Ocoee resident flies drones, sees such great heights
Ocoee resident Gary Comstock got hooked on flying drones when he realized he could use the devices to get unique views of places he had seen his entire life.
| 3:47 p.m. December 24, 2015
West Orange Times & Observer
OCOEE On a trip to upstate New York where he grew up, Gary Comstock watched some aerial footage of landmarks near his hometown. When he asked the videographer if he shot the footage from a helicopter, he told him no. The video was shot from an unmanned aerial vehicle, also called a drone.
Comstock was fascinated.
“I got to see some things that I grew up with that I didn’t even know were there,” he said. “For me, that was an epiphany.”
Comstock flew radio-controlled planes for about 25 years and always wished there was a way to stop the plane mid-air and take a photograph.
He began to research drones and then ordered one about two years ago.
Since that time, the Ocoee resident and owner of the Winter Garden-based Southwest Property Management has had similar experiences locally.
He flew his drone to get an up-close look at the Angel Moroni, which adorns the top of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 9000 Windy Ridge Road in Windermere.
One day, he found a spot in a parking lot near the empty Majesty building in Altamonte Springs. He was able to fly over the building without flying over people.
“That is magnificent,” he said. “When you shoot the building and you’re starting at the bottom — and it’s a construction site and there’s only one guard there, so I wasn’t near any people — and you go up and you look at the glass, you can’t see that driving on I-4.”
The Tom West blueberry farm in Ocoee allowed Comstock on its property to take some footage of the property. Comstock was able to show the farmer exactly what his farm looks like from the air.
LEARNING TO FLY
Drones are often marketed as “fly out of the box.” Although that is true, Comstock has another perspective.
“You can also crash it out of the box,” he said.
Since he started flying drones, Comstock has been through six drones — meaning he has crashed drones several times. Some of these crashes caused him to need to purchase a new one.
He chalks all of his crashes up to pilot error. He wishes he would have purchased a drone simulator to practice with on his computer before he flew it straight out of the box.
Now, before he flies the drone, he goes through some steps to make sure the drone is ready to be in the air. First, he checks to make sure the batteries are fresh and the device is charged. Then he looks at his surroundings to make sure there are no telephone wires he might crash into. Next, he checks to make sure the propellers are tight and secure. He also calibrates the compass away from metal.
He also recommends finding the blog for the drone being flown. There, drone users can read up on tips of how to operate the drone and learn from the mistakes of others.
“I don’t approve of you spying on me”
Public perception of drones sometimes is dominated with stories of people using them to spy or do other unsavory activities.
Comstock is frustrated that the perception of drones is based on a few people who make poor decisions. As these stories have become more public, Comstock has been approached by a few people who asked if he was spying on them.
Comstock doesn’t fly over people, but if he is in a park with other people, they often assume the worst. Typically, Comstock will show them the photos he took, and the people normally are impressed when they see how truly small they look in the photo, if they even show up at all.
“The drone, when it’s up too high, people look like ants,” Comstock said.
Comstock enjoys filming the unusual. He has planned a trip to the Turks and Caicos, where he will stay aboard a ship. He plans to fly the drone off the ship to get footage of the ocean.