Innovation Lab Brings Drone Expert to Seminole campus

The St. Petersburg College Seminole campus Innovation Lab brought drone expert Donny Klotz to the lab to lecture on this up and coming technology with applications from agriculture to journalism. After a brief talk, students adjourned to the soccer field for a demonstration of Klotz’s Phantom 2 drone.

Flying the Phantom II drone with Donny Klotz.

Drones have been the source of controversy since it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency was using the unmanned aircraft to attack militants in Pakistan. The discovery that the Department of Homeland Security was loaning its stable of drones to law enforcement agencies for surveillance purposes raised privacy concerns and anxiety. At the same time, drones are being used to monitor cattle, and to ensure crops are growing properly in the fields. Journalist Tim Pool used two drones to cover the Gezi Park protests in Turkey for Vice magazine in 2013. Turkey is well known as a difficult country to cover the news in, Reporters Without Borders listed Turkey as 154th out of 179 in their press freedom index. Pool uses devices like drones and Google Glass to cover the most difficult stories, including Occupy Wall Street, and Gezi. Pool sees this technology as democratizing the news, allowing individuals to report live news in a way only the largest broadcasters could ten years ago. Klotz also has a broadcast background, and bought his drone when the camera he used for his cable access show was broken. Donny Kotz agrees, “I could either spend a lot of money and get a new Sony, or I could spend a fraction of the price on a drone and get a camera that is just as nice and be able to do aerial photography.”

In the Innovation Lab with drone expert Donny Klotz.

Students filled the Innovation Lab in LI 201 to capacity, and people passing by stopped to peer into the windows as Klotz unpacked his Phantom 2 from its carrying case and assembled it, explaining each step as he went. The drone is the ultimate portable newsroom, requiring only a case the size of a piece of carry on luggage, an iPhone, and an iPad Mini. The phone controls the aircraft, when the flight is over Klotz edits the video in iMovie on the iPad and distributes it online to his YouTube account. He showed students some of his past projects, including a demonstration of using drones to provide coverage of a Tampa Bay Rowdies game, footage of boats for dealer marketing, and a music video for the Tampa Bay band Fowler’s Bluff. After showing off his mobile studio, Klotz moved the workshop to the soccer field on Seminole campus to show his drone in action.

Klotz flew the drone up to several hundred feet in the air, to the point where it was a small dot in this reporter’s telephoto lens. He took then flew over the UP building and did a touch and go on the soccer field. He also demonstrated the stability of the quadcopter by flying it within arm’s reach and attempting to pull it off center. The drone dipped a bit, but remained steady and stable. You can watch video from the drone on the Innovation Lab’s Facebook group, and be sure to check out Donny Klotz’s Youtube channel for more great aerial video.

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