Chopperpix – the brief history.

8 01 2009

I’ve told the story quite a few times, but it never ceases to amaze me how the concept of Chopperpix came about. I’ve been active in some sort of aviation, full-scale or model, for at least 22 years now. My dad taught me to fly on a little .049 motorized glider in a school yard in 1987. The following year dad decided to surprise me on my birthday by getting his full-scale pilots license renewed after at least a 11 year hiatus. Flying was just a built-in part of my life. I read books about flying, I watched every airplane fly by, learned their names, dreamed dreams of flying. Non-stop.

Fast forward to May of 2003. I hadn’t flown a model airplane or full-scale for years, as an internship, college, and life in general dictated it take a back seat. For my birthday, my dad decided to take me to the local hobby store to get something for me. What I left with changed me. A toy helicopter. Ok, not really a “toy” because it carried more than a toy price tag. I took that helicopter back home and flew it, and then flew it some more. I dreamed of flying it. I flew it inside, I flew it outside. I flew it till it literally wore out. Helicopters are amazing mechanical wonders, and it puzzled me and confounded me, but I conquered it.

Somehow along those first few weeks I came across a little 2.4ghz wireless video camera. I looked at that little helicopter, and that camera, and thought “what if?” That was the birth of Chopperpix. I did modifications to make that camera fit, and I buzzed it around, making abhorrent little videos that would make you vomit if you watched too long. But it was a start.

Helicopters have amazing abilities. Unlike an airplane, helicopters can move in any dimension instead of just “forward.” What confounds most is that very thing. The level of understanding, coordination, and reaction time required is much higher for a r/c (remote control) helicopter pilot than that of his fixed wing counterpart. You can even fly them upside down, and backwards! And backwards while upside down! Mind blowing capabilities – and perfect for mind blowing video and photos!

I spent a lot of time in the beginning focusing solely on flying. I wanted to learn to fly aerobatics. So I did. I crashed a lot, spent a lot of time fixing, and repeated the process over and over. Just to give you an idea, a “typical” r/c helicopter crash with a relatively large size helicopter could easily soar north of $200 per crash. I often times thought taking up smoking crack would be a cheaper “addiction.” Which by the way, any good r/c helicopter pilot will tell you that it is addicting!

The good thing about learning to fly aerobatics is that it trains your mind to respond to the helicopter in any situation. Often in internet forums that cater to the aerial photography profession, I repeat my mantra of really learning how to fly. When you push yourself and your machine, you learn so much more than if you just tooled around with it. You learn to fix it, tweak it, fly it smooth, fly it precise, fly it in tough conditions, fly it in unusual attitudes, fly it when something goes wrong, and so on. And things DO go wrong. And you have to learn why they go wrong and to keep it from going wrong again. All that adds up to the primary role of an r/c aerial photography pilot. Of course then you need to master the rest of the skills – photography, video and video editing, web development, salesman, marketer! But all that is for another blog, another day.

Continue on to the next post for the “rest of the story” on the beginnings of Chopperpix…

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