Me and My Drone: Jim Bowers, Founder of S.W.A.R.M. (Search With Aerial Rc Multi-rotor)


(photo credit: Jim Bowers at Devils Tower in Wyoming / Jim Bowers)

By Robert Hackett

Jim Bowers is an artist and videographer living in Colfax, Calif. He is also the founder of S.W.A.R.M. (Search With Aerial Rc Multi-rotor), a network of more than 1000 volunteer drone pilots that participates in search and rescue operations for missing persons.

  • What drone do you fly?
DJI Phantom and “scratch built” quads
  • What do you call your drone?
  • How did you get started?
Been flying RC for over 12 years…. I “evolved”
  • How expensive was it?
VERY expensive - My first drone cost $1600 (It was hit by a truck and blown to bits!!!)
  • What do you use your drone for?
For Search and Rescue / videography / music videos / drone videos /  tutorials / and for my own artistic expression
  • How do you see yourself using drones in the future?

Drones can be used for a multitude of good uses INCLUDING Search and Rescue. Ive participated in several SAR missions to date. (recovered two bodies)

  • Where do you fly it? How often?
I try to fly in new and interesting places as much as possible. Flying the same “park” can get boring. I’d rather fly 40mph right through a grove of giant redwoods!

  • What’s your favorite thing about owning drones?
At least for now, i feel like I’m on the cutting edge of a whole new tech revolution. I call the year 2014 , “the year of the drones” (I fly on the average AT LEAST once every day…. even if its my garage and raining like hell outside!!
  • How do you see the future for drones in the US? Are you worried about them being taken out of the sky by the FAA?
Drones will either be welcomed and accepted as part of our every day lives OR they will be completely banned in the next two years. (By the FAA)
  • How safe do you think it is? Do you worry about the safety aspects of flying a drone?
Flying a drone is as safe as the person who’s operating it… It can be a “weapon of mass destruction” if its in the wrong hands… but while its in MY hands it will be used for Search and Rescue AND my pursuit of great art.

This interview was conducted via email.

This post is part of our series of profiles of drone operators, ”Me and My Drone.” Would you like to be featured? Shoot us an email at, tweet at us dronesathome or tweet or instagram a picture using the hashtag #meandmydrone.

Me And My Drone: Drone Girl

(photo credit: Stuart Palley)
By Olivia Feld
Meet Sally French, aka “Drone Girl.” French has been flying drones since Jan 2013.
  •  What drone do you fly?
Primarily a DJI Phantom—the original model!
  •  What do you call your drone?
If you’re asking for a name, it’s named Melli, after Amelie Beese who was a really revolutionary female aviator in the early 1900s. Women are really underrepresented in technology and aviation even today, so I wanted to recognize her legacy.
  •  How did you get started?
I first got into drones as a student at the Missouri School of Journalism. I needed one credit to graduate, and they were offering their first-ever course in journalism. So I signed up!

I studied photojournalism in college, and I realized that in this day where it’s easy to buy a decent SLR and anyone with an interchangeable lens calls themselves a photographer, I needed a skill that was completely new and different to market myself in a competitive job market, especially in the journalism field.
(Drone selfie taken by Drone Girl’s DJI Phantom)

  •  How expensive was it?
The whole setup, with the camera, was about $1000.
  •  What do you use your drone for?

I use it for taking pictures or video for journalism purposes. At the Missouri School of Journalism, we used it to capture aerial images of the land. I’m most proud of a story I worked on about a prairie fire, where we actually flew the drone over the fire and got video, which we mixed in with ground footage to create a complete story package.
  •  How do you see yourself using drones in the future?

I think there will one day be a time where all newsrooms will have a drone. Aerial images aren’t a new concept to journalism; major newsrooms have used helicopters for years to report on the traffic or fires. But that’s really expensive, and most local newspapers and small TV stations can’t afford that. With drone technology rapidly improving, you can get broadcast quality aerial images from a drone for $1000.

