Ricky Hayes has been flying helicopters for a quarter of a century, yet he hasn’t ever had to leave the ground.
Hayes has flown remote control helicopters since 1987 and is now a professional field representative for Horizon Hobby. He is considered one of the foremost RC helicopter operators in the nation.
“I’ve been all over the country,” Hayes said during a recent event that featured one of his eye in the sky helicopters. “It’s really a fun thing to do. That’s how I got into it back in 1987 and I was hooked.”
Hayes began his career in RC flying before aerial drone popularity took off just a few years back. Along with flying for fun, drones are now used for their ability to film and photograph from great heights.
“You can use them for agriculture as far as viewing the crops and for law enforcement who use them for surveillance,” Hayes said. “Then they can be used to film events like I do here sometimes on the weekends.
Hayes has done numerous local events such as Back to the Strip Night where his drone zipped up and down New Smithville Highway gathering aerial footage, some of which was included on the Southern Standard’s website. He also did aerial coverage of the Viola Valley Half Marathon. Hayes says due to his professional contract, he is not allowed to charge for his services and does it for fun.
As for the drones themselves, Hayes said it take a little getting used to before one is ready to zip a RC helicopter around.
“I had to learn on my own so I crashed a bunch early on,” Hayes admitted, noting a crash of an RC helicopter generally means major damage for the chopper. “It was a bit of trial and error but the good thing about them is you can rebuild them. I ended up doing quite a bit of rebuilding when I learned.”
Hayes says those wanting to get into RC flying today have the option of first using a flight simulator they can purchase for $125.
“Trust me, start with an RC simulator,” Hayes said, pointing out computer training will save money in the long run given how damaging crashes can be.
Once a person is ready to fly an RC drone, he or she can then decide what type of camera to use. There are numerous combinations which can be linked to a computer on the ground to show the drone’s view in real time. Hayes said drones can fly literally out of sight. However, he prefers to always keep his eye on his drone while they are in flight. A blinking light on the bottom of the drone will warn him when the drone’s battery is getting low.
While there is quite a price range, Hayes estimates a person can get fixed up with a drone with video capabilities for around $1,000, although there are many lesser priced RC helicopters available.
“It always attracts a crowd,” Hayes said of the many passersby who stop and watch as he uses his drone at local events.
Hayes says he hopes to someday hang out his shingle when it comes to aerial photography.