Carmel marketer deploys flying camera

July 30, 2014
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Carmel marketing firm Fat Atom’s new toy tends to draw a crowd.

Chief pilot Rob Chinn demonstrated the appeal—and capabilities—of the agency’s slick white quadcopter on Friday afternoon in Carmel’s Center Green, dispatching it into the skies over City Center to capture a bird’s-eye view of the Palladium.

Aerial view of Palladium, 2014Fat Atom's HAWC offers a new view of old favorites. Click photo to enlarge.(Photo courtesy of Fat Atom)

Dubbed HAWC (for high-altitude wireless camera) and pronounced "hawk," the device shot video and photos at Chinn’s direction as he steered with a handheld controller, watching the images it was capturing in live time on his iPhone. Yep, there’s an app for that.

Pedestrians making their way to the nearby Monon Greenway stopped to watch as it ascended, red and green lights flashing.

Also the agency’s director of video and photography, Chinn taught himself to fly the unmanned aircraft in his rural back yard, and now Fat Atom is putting the device to work on behalf of its customers.

“It’s another tool in our photography toolbox,” said agency founder Todd Muffley.

Chinn put HAWC through its paces at client Indiana Limestone Co.’s quarries and stone-cutting operation, for example, providing a fresh perspective on the age-old business that CEO (and Carmel resident) Tom Quigley is working to resurrect.

(See some of HAWC’s aerial shots of the limestone operation here, in a video produced by IBJ’s Dennis Barbosa.)

Fat Atom is working on a website to showcase other potential business uses for the device, which fits into a briefcase when it’s not in use. Muffley suggested several possibilities, including flyovers at golf courses or marinas. (The hourly rate: $275.)

The unconventional agency invested about $2,500 in the equipment, which has a 900-foot range and is capable of speeds approaching 25 mph.

