Riverkeeper report: Riverkeeper Air Force lifts off

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Riverkeeper Jeff Turner used a drone to take this gorgeous picture at the Nottoway River. -- JEFF TURNER | The Tidewater News

Riverkeeper Jeff Turner used a drone to take this gorgeous picture of the pond in his backyard. — JEFF TURNER | The Tidewater News

Spirit of Moonpie and I have been assigned to desk duty now for the past two weeks because of some surgical maintenance I required. So this is not the standard Riverkeeper Report.

During this down time, I have been practicing getting up. I mean waaayy up like 3 or 400 feet. Yep, the new Riverkeeper Air Force is flexing its wings and ready to leave terra firma. I was so impressed a few months ago when I took a French filmmaker out on the river and watched him operate a drone. I took him to a cutover and proceeded to be amazed at the filming capability of his quad copter. This guy flew that thing all over that cutover to the point it was out of sight. All he had was a controller and a small video screen to fly by. The pictures and video footage were amazing.

So I decided right then, I MUST have one. The model this filmmaker flew was very expensive, like a couple thousand dollars, so I decided I’d better get a cheap one first to see if I could even fly such a craft.

Well that was accomplished and as you can see from the picture I took of my pond in my backyard, the view is pretty cool, and amazing actually for a $100 drone. I am using this practice drone now on the rivers in a limited role because it is not waterproof and sinks. I know this for a fact because I had to fish it out of my pond twice already!

I cannot wait to get the full-blown waterproof model the first of next year. It will have the capability to land and take off in water, I can program a flight course and it will fly the route autonomously, heck it will even follow me around from the air while I’m driving the boat! That’s going to be so cool cause then I will be able to see what shenanigans Moonpie is up to behind my back.

The aircraft will really be a big help to me. I can use the flying camera to go look at places where the terrain is too difficult for me to walk through or around in. I will be able to look at illegal dumpsites from a different perspective. This could possibly help me to figure out where or who it came from and get far better pictures from overhead which will better show the impact of the pollution or dump site whichever it may be.

Another really great capability, I will be able to do chick counts (not the kind at the beach) at the eagle nest we monitor on the rivers. I’m sure there will be a host of other applications I utilize this fantastic technology for that the bad guys will not like.

So even though I’m laid up right now, it will not be long before the Riverkeeper Air Force takes to the skies to protect our rivers at which time, the polluters might run, but they won’t be able to hide from the flying Pie on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at blknotkpr@earthlink.net.