Oak Bay drone flyer defends ‘cool’ hobby

As David Stringer flew his drone in Windsor Park in Oak Bay on Tuesday, the dinner-plate-size aircraft with four whirling blades attracted notice from passersby.

The drone drew outrage a week ago when he flew the DJI Phantom over houses in the Uplands, leading some residents to call police. They were concerned he was using the camera in the drone to invade their privacy.

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Stringer said he was admiring the real estate, not spying on people.

But the 59-year-old retired welder said he understands the concerns and won’t fly the drone in that area again.

Still, he points out the camera on the drone isn’t powerful. “I have no zoom lens at all,” he said.

He bought the drone from a New York company three months ago after he saw one flying at Willows Beach. The $1,100 device is the latest addition to Stringer’s fleet of miniature aircraft.

“I’ve got a little helicopter I fly around the house and then I’ve got a bigger one we bought at the PNE,” he said.

“I’ve got a little Cessna plane that I’ve flown at Lansdowne [school], but that’s about the only place in my neighbourhood I could fly it.”

Stringer is fascinated by the technology behind the drone. It uses a compass and satellites to navigate. The lithium batteries last only about 10 minutes but can be quickly swapped out with fresh ones.

“When it blinks green, it’s set up,” he said as he prepared it for takeoff.

Stringer likes to fly along the coastline and capture the landscape.

The drone has a range of about 1,800 metres from the remote. If Stringer loses track of it, he can switch off the remote and the drone will return to the place from which it took off.

The miniature aircraft also returns to its takeoff spot when the batteries get low.

“I can see how people would be upset, but I wasn’t breaking any laws,” Stringer said. “The police told me there were no charges to lay.”

His wife, Lorena, said she has urged him not to fly the drone at Willows Beach when people are lying in the sun “because it’s noisy and annoying.”

Sgt. Ray Maxwell of Oak Bay police said an officer talked with Stringer and asked that he not return to Uplands Park.

“I said, ‘OK, I won’t,’ ” Stringer said.

“But I like looking at property, not people. I’m going to keep flying it. I love flying, being in planes. I just like looking at landscapes, it’s cool.”

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

With additional reporting by Louise Dickson

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