By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a drone on the Jonesborough square. And thanks to an agreement between the Town of Jonesborough and Air One Media LLC, a flight service company owned by retired law enforcements officers Richie Hayward and Dean Chestnut, drone sightings could become a regular occurrence at future Jonesborough events and on Jonesborough property.

The agreement, signed earlier this year, stipulates that Hayward and Chestnut will provide aerial photography and videography for the city whenever called upon.

“Whenever they need us, they own us seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Chestnut laughed.

Chestnut has been a pilot of unmanned radio-controlled aircraft for almost 30 years, and he and Hayward assisted in the development of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Ordinance, which was passed by the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen in May.   

“The Board of Mayor and Aldermen decided… they needed to come up with some kind of ordinance,” Chestnut said. “They knew of us and asked us to help them… and direct them on where they could go to do more research.”

The ordinance states that drones must be used with a line-of-sight operation, that they must be operated at 60 m.p.h. or below, and that the maximum altitude for drone operation is 400 feet. The ordinance also prohibits the use of a drone on public property without authorization, and requires licensing and insurance for drone operators, among other regulations.

“We’re just mainly interested that whoever is doing this in town is doing it in a professional way… and also that they are going to do it in a safe manner,” Town Administrator Bob Browning said, but he pointed out that there are exceptions for some of the regulations.

“If they are flying it on their own property, then that becomes a different story,” Browning said.

Chestnut said he was glad to see the ordinance put in place.

“A lot of towns are doing [ordinances],” Chestnut said. “I think it’s a good thing.” 

Drones that are flown irresponsibly and without adherence to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules can pose a serious threat to other aircrafts and to people on the ground, Chestnut said.

“You can’t just get a drone and go out and fly,” Chestnut said. “Unfortunately, too many people are just out doing it and not using safety… they’re flying over people and crowds and cars, and flying at night when they’re not allowed.”

To operate the unmanned aircrafts, Chestnut and Hayward obtained a license for remote pilots.

“To me it was like getting a private pilot’s license,” Hayward said. “We studied hundreds and hundreds of pages. You have to know all about the weather, charts, aeronautical winds, safety for flying in and around airports, what you can do and what you can’t do.”

Aerial photography and videography started out as a hobby, said Hayward, a professional photographer, but it quickly blossomed into something more.

“We were having so much fun doing it,” he said.

The duo founded Air One Media two years ago.

Air One Media uses drone-mounted cameras for aerial video and photography, shooting promotional videos, real estate listings, inspections, events, and more. The company is fully licensed and insured and is FAA-certified to fly commercially both day and night.

In addition to running their business, Hayward and Chestnut have taught a drone STEM camp program for kids and teens for the last two summers.

“We really enjoy that. These guys are really getting into it,” Chestnut said. “They want to design the drones, fly them, race them. Drone racing is a popular sport now… a multi-million-dollar industry, and those drones will fly in excess of 100 miles per hour.”

The uses for drones are incredible and almost endless, Chestnut said, and with all the concerns about privacy and safety, the challenge at times is getting the word out that drones can be beneficial.

Drones are being used in real estate, construction, media, security, law enforcement, search and rescue, agricultural and infrastructure maintenance and management, geographic mapping, and more. Technology companies are even finding ways to utilize them in warehouses and deliveries.

“This technology that we have here has really evolved over the last probably three or four years, so just imagine in another eight, nine, or ten years what the technology will be,” he said.

The technology may be new, but ordinances on aerial flight in Jonesborough are not according to Deborah Montanti, executive director of the Heritage Alliance.

In February of 1841, the Jonesborough Whig published a list of corporation laws passed at the January 28, 1841 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Montanti said, including the following law regarding aerial flight:

“That any person or persons flying a kite, raising a balloon, or throwing fireballs within the limits of the Corporation shall forfeit and pay the sum of Five Dollars for each and every offence.”

“As hot air balloons were all the rage during the 1840s, and hot air balloon crashes were a real threat for fire, we surmise this was Jonesborough’s attempt to lessen the towns exposure to such a fire,” Montanti said. “We have no record of any such occurrence in Jonesborough, so perhaps it worked?”

If you need any type of aerial photos, videos, etc., or would like information about the use and operation of a drone or a demonstration, contact Air One Media at 423-767-1513 (Dean Chestnut) or 305-216-6666 (Richie Hayward) or visit their website at www.AirOneMedia.com.