Local News

'Multi-copter' records aerial video footage of Harder Hall interior

SEBRING - For Tad Serralta, a Sebring chiropractor, flying his multi-copter gives him the feel of being up in the air although he's firmly planted on the ground. Though the device, which combines more than one small copter and a camera, can be far up in the air and 30 miles away, Serralta can control it. A controller allows him to pilot it, and goggles gives him the view that an actual pilot would have if he or she were inside the small craft. He can see what the device's camera records.
When Serralta first began controlling the device, "I was getting air sick even though I was on the ground," he remembered. He resists calling the device a drone, although he concedes that some other people may call it just that. His resistance comes from the idea that drones, to some degree, have gained negative connotations, he said. But Serralta focuses on positive uses and an example of that is recently posted video on the city of Sebring's website that offers a view of the exterior and the interior of Harder Hall, a 1920s era hotel the city is trying to sell. Serralta said he had done some aerial footage around Harder Hall and was interested in using the multi-copter to film the interior of the historic building. In return for gaining that interior access, Serralta said he offered a free video to the city. Assistant City Administrator Bob Hoffman said he liked the idea. The idea was that "hopefully it would help with marketing Harder Hall," Hoffman said. And it already has done that, he said. "Since it's been posted, a couple of people have seen and inquired about the former hotel and that was our hope," Hoffman said. Serralta said that he will also give raw footage of the video to the Sebring Historical Society so that in the future people will be able to "see what Harder Hall looks like at this time." A future owner of Harder Hall may alter the interior, so the footage will preserve the current appearance, he explained. Serralta said the technology has been developing during the past several years to allow use of such devices to get increased quality video. The challenge has been to develop a smaller camera with less weight to better facilitate the device, he said. People all over the world have been working on such devices to make them useful for positive purposes, such as to survey real estate, he said. "I would say we are really cutting edge," he said of the technology. The multi-copters could be used after natural disasters to help survey the damage and get photos of areas that would otherwise be inaccessible, he mentioned as another possibility for its use. Most people involved with the multi-copters use them in a safe responsible manner, he said, But, some push the envelope, such as flying them near cliffs or the user who led police on a chase of his device. Many of the users of the devices make improvements on their own, he said. Serralta said that while so-called drones could be used for less than positive purposes, that's not the fault of the device. "You can't blame the technology," he said, adding the responsibility is with whoever misuses it. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834