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Drone documenting fest setup

Potato Festival drone

Elliott Schofield flies his drone, used for aerial photography, Wednesday afternoon at Charles Creek Park in Elizabeth City. Schofield said he planned to use the drone to get aerial photos of the set-up for the N.C. Potato Festival.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

If you’ve ever wanted a bird’s eye view of the N.C. Potato Festival — which starts Friday — then Elliott Schofield has got you covered.

Schofield, an Oregon resident who’s visiting family in Elizabeth City, used a drone to get aerial footage and photos of the festival’s setup on Wednesday. He’s volunteered the drone’s services to provide potential promotional material for the annual festival, he said.

Schofield, a photographer for commercial realtors, said aerial photos of property are increasingly in demand, and he got his drone in December at a client’s behest. After a bit of a learning curve, and a minor crash or two, he said he’s using the drone for both work and fun. Considering the small camera it uses while hovering hundreds of feet above the ground, he said it gets surprisingly good photos and video.

Schofield also provided some insight into drones’ growth as a professional tool and a hobby. Using a drone recreationally doesn’t require a federal license, he said, but using it commercially does. He also takes various steps to ensure it’s safe to fly the drone, including checking with local military bases and medical facilities to make sure he’s not in any flight paths; medical facilities sometimes rely on emergency aerial vehicles.

Out of caution, Schofield also said he won’t fly the drone during the Potato Festival, when streets will be more crowded and there’d be more risk of it hitting someone if a problem occurred and it fell. He said the drone can theoretically fly for half an hour and up to four miles away, but he’s avoided testing those limits.

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