CLEVELAND -- The first authorized commercial drone flight took off in downtown Cleveland Thursday evening.
Elyria based Dronewerx LLC was behind the flight.
It took a year to get authorization, but they successfully did it with approval from Burke Lakefront Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Matt Mishak, the managing member for Dronewerx, reports typical commercial drone flying is only allowable in the airspace outside a 5 mile radius around an airport.
Because downtown Cleveland has Burke, that precluded drones from flying in the airspace which would be considered downtown.
Dronewerx secured a certificate of waiver or authorization to fly within the circle, and as high as 400 feet.
Thursday’s inaugural Cleveland downtown flight did reach those heights. “I feel fantastic, this is a big day for us.”
Burke Lakefront tower operator, Ray Baca confirmed to WKYC Channel 3’s Hilary Golston via email “provided the weather is on their side, Dronewerx will be operating the first APPROVED commercial flight of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in downtown Cleveland this evening. Dronewerx is operating under FAA Certificate of Authorization #12393 as well as a Letter of Agreement with Burke Lakefront Tower.”
Mishak says negotiations to get their gear off the ground wouldn’t have happened without Baca’s support and assistance.
The first flight involved operation using a pilot and an assistant. The gear involved two $5,000 drones, both equipped with HD cameras.
“My biggest concern... it was new,” Mishak said. “Being downtown we wondered what challenges there might be. Would we have different wind today? Would it be just a different environment? Would we have problems with birds? Would we have problems with our software? We’re doing something that really never has really been done with this software… meaning that there are safeguards built into the software that may have prevented us from even flying today.”
Controllers connected to an iPad allowed the pilot to watch the drone's video through a live feed, while it was being recorded. The device also included information on altitude, telemetry, GPS, airspeed and other things.
Goggles were also in tow to let a viewer witness the HD video as it was being recorded.
Make no bones about it; the purpose of the flight is to begin making money with drones in downtown Cleveland.
“More than a big day for your, you said this is really the launch of commercial drone flying in downtown Cleveland… what did you mean?” Golston asked Mishak. “Today begins the launch of the commercial drone industry in Cleveland, Ohio.”
There are obvious uses, like video and pictures for films or television. However, 3D mapping, surveying, infrastructure inspection, law enforcement use, and search and rescue are all possibilities for the technology.
“This is the ground floor for this industry. I think that at this point we haven’t even envisioned how this technology going to be used."