Bob Alberding has been flying helicopters for two years now – but not the full-sized kind.
“I got my son a little toy helicopter, but I think I was playing with it more than he was,” he says. “So I got a little one for myself.”
Very quickly, the hobby became a passion for the Point Pleasent, N.J. resident.
“Now I fly helicopters as big as me, though I only fly those at AMA fields,” he says. “I’m active on hobby forums and Facebook, posting videos on YouTube.” He’s even sponsored by the equipment company Heliproz and Gensace for batteries.
In January, Alberding began attaching a camera to his helicopters to take aerial photographs of damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. He’d seen someone else photograph the lakes in Belmar when they flooded and he was inspired to try it himself.
“It gives you a perspective that you don’t get when walking around,” he explains. “You see the whole picture. You see the imprint of the storm basically.”
Now, one or two days a week after work, Alberding will find a safe place to launch one of helicopters – typically a 16-inch-wide model with six rotor blades and a Go-Pro camera. For safety, he doesn’t fly higher than 100 feet in the air and only with the assistance of a spotter. He sets the camera to shoot every second for about six minutes.
The final product provides a unique and beautiful view of the Jersey Shore’s recovery. Currently, Alberding’s not selling his photos because of “a grey area in FAA regulations.” But he says he would love to be able to grow his hobby into a business.
“It just comes naturally,” he says, of his ability to remotely frame a shot from the helicopter.