Not sure if YouTuber (and CNN employee) Casey Neistat is prepping for an epic entrance to launch the upcoming 2017 Winter X Games or he just loves pushing the limits of new technology; either way, he certainly turned some heads during his latest film project.
With the teaser to his 4-minute video reading, “No one in the world sells a drone that can lift a human, so we built our own,” one would expect some pretty cool action especially if the backdrop is a snow covered mountainside. He did not disappoint.
Strapped to a snowboard, armed with a selfie-stick in one hand and holding onto a slackline with the other, Neistat is pulled around the trails of a ski mountain by a 16-rotor oversized drone illuminating the sky above with an array of holiday colors. Neistat captures some pretty amazing nighttime aerials shots after a fresh dumping of powder. Being lifted 25 feet in the air as the drone strategically follows the mountain’s ski trails, Neistat captures footage while flying off some serious big air jumps. With the drone providing an additional booster during liftoff, Neistat flies way above the tree line working in a few switches and grabs to please onlookers below.
The giant, custom-made drone has been in the works for the past year after failed attempts to find an available commercial drone. Capable of lifting an extreme snowboarder with ease, this isn’t the first human-carrying drone experience. VertiPod, made by AirBuoyant, is a quadcopter drone that lifted the 125-pound test occupant Stephen West a few feet off the ground this past April. With a hexacopter version of VertiPod coming soon and capable of carrying up to 250 pounds, human-carrying drones may be a more common practice over the next few years.
Neistat’s video is, however, the first time we’ve seen a drone being used to airlift a human for outdoor recreational purposes. I have a feeling it won’t be the last. With a separate version shot entirely with Samsung’s Gear 360 camera, Neistat’s heavily sponsored video shows just how far drone technology has come over the past few years. With the ability to control a drone remotely and at the same time, carry a human a good 25 feet in the air, I’m sure the wheels are spinning inside the heads of action sports filmmakers as they view Neistat’s latest project.
Outside of capturing amazing aerial snowboarding shots, Neistat’s video is a reminder of the many ways in which drones could help us. The EHang 184 AAV (autonomous aerial vehicle) drone, for example, can travel up to 62 mph, and has a flight distance of 23 miles, and most importantly is capable of carrying a passenger that weighs up to 264 pounds. Whether it’s used for surveying flooded areas to rescue people from rooftops or used to warn homeowners of wildfires in California, drones have the potential to be life-saving devices.
PowerVision’s PowerEgg is a powerful autonomous flight drone with different modes allowing for up to 3.1 miles of video streaming distance. The PowerEgg could easily be used to survey treacherous terrain for missing hikers and at the same time, deliver much-needed insulin to a diabetic hiker struggling for his life. Why put a rescue team in grave danger, especially during hazardous weather conditions, when all you need is a GPS location and a fully charged drone?
Lastly, Urban Aeronautics’ AirMule is by far the most powerful AAV drone in existence and could be used in many different scenarios. Designed to extract military personnel from dangerous battlefield situations without endangering the pilot or crews, the VTOL AirMule is designed to fly inside obstructed (e.g. mountainous, wooded, urban) terrain where helicopters cannot operate. From dropping off much-needed food supplies to starving people in third world countries to simply delivering heavy equipment to hard-to-reach construction site locations, drones can be used in countless ways.
Drones and surveillance seem to be synonymous these days. I think it may be time to illustrate the many ways that drones could help us outside of spying on terrorist cells in Afghanistan. Whether it’s emergency rescue in the Rockies or simply taking aerial shots of our property line for zoning purposes, drones are poised to help us in ways not yet imagined.
Neistat’s video captures him weaving in and out of trees – working his way up a trail – starting from the bottom and working his way to the mountain’s peak. Now just imagine ski patrol hearing about an injured skier who went off the trail during blizzard conditions. Instead of ripping up a trail in a snowmobile or snowcat in the hopes of locating the skier – set GPS coordinates and let a drone lead you to the fallen skier. Grab onto the drone’s line, hold on, and let it lead you up the mountain. The entire time you have aerial shots of the mountain pinpointing location and more importantly, you keep other skiers safe from heavy equipment trekking up an active ski trail.