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  • FAA says no
    The FAA still asserts that commercial drones are not permitted. Users are open to FAA investigations and possible fines. A couple courts have disagreed, but it all seems in a gray area.
    • FAA is being challenged
      Thank you for your comment on the FAA. Commercial drone use could become a problem if not regulated and we welcome the opportunity to join the discussion to craft responsible laws. Having said that, Fat Atom has and will always push the envelope when it comes to creativity and this tool is a nice one to have in our toolbox.
    • What part of illegal
      What part of illegal do they not understand. Pushing the envelope is one thing, breaking the law is another especially when other companies follow the laws. So if your promoting companies that violate the law are you open to say promoting drug dealers and other illegal activities
    • commercial use is illegal
      it is illegal to fly drones and take video or pictures for commercial use. it is irresponsible activities like this that will ruin it for all hobbyist. Drones should not be flown over people and flying it over the Monon is not a safe practice. As a shop that sells drones for personal use, I respect current laws and advise my customers how to responsibly fly and use these aircraft.
    • Illegal
      As of this writing and into the foreseeable future this activity is illegal.. Shame on the IBJ and its writer for allowing a platform for a company to solicit the illegal services of a drone.
    • Agree -- Illegal
      As someone who has flown what is likely the same RC craft ("drone") with a GoPro camera attached underneath, I was surprised to see this article in IBJ promoting this company's blatant disregard for the law. As others have commented, commercial use of RC video is illegal. In other words, I can not fly my craft, shoot video, then sell it. However, if I fly my craft and shoot video for my own use (even if to promote my company) that is still legal. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (based in Muncie) opposes some federal regulations governing these craft, but until the laws are adjusted to allow commercial use this marketing firm's usage is illegal and I suspect they will be shutdown (perhaps fined).
    • FCC Info
      FCC info on recreational or hobby usage of model (unmanned aircraft): http://www.faa.gov/uas/publications/model_aircraft_operators/ Mr. Muffley: I like your boldness to "push the envelope," but for your own sake you might want to reconsider using that craft for commercial purposes.
    • 3 sides to every story
      We appreciate the dialogue, but we feel it only right to be informed by more than the "opinion" of a few hobbyist. To compare Fat Atom to a "Drug Dealer" is not only irresponsible, it is libel. Please read the following articles - http://motherboard.vice.com/read/commercial-drones-are-completely-legal-a-federal-judge-ruled http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/drones-faa-lawsuit-coming-to-american-skies-102754.html#.U9phPYBdW4u
    • Businesses need to push the envelope
      Drone usage for commercial use is an inevitability. If an Indianapolis company has the wherewithal to "push the envelope" and be a trailblazer for something that is most definitely going to happen, I say go ahead. As long as they keep it from going to high and are responsible about battery life, they should have the every right to profit from their footage.
    • relax
      It doesn't say anywhere in the article that drones or their photography is illegal. The writer should have looked into that to complete the picture of his story. This is the start of a new hobby with many potential opportunities. How exciting! Often times, many things are illegal until that are better understood and then the laws/rules evolve so commentators need to stop freaking out that he is doing something illegal and going to get in big trouble...The device only goes 900 feet up- not exactly a problem area for aviation
    • And lastly this...
      I think some may like to read this as well - Huerta v Pirker - http://www.ntsb.gov/legal/pirker/Pirker-CP-217.pdf
      • Nothing new here ...
        We have conducted extensive research and development over the past year using aerial technology and recently started www.IndySkyCam.com. For the record - we have NOT charged anybody for our efforts. We consider ourselves hobbyist ready for business when the iron curtain lifts. Fly responsible. http://facebook.com/indyskycam
      • assumptions of law
        Reading the findings of the related court case and then digging into the FAA site itself quickly confirms that the "regulation" being referred to is nothing more than a policy statement. The FAA is required to follow a process before they can start pronouncing laws and it appears they have failed to do so, based on the courts ruling. I do know there are strict rules about anything being high enough to interfere with air traffic, and there are other regulations concerning privacy and private property that would apply to airspace above the property as well. These existing rules will require prudence, and liability risks will need to be carefully considered when operating the unmanned craft. If Mr. Muffley and the crew at Fat Atom are willing to take on the risk, have at it. I think it is a great tool if used with responsible respect for the (actual) law and appropriate safety considerations.
      • Drone on
        Mr. Muffley, I admire your tenacity and loyalty to your brand-just don't become consumed by other people's ignorance and/or lack of vision. It will make your head hurt.
      • Learn the definition of libel
        Todd Muffley seems a little butt-hurt since this article was posted. I think it's because a) they're doing nothing that a 12yo couldn't do, which certainly isn't "pushing the envelope" with regards to creativity...it's a camera on a drone b) it's well documented as illegal to fly for compensation under the FAA rules as most everyone else here has mentioned, and despite the ruling you posted, it's only one ruling with one judge, and certainly not definitive or law, and c) posting purported supporting documentation via sites like "Vice" and "Politico" does nothing to bolster your case. Was there no "Huffington Post" article to link? You might as well post that you have 500 Facebook likes as a means for saying what you're doing is within the confines of the law, because if it's on the interwebs, it has to be true. And you might be better served spending your time cleaning up your website which has broken links and improper use of grammar - hint: there's 'your', and then there's 'you're'. And you're so far off on the libel thing...it's not even funny. Have an attorney explain it to you.
        • Should have listened...
          My team told me not to stoke the fires of internet trolls...and I didn't listen...and look what it got me. Grammar police, creative critics and a wanna be lawyers. Crap, I did it again :) Also, thanks for visiting our website! www.fatatom.com
        • I Agree, Too Cool For School.
          Amen. Another case of "cool for cool's sake" with nothing really substantial behind it. I also agree it's pretty typical. By the same token, if they can, indeed, garner some cool cred with the cool kids for something formerly reserved for internet cats and wracking-yourself videos, why not? There are still plenty of folks to whom the insubstantial and the trendy has a preternatural appeal. So stop piling on, people. If it gets them a mention on The Chive, isn't that where all marketers for whatever reason need to be nowadays?
        • Envelope? What envelope?
          Appears Ms. Davis is a fan of this "unconventional agency" whose founder dusts off the tired "pushing-the-envelope" phrase to promote their less than revolutionary drone video production capability. Regardless, kudos to Fat Atom for getting the good press. Now back to all you posters piling on...
        • Doesn't matter if it should be legal..its illegal now
          Regardless of if it should or shouldn't be legal, though I think it should, currently it is illegal and so it is reckless for a commercial company to operate one for compensation. What really makes it worse is that someone from Fat Atom, potentially the owner, openly disregards the law. I personally looked into doing what he is, and decided against it because it's illegal. It's not fair for companies to operate with this advantage that law abiding companies can't have.
          • Last comments?
            @the man - ever jay walk? speed? I am sure you get the point...if not, ask someone who hasn't ever "broken the law" @Quixmundi - maybe flying the copter is easy, but let's see your handy video capturing and editing skills...just say'in @Denny - You don't get a comment from me, until you show me what you have built...I'll wait patiently
          • Work within the law
            I think the responsible thing to do as a business owner would be to structure the service you provide to conform with existing law, not act above the law. If the following is true as posted above--"if I fly my craft and shoot video for my own use (even if to promote my company) that is still legal"--then provide FREE drone training and FREE drone use and have them shoot the video themselves. Then charge them to edit it and integrate it into their marketing. What a great promotion that would be and would likely garner even more business for Fat Atom!

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