Drone Interview from Work

“A friend of mine joked once about me having eight drones…” - Keegan Sands

This month, we talked to Keegan about DRONES!

When did you get into flying drones and how did it all begin?

In the summer of 2016 my son, told me he wanted a drone. We researched a few different types and settled on a cheap $40 drone from Amazon, it had a camera and would be good for learning. He quickly got bored of learning how to fly, but I really liked the challenge of learning the controls and also flying up over the trees to take pictures and video. It all changed one day when I was browsing Periscope and I came across this guy, Mr. Steele, setting up a drone to fly in a mall parking lot and he had these weird goggles he would wear while flying. I learned the goggles were used for first person view (FPV) flying. The drone has a camera mounted on the front and a video transmitter sends the video signal to the goggles and you get a bird’s eye view of the flight. After watching some of Mr. Steele’s videos I was hooked. He is a freestyle pilot and mounts a GoPro on the onto the drone to capture some of the most amazing video footage I have ever seen.

Tell us about the drones you have and What makes each of them special?

A friend of mine joked once about me having eight drones and then I had to correct him and sheepishly point out it was actually more like ten. My first few came from Amazon and are about the size of my hand, they helped me learn to fly, line-of-sight (LOS) and FPV. My next two were pre-built racing drones, they are very similar to what the pros use but not quite as powerful, although they did require all the other gear like the googles, transmitter and special batteries. I really started doing tricks at this point and flew these drones to their limits. My next drone was the first one I built myself, which meant researching and buying all the different components as well as taking a soldering class. My favorite drone is by far my Alien, which I built using all the same components as Mr. Steele. It is rock solid and flies like a dream.

I also have a couple cinematic drones from DJI, those are more common and probably what most people think of when they think of a drone. The Spark is super small and very portable so it is great for hiking and traveling. The last drone in my hangar is special because it was my father’s most prized toy before he passed away. He always loved technology and bought it to celebrate his retirement. It is a pretty big drone and comes with all the bells and whistles like GPS positioning, Return to Home mode, and records 4K video.

Where does one get a drone and what are the benefits of building v. buying?

You can buy the most of the cinematic drones at big box retailers like Best Buy, Wal-mart or Target. If you want to buy or build an FPV drone you have to go through a specialized online store. Buying a pre-built drone is obviously much easier, but building your own lets you hand pick the various components so you can get the exact flight characteristics for the type of flying you want to do.

Do you have advice for anyone interested starting to fly drones as a hobby?

Start small and just get a $30-$40 drone off of Amazon and see if flying is for you. As you learn to fly just focus on the basics first like just going up and down slowly. The biggest mistake I see for new pilots make is they immediately jam on the throttle and go to the moon. Once you are able to fly away from you the real challenge is flying towards you. If you have the patience to learn how to fly in a circle then you should consider getting one of the smaller DJI drones like the Mavic Mini. They are amazing pieces of tech and can stop you from doing a lot of stupid things, but knowing how to actually fly first is huge in case the tech fails.

Other than flying drones, do you have any other fun or interesting hobbies?

I have been skiing since I was about 7 years old and spend every other weekend of the winter at Sunday River in Maine. I love skiing moguls and even entered the annual Bust’n’Burn competition a few times at the turn of the century.

You can check out some of Keegan’s Drone Footage here.