Rick Eason Flies Under The Radar

Rick Eason graduated from Bedford Middle School in June. But the teenager knows aircraft technology, FAA regulations — and Westport skies — like a pro.

Rick has always been interested in electronics. Not long ago, the rising Staples freshman got a drone. His DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter is amazing. Equipped with a GoPro camera providing very high quality 2.6K resolution still photographs and video at 30 fps, plus 4 rotors, it tilts, spins and zooms its way over beaches, homes and fields.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Thanks to GPS it holds its position in wind, moves around a center point, and can even return to the exact spot it was launched if contact is lost.

“It’s so much fun to fly,” he says. “It’s so easy and intuitive to control.

“You can get views no one has ever seen before,” Rick adds with pride. “This is not like Google Earth. You can see your house from 20 feet above.”

Or the Westport Library. Here’s a view from Rick’s website that I’m pretty sure is the 1st of its kind:

Library - Rick Eason's drone

Rick’s dad, Tony Eason, installs solar panels. Rick’s drone helps him inspect roofs.

Drones are still pretty new. Rick saw another Phantom at Winslow Park. “06880” has posted amazing videos, taken by another owner, of Compo Beach and Sherwood Mill Pond. But right now they’re rare, and Rick gets plenty of admiring stares — and questions — when he launches his.

Drones are so new, in fact, that federal regulations can’t keep up. Though drones can rise 2000 feet high, the FAA classifies them as “remote controlled aircraft,” with a limit of 400 feet.

Technically, they can’t fly beyond the owner’s “line of sight.” But, Rick says, he can watch and control his drone through the GoPro camera, using goggles or a laptop.

Rick Eason's drone hovers over his front lawn.

Rick Eason’s drone hovers over his front lawn.

Owners need a license to make money off drones. So legally, Rick can’t charge for his photographs and videos. (That hasn’t stopped others from doing so.)

Rick has learned about privacy laws too. “When you’re 30 feet up with a fisheye lens, you might catch someone’s private home,” he says. “If they ask me, I’ll delete it.” But, he notes, “it’s really no different from taking a photograph of someone’s house from the beach with an iPhone.”

Drones are here to stay. Just a couple of years ago, they cost thousands of dollars each — and did not fly particularly well. Now, Rick says, “you can buy one for $300 at Barnes & Noble.”

Rick's drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick’s drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick loves his drone — but he’s already looking ahead. He’s saving up for a gyroscopic gimbal, to keep the camera even steadier than it is now.

Meanwhile, he’s thinking up clever new uses for his drone. At Staples, he might contribute aerial photograph to Inklings, the school newspaper.

And last Thursday Rick was at Compo, for the 2nd annual “06880” party. While the rest of us were eating, drinking and chatting, he was hard at work.

So here’s the “06880” community — 2014-style:


12 responses to “Rick Eason Flies Under The Radar

  1. Audrey Hertzel

    Okay, I’ll be the first to respond. Here goes…

    Yes, this (in a way) is a very cool gadget, however, (and personally) I felt a little creeped out as well as felt an invasion of privacy by it hovering over the 06880 party last week. I’m not sure if it was the same drone at the Jose Feliciano concert on Sunday, but many people around me shared my feelings as it being an invasion and that they were “being watched.”

    Google Earth is just that, it’s “Earth.” You don’t see people adjusting their underwear, or God forbid, something even more personal! 🙂

    • Dan Lasley (Laz)

      Just to play this out…

      How do you feel when your face is on the Jumbotron(tm)? Most people wave and cheer.

      How do you feel about all the surveillance you don’t see (parking lots, street corners, inside retail stores)?

      In general, if you are in a public space, there has never been an expectation of privacy. And the resulting videos and pictures are really cool! So relax, enjoy, and smile!

  2. David J. Loffredo

    This is a lawsuit waiting for a plaintiff, I hope the family has a good umbrella liability policy.

  3. John Karrel

    Surprised this didn’t elicit more comments. I think the drone trend is an accident waiting to happen, figuratively and literally. Then again, maybe I’m just the typical ‘06880’ 60-something resisting the latest tug from Tech 3.0.

  4. Cathy Smith Barnett SHS '66

    I was looking forward to reading more comments on this too. I think Rick Eason is a sharp kid with an expensive toy which is also a stick of dynamite. I wouldn’t want this drone hovering around me, especially not knowing why or who’s at the controls. I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there just itching to make money on these devices (anyone with an active imagination!), and Dan commented that some people are already doing that illegally. Rick seems to be using his drone for amusement purposes, like taking photos of the 06880 blog party and the Jose Feliciano concert at the Levitt. But knowing that some kid also brought one to Winslow Park means that the word is out that drones are the new “it thing” and soon they will be flutter all over Westport and beyond. I’m kinda wondering why his dad doesn’t just use a ladder to climb up and inspect solar roofs instead of using his son’s drone camera.

  5. Luciano Morelli

    Cathy said: “I’m kinda wondering why his dad doesn’t just use a ladder to climb up and inspect solar roofs instead of using his son’s drone camera.”

    Maybe so he doesn’t have to risk falling off the ladder. Just saying.

    • Cathy Smith Barnett SHS '66

      Yes I understand about the risks to falling off a ladder. Roofers go up ladders every day, it’s part of the job. I am wondering though if a drone taking pictures is the same, better or worse than the human eye. Are drones an acceptable form of inspection in this industry?

      • Luciano Morelli

        I would think as long as it has a high definition camera, I would think it would be an acceptable inspection procedure.

  6. Dan Lasley (Laz)

    I would appreciate some specific concerns on this topic. Can you suggest a specific example of how this could cause harm? More harm than a person with a good camera?

  7. David J. Loffredo

    Here are a few concerns:

    1) There are already invasion of privacy lawsuits popping up around the country. If you hover over me at the beach that’s one thing, flying over my yard is quite another.

    2) If this thing hits me, watch out, I own both it and your college fund.

    3) I’ve also seen stories about drones at the scene of car accidents, and you have to wonder what came first – the drone or the accident.

    It’s a cute toy, just like the RC planes and helicopters. Fly it at the beach or in a park, but be mindful of the world around you since not everyone might view your new toy with equal enthusiasm.

    • Dan Lasley (Laz)

      Agreed – just like RC models. So they should fall under well established laws – they are not a new threat from technology.

  8. Holly Wheeler

    Maybe a drone can catch the dog poop (human) offenders in Winslow Park.