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Weebo takes flight

STRUTHERS

It’s a bright and sunny morning in CASTLO Industrial Park when Weebo takes flight.

The 3DR Solo Drone Quadcopter is quickly off the ground, buzzing about and taking pictures of the landscape for her team: the Western Reserve Port Authority’s Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, or NEODFA.

“You can only do so much through Google Earth,” said Anthony Trevena, NEODFA director.

Weebo – named after the “Flubber” movie character – has a serious task.

She gives a bird’s-eye view of properties for potential economic development.

She can take pictures and video inside and above buildings to seek out specifics for the team.

“We don’t take this lightly,” Trevena said. “It’s an important [tool].”

The team added Weebo a few months ago with money from a $600,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant. Altogether, Weebo cost $2,600. She comes with more than 35 sensors and 20 microprocessors and can fly 400 feet high. She also comes with a GoPro Hero and a Sony R10C camera for mapping, survey work and inspections.

After she was purchased, the team learned about the rules of flying a drone and made sure to get it registered and insured.

The Federal Aviation Administration refers to drones as unmanned aircraft systems. On the FAA’s website is a list of the requirements and rules for operating a drone. For example, the drone must be kept in sight.

“We learned a lot,” Trevena said.

Weebo was purchased to help the team search through brownfields, or industrial and commercial properties that are perceived to be contaminated. Weebo can help point out where the contamination is on a site.

So, not only is she helping on the development side, but also the safety side.

Thus far, Weebo has been used in cataloging brownfield sites for a project of one of the WRPA’s financing clients and to map out parts of the city of Warren.

Weebo’s work also can serve later as an educational tool on brownfields.

“Every day we are trying to find capital to do these cleanups,” Trevena said.

Addressing the sites is important because of the significant impact the sites make on the surrounding community.

“As you address those concerns you see immediate appreciation,” Trevena said.

(Published August 20, 2016 By Kalea Hall, Vindicator)