Drones created buzz at Blend business workshop in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Drones created buzz at Blend business workshop in Craig

JoBeth Tupa/For Craig Press

Lennie Gillam, owner of Mountain Eyes Drone Services, shows a group of business people the functions of his drone during the monthly Blend business workshop July 25 at Frontier Station, Inc.

CRAIG — With a new drone program making its way to Colorado Northwestern Community College this fall and more and more businesses moving toward drone technology, the Small Business Alliance invited local business owners Clayton Kawcak and Lennie Gillam to demonstrate how drones have helped them expand their business services in Moffat County.

Kawcak, manager Frontier Station, Inc., gave attendees an in-depth look at the agricultural and construction-based uses for drones. In his presentation, he showed how drones can be used for volumetric figuring, crop, weed, and animal management, as well as mapping.

Opportunities for livestock surveillance were only one example Kawcak gave the group.

"These have thermal camera capabilities," he said. "During calving season, you can know when a cow's in labor beforehand and can even check on herds at night."

Lennie Gillam, owner Mountain Eyes Drone Service, concurs, adding that what started as a hobby has become more of a business. Inspired by his father, Keith Gillam, a former Craig Daily Press photographer, aerial photography is a big interest of Gillam's.

"We figured that it was a good market, photography for real estate marketing purposes. It is usually very one-dimensional," Gillam said. "I have personally found drones to be a very effective tool, especially for selling houses."

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From roof inspections to wildlife management, the uses for drones are endless. But, Gillam cautions there are strict Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that must be observed.  For example, outfitters utilizing drone technology are not allowed to hunt within 24 hours of surveying an area.

"You have to learn about the FAA's rules and regulations," Gillam said. "And, you have to have a special license if you are flying commercially."

Asked about the cost of the equipment, Kawcak said, "Higher index cameras can show you that every plant has its own spectral reflectants that you can see individually, but to get to that depth, a camera can cost anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000. But, a normal index camera, you're into it for $1,000. You pay different prices for different quality."

After an indoor presentation, Kawcak and Gillam moved outside, where they demonstrated some of the many capabilities of their drones.  

Blend workshops are hosted from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of each month by CNCC, Craig Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Workforce Center, and Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership.

To be added to the mailing list for future Blend workshops, email director@cmedp.com.