Local business owner Aaron Vos is taking a series of bird’s-eye view videos of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds during fair week. He flies an “aerial photography platform” – basically a drone equipped with a camera – which he builds and services himself.
Vos was originally hired by the Elkhart County 4-H Fair board to take video of the 24-hour food drive. He submitted his aerial video to the fair marketing team, who asked him to do more.
The drone is small, about 2 feet across, and flies 100 to 200 feet above the fairgrounds — close enough to see where foot traffic is heaviest, but not close enough to pick out fair visitors’ faces.
“We’ll have all kinds of uses for it that will probably develop,” fair marketing director Kristy Ambrosen said.
Ambrosen said even though the aerial photography platform doesn’t fly directly over any venues, Vos’ camera gives them a closer look than the helicopters that fly around the edge of the fairgrounds at a higher altitude.
His photography could be a boon for planning and development committees, who will have a bird’s-eye view of how visitors use the fairgrounds.
The marketing team will use Vos’ recordings to promote the fair in coming years. The platform has been taking video all of fair week, flying past the tractor pull Thursday afternoon and the midway Wednesday night.
The photo drone is X-shaped, with miniature helicopter-like blades at each point of the X. There’s a camera underneath that can pan and tilt to change the angle of the video.
Vos controls it by remote, like a toy helicopter, but the photo drone isn’t a toy. He does regular checks on it and makes sure the environment is safe before flying.
“There’s a lot of preparation,” he said. “A routine and a flight plan just like you’d have with a regular airplane.”
Vos took flight lessons out of high school and was on track to get his pilot’s license, but stopped taking lessons when he got married.
“I got engaged and ran out of money,” he said, laughing.
Twenty years later, it’s still his dream to finish his pilot’s license. Flying the aerial photography platform is his passion now.
“Once I took my first picture from the air, I was hooked,” Vos said.