The video is absolutely stunning: a remote-controlled plane flies over and around the Brooklyn Bridge, buzzes the Statue of Liberty, and explores New York from a point of view even "real" airplanes rarely see. While the police were curious about what was happening, no arrests were made, and the creators of the video praise the police and the TSA for their professionalism.
This is the story of how one group of enthusiasts made flying a plane around New York City fun again.
The video was shot with a remote-controlled aircraft that has one video camera feeding images back to the operator, along with a second, passive camera taking the video that was edited together for the official release. The video was shot between 7 and 8am, those being the only hours they could safely avoid air traffic. If you'd like more information about the aircraft or the build itself, there is a thread on RCGroups with a wealth of information.
The video speaks for itself.
So how difficult was the flight? "In a city it is very tricky due to the widespread interfering sources," Trappy, from Team Black Sheep, told Ars. "I'd say you need at least six months to do any kind of city flying, especially in big cities. Other than that, to control the model in a safe environment without interfering sources it's possible to fly solo after 2 to 3 hours on the sticks. It's a bit like a flight simulator, only easier."
While you may think this sort of flying would catch the attention of the authorities and lead to terrorism scares, the response from the police was measured and sensible. "The reaction was very professional. They asked me what I was doing and I told them I'd land and explain it to them. After that we got talking and I showed them how it all works, what I'm doing and so on."
What's even more impressive is that the video was shot without any kind of official blessing. "I did not clear any of the flights through the authorities beforehand, but I did check local laws and regulations prior to departure."
The footage has gained the team a huge mess of publicity, with the link making its way around the tech blogs and Twitter. Trappy says he knew he was capturing something special even before the plane landed. "I sort of knew the video was going to be impressive before I launched," he told Ars. "But in the air I was totally overwhelmed by flying over the statue of liberty and Brooklyn bridge with all their historic association. I smiled from ear to ear when rewatching the video back at home."
Friday, December 3, 2010
How an RC airplane buzzed the Statue of Liberty, with no arrests