Drone operators take to skies for local church


Jon Hand

A local drone company is going to great lengths — make that heights — to help a historical Rochester church solve its water problem.

For several months, directors at St. Michael’s Church on North Clinton Avenue and Evergreen Street have worried about water that has been coming through the church’s ceiling, traveling down supports and making its way into the superstructure, said Deacon Dan Callan.

The problem: With a steeple height of 250 feet, St. Michael’s is the tallest house of worship in Rochester and one of the top 10 tallest buildings in the city; the cost of using lifts and scaffolding “to go up and just take a look” would have easily entered the thousands of dollars.

For a church that draws about 800 to its weekend services, it would have been difficult to pay for, Callan said.

Enter Mike McBride, a retired city of Rochester building inspector, and Chris Dominicos, who teaches courses on drones at Monroe Community College and who runs Unmanned Aerial Operators.

They are donating their services to St. Michael’s “to help them get through some challenging times,” said McBride, who occasionally works with Dominicos on other projects. “It’s breathtaking, the pictures we’re getting.”

McBride and drone driver Dominicos have been using their 2-foot drone to take high-resolution videos and still photos of local landmarks for two years.

“Unlike an airplane that is restricted to stay above 1,000 feet, the drone can legally fly at much lower heights, up to 400 feet,” McBride said. “It can also remarkably hover and freeze in space, enabling one to capture some phenomenal images, from locations that were previously impossible.”

The drone has made two flights above St. Michael’s so far, capturing images of the trouble spots from just a couple of feet away.

Once the images are collected, they will be reviewed by structural engineers and contractors, and a strategy will be developed for addressing damage caused by the water, Callan said.