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Drone takes NIU photos and videos to new heights

September 20, 2017

Huskies are gaining a new perspective on their campus this year, thanks to a drone and the work of two campus videographers who are now trained and licensed to operate it.

The DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone – nicknamed NIU Mission 1 – took its first official flight during move-in day last month, and initial footage captured has already been popular on social media. The drone can fly up to 400 feet high, unless it is flying over a structure, and then it can fly 400 feet above that structure, as long as it is not in any flight paths.

Kevin Meyer and Danielle Guerra

Taylor Hayden, assistant director of digital content, said the university wanted to be able to showcase NIU to prospective students from unique and interesting angles, and so two videographers – Kevin Meyer and Danielle Guerra – volunteered to take a class to learn about flying drones, and then later to take an FAA exam that certified them as commercial drone pilots.

Guerra and Meyer took the course, passed the FAA Part 107 unmanned aircraft exam and have established a working relationship with the DeKalb Airport. The FAA certification assures they have the safety skills necessary to maneuver the small, unmanned aircraft from the ground. It is required for commercial drone users, but not hobbyists.

“Our campus is so beautiful and now we can shoot aerial video when we want versus in the past, when we worked with outside vendors and wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed good weather,” Meyer said.

Meyer and Guerra request that curious Huskies wait to approach them until they’re done flying the aircraft, for safety reasons.

“Talking to us takes our attention away from where it should be,” Guerra said, explaining one requirement is that they keep a line of sight on the drone at all times.

Guerra and Meyer are busy getting footage on campus while the weather is still warm, and look forward to chronicling fall colors from the sky as well.