A lot needs to be worked out on the regulation and safety side still, but I’m eager for the day that aerial images will be just as common as selfies.

This interview was conducted via email and edited

This post is part of our series of profiles of drone operators, ”Me and My Drone.” Would you like to be featured? Shoot us an email at, tweet at us dronesathome or tweet or instagram a picture using the hashtag #meandmydrone.

Me and My Drone: Chris Newman, Owner and Pilot of CineChopper


(Chris Newman holding his drone on a shoot / Chris Newman / Instagram) 

By: Julien Gathelier

Chris Newman is the founder and pilot of CineChopper, an aerial photography and videography production firm. We featured Newman’s video of his drone going rogue in the Amazonian rainforest earlier this week. 

  • What drone do you fly?

Newman owns two drones: a quadrocopter and an octocopter, a drone with eight rotors. He built both himself and spends most of his time upgrading and repairing them. Just the maintenance of his drones costs him from $30,000 to $40,000 a year, he said. 

  • What do you use your drone for? 

"Everything," Newman said. His drones are an integral part of his business as a freelance aerial videographer. He has shot footage for commercials, high-end real estate agencies and documentaries. 


(Chris Newman flying his drone / Chris Newman / Instagram) 

  • How did you get started?

About four years ago, Newman became interested in single rotor remote controlled helicopters after watching a couple of videos online. He first bought a flight simulator and practiced on his computer for about three weeks, before buying his quadrocopter. A couple of weeks after that he bought his octocopter. Both drones came in separate parts and he built them himself. 

  • Does your drone have a name?

CineChopper owns two drones: a small and a big one. The larger octocopter was recently christened “Pegasus.” Chris was filming some rock formations on a shoot in Iceland when he struck up a conversation with a tourist that was watching the drone. She suggested that the drone should be named after her: “Peggy.” Chris obliged, and decided that Peggy should be short for Pegasus. 

  • How do you see yourself using your drone in the future? 

Newman has a couple of plans with his drones in the future. Most of all he is impatient for the FAA to come out with new legislation. “A lot of people aren’t very safe and it makes us look bad,’ he said. He’s hoping that he will be able to get a certification as a drone pilot. 

As interest in drones grows, he is also planning to open a drone pilot school. CineChopper has published a few video tutorials on YouTube and Newman has already begun training some young pilots. He hopes he will be able to hire some of them as he expands his business. 

This post is part of our series of profiles of drone operators, ”Me and My Drone.” Would you like to be featured? Shoot us an email at, tweet at us dronesathome or tweet or instagram a picture using the hashtag #meandmydrone.

Me and My Drone: Brian Emfinger, Stormchaser

By: Julien Gathelier

Brian Emfinger is a nature photographer and stormchaser based in Arkansas. He also works for KATV, a local ABC affiliate. On Monday, Brian published this impressive aerial footage of the trail of destruction left by a tornado that passed through Mayflower and other surrounding towns on Sunday.

  • What drone do you fly?

Emfinger flies a DJI Phantom II with a Go Pro Hero HD 3.

Emfinger has flown his drone in 30 to 40 mph wind, without any major problems besides having difficulties landing it exactly where he wants, he said. He’s also been able to fly it in light rain and in a snowstorm, things he wouldn’t do with more expensive equipment. “If it crashes, a lot of the pieces are really replaceable,” he said. “I’m not too worried. If you’re worried about things, you never lift off the ground.”

  • How did you get started?

Emfinger had been interested in using model airplanes or helicopters to chase storms and for aerial photography. A couple of years ago, he started looking into drones, but it wasn’t until the DJI Phantom I came around, a relatively affordable drone, that he actually bought one. Now, he brings it with him everywhere and tries to fly it at least once a day to improve his skills. 

  • What do you use your drone for?

