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NNPS-TV gets aerial shot of MHS

2 men with drone hovering nearby
NNPS-TV's Nik Long and Jim Anklam bring the drone in for landing after an aerial shoot of Menchville High.
Photos by Beth Scott

NNPS-TV was recently asked if they could help with a "higher-order" task.

Michelle Wiatt, who is Menchville High School's yearbook advisor, came across an aerial photograph taken of the school at least 45 years ago. The image ran in the school's yearbook, the Crown, in 1975.

Since this year marks the school's 50th anniversary, she thought a side-by-side comparison of that image and a current one would make a great spread in this year's annual. She asked NNPS-TV producers if they had a drone that could be used to get a similar photo.

2 men using remote control and paper
The NNPS-TV team tries to get the right angle for the aerial photo.

The team has a couple drones, which they use often for wide overview shots, like when NNPS students are kayaking up a river or to show all of the activities going on at Todd Stadium during a community event. The team has used the drone for many of the intro videos for Engineering Design Challenges, too.

NNPS-TV Producer Nik Long was up to the challenge of the aerial shot, but was concerned the drone couldn't go as high as the aircraft used for the 1975 photo. According to Long, there are altitude restrictions for drones due to the proximity of Newport News/Williamsburg Airport.

Long was given a digital copy of the older photo to see what the view was like so he could try to replicate it.

Though the yearbook staff was not in a huge hurry for the photo, they wanted it done before winter weather arrived, so on a warm day in October, Long and NNPS-TV Station Manager Jim Anklam launched the drone near Riverview Farm Park, which is across the street from Menchville.

They used the Mavic Pro, which is a compact, foldable drone made by DJI. It has a 4K camera, stabilized by a gimbal, and its four rotors act independently to compensate for wind.

"It’s an amazing drone," Long said.

Long was able to fly the drone and shoot video and still photos, while Anklam helped him line up the angle to match the original photo and serve as "co-pilot."

"Built-in altitude limits kept us at 119 meters - about 400 feet," said Long, "which is below FAA rules of 120 meters for flying within five miles of an airport."

Despite the height limitation and a strong breeze, they were able to get a close match to the 1975 photo, and pick up extra water/river footage that they needed for another video.

"It was fun helping a school with such a unique request," said Long about the shoot.

The NNPS-TV team serves the needs of the Newport News school division, creating videos and capturing images that reflect its initiatives. With their drone-piloting skills and photography and videography acumen, the team soars to success.