by Brad Dicken
ELYRIA — Matt Mishak now has a license to drone for fun and profit.
The Elyria city prosecutor and businessman has received an exemption from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that allows him to send his drones soaring into the sky for commercial purposes.
The exemption for Mishak’s company, Drone Guys LLC, is the first to be granted for Northeast Ohio as the federal governmentworks to regulate the growing number of unmanned aircraft systems — as drone enthusiasts refer to them — in the nation’s airspace.
So far, he estimated, about 1,700 of the exemptions have been granted to drone operators around the country.
Mishak has been piloting drones for years and formed Dronewerx, which manufactures drones, with Mike Hanna in 2011. Since then, he’s sold a few and built custom drones for the now-indefinitely postponed action film “Wake”that was supposed to shoot in the Cleveland area earlier this year.
Mishak said his new company primarily focuses on aerial photography using drones and has already been hired once to conduct an aerial survey of land in Erie County.
“We’ll eventually branch out into infrastructure inspection as well,” Mishak said Monday just before sending a drone skyward to take photos of the deconstruction of the 49th Street bridge near Midway Mall.
Although critics of drones sometimes worry about the safety and privacy implications, Mishak has long envisioned drones going places where humans can’t or doing dangerous and dirty jobs while drone operators remain safely on the ground.
Mishak sometimes collaborates with The Chronicle-Telegram on aerial photographs and several images taken with his equipment have appeared in the pages of this paper.
Before he sent the drone aloft, Mishak had to check in with Lorain County Regional Airport officials to notify them of his planned flight and tell them how high he intended to send the drone with four rotors. He said he has to do that whenever he’s within five miles of an airport, and he also has to follow a host of other regulations in order to legally fly the drones.
As the drone hovers over the bridge, Mishak snaps pictures with a camera he can control either from a separate controller through his smartphone or from the iPad he uses to control the drone.
A large bird soars by and hangs out in the air nearby, watching the drone as it completes its work before circling back and landing in a nearby parking lot.
“For whatever reason, birds are obsessed with it,” Mishak observed as the bird circled nearby.