“I use it for everything,” Emfinger said. As a nature photographer, he uses his drone to take footage of waterfalls, weather events and everything he is interested in still photography-wise, he said. He’s using it to take aerial video, especially for local news stations with which he works. Besides the viral video showing the damage done by a tornado, he also recently shot aerial footage of a big traffic jam on an interstate highway. “Drones can be used for anything, and of course people love the different perspective that it gives,” he said. 

  • What is your favorite thing about your drone?

Emfinger loves the different perspective he can get with his drone, he said. “I can take a picture of a waterfall, or video of a waterfall and put that online and be pretty happy with it. Then I show a picture of that waterfall with a perspective that no one’s got before, and typically that’s the case, because not too many people are using drones for nature photography,” he said. “People respond to it and people like it.”

  • How do you see yourself using drones in the future?

Emfinger expects that he will keep using his drone for a long time, as long as the FAA does not stop him, he said.

  • Does your drone have a name?

Channel 7 KATV did think about calling it drone 7 for a while, but they ended up not doing that to avoid giving the impression that the station owned the drone, which might attract attention from the Federal Aviation Administration, Emfinger said. Commercial drone use is banned by the FAA.

This post is part of our series of profiles of drone operators, ”Me and My Drone.” Would you like to be featured? Shoot us an email at, tweet at us dronesathome or tweet or instagram a picture using the hashtag #meandmydrone.

Journalism Drone’s Kept Indoors

Missouri’s Journalism School has moved its drone flights indoors, in response to an FAA mandate to stop cease all outdoor flights until it’s instructors are certified. 

Bill Allen, who heads the course, is betting that the prohibition against flying drones outdoors will be overturned; and when it is, his students will have skills ahead of others in the marketplace.

In the past Allen’s student’s have used drones to cover stories on fracking  and a deliberate and planned forest fire.

In the meantime, his classes will conduct flights in a livestock facility.


(photo caption: Mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons / Wikipedia)

Phantom Fireworks

Camera-laden drones can capture amazing footage. That includes views of the wreckage of deadly wildfires in Chile, an erupting volcano, and “dronies,” the latest trend in selfies.

Vimeo user Gasper C has added to the repertoire by uploading shots taken by a DJI Phantom Drone traversing a fireworks display. 

The video, which is set to the tune of Arcade Fire’s 2010 hit “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, is captioned simply:

My buddy decided to take his Phantom and fly it through some fireworks. This is the result.

We’re rapt by the footage.

Via The Daily Dot

$15,000 Drone Goes Rogue and Flies off into Amazon Rainforest

By: Julien Gathelier

Scary things ensue when machines don’t do what we want them to do. That’s what happened to Chris Newman of Cine Chopper, an aerial photography production company, while on a shoot in the Peruvian rainforest for Animal Planet.

On a test flight, Newman’s high-end $15,000 octocopter went rogue and flew off into the jungle. 

Because the trees were so high, the drone couldn’t get any GPS reception, Newman said during a phone conversation. 

The video above shows the footage the film crew was able to retrieve after a tedious search operation. 

While in this case, there was a happy ending, what might happen if something like this happened in a big city?

Had he had GPS reception, Newman said, he could have activated the return to home feature, which tells the drone to return to the place where it took off.

He is also much more careful when more people are around, Newman said. He turned down offers to film concerts on multiple occasions. “I do not fly over large groups of people, it’s not worth the risk,” Newman said.  

Edit : We added Newman’s comments to this article after talking to him.

A first version of this article misspelled the name of Cine Chopper founder Chris Newman. 

Flying Robot Rock

Drones can steal marijuana plants, spray graffiti and. Now they also play music.  

KMel Robotics have developed a squadron of flying robots that that doubles as a rockband. The drones can play guitar, drums and the piano.

The video above shows a group of hexrotors — drones with six propellers — play a few classics, amongst which a rendition of the U.S. national anthem that would put Daft Punk to shame. 

(Video YouTube: TheDmel)