Delaware News

Drones offer new perspective on central Ohio

Area business affords drone's-eye view of landmarks, sporting events, special occasions

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For Mike Cairns, business is all about giving people another way to look at the world.

Cairns is the owner of Infinite Impact, a Columbus firm that uses remote-controlled drone aircraft to shoot photographs and video.

"You look at pretty much anything on land and it's been photographed or seen from a human vantage point a million times -- or from an airplane," he said. "But there's that middle ground that, it's almost like it's a whole new frontier."

Cairns, a Worthington-area resident, said clients for the business have included developers, local governments and even a Delaware-based professional sports team.

Infinite Impact provides the official "fan cam" for Major League Lacrosse's Ohio Machine during home games at Selby Stadium on the Ohio Wesleyan University campus.

Cairns said the reaction to the drone from the team's ownership and fans has been uniformly positive.

"As soon as we get up in the air, you see all of the little kids start going crazy," he said.

At a recent game, the announcer told the fans to do the wave as they saw the drone fly by them.

"That was a pretty cool thing, to kind of have that one-on-one interaction with thousands of people at one time," he said.

Cairns said he would love to one day contract with other local sports teams, such as the Columbus Crew or Ohio State University Buckeyes, to provide a distinctive fan-cam experience.

Infinite Impact will be at the Olentangy Fourth of July Celebration at Olentangy Orange Middle School filming runners in the Freedom 4 Miler.

"I'll be following them and streaming live, aerial footage down to a massive screen for the crowd to actually watch the people they are there to support in real time," he said last week, adding the event marked his first time filming a race via drone.

Cairns has been doing video production and multimedia work with his brothers, Matt and Tyler, for about 15 years as a side business. In 2008, Cairns founded Impact Brothers LLC, a web design, graphics and multimedia company.

About a year ago, Cairns got a new business idea after viewing videos on YouTube that were recorded using drones.

That idea became Infinite Impact, a spinoff of Impact Brothers, and a new full-time job for Cairns.

"I was like, I don't know any other person in Ohio doing this," he said. "I haven't heard of one single person.

"And so I kind of thought about it and made the decision, like, OK, let's get in this thing and see what we can do with it, because at the minimum, we won't really have any competition."

While Infinite Impact has four drones, the one the firm uses most frequently is the DJI Phantom 2. The device, which costs more than $1,000, features four plastic propellers, GPS technology for navigation and a camera capable of shooting high-definition video.

The unit weighs about 12 pounds and can fly for 12 to 15 minutes before its battery needs to be replaced.

Cairns said initially, he was taking a lot of calls from cities or developers that wanted aerial construction photos. More recently, many customers have requested video packages of events.

"I think the aerial video for runs and mud runs and 5Ks could be a really big segment that people haven't even thought about yet," he said.

Infinite Impact charges $150 per hour to film an event, with a two-hour minimum. Editing and video production costs extra.

Cairns said he is interested in traveling throughout the state and publishing a book featuring photos of Ohio "from a drone's perspective."

Getting involved in the drone business full time has given Cairns a greater appreciation for all central Ohio has to offer, he said.

"I've come to know Columbus 300 percent more intimately than I ever did before because I've had a chance to explore -- to find out the amazing places that are really five minutes away from all of us."

Although many people associate drones with weapons and warfare, Cairns said people are starting to accept the devices as business tools. He said he did not really consider using a term such as quadcopter in place of drone to describe his firm.

"I'd rather take the term drone and give it a positive connotation than try to fight the wave," he said.

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