermosa and COO Pearla Cordero said that the island can anticipate an even bigger light show at the next event.