Buzz From Above: Drone Flying Adventures in the Kankakee River Valley

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Spring is in the air, but what’s the buzz from above?

That is the investigative mentality most drone enthusiasts have when they take to the skies, including local drone pilot Garrett Offermann. Offermann first discovered the hobby by spending time at the Greater Kankakee Airport with his pilot grandparents growing up. “My Grandpa and I had so many good times out there, and much of it I will never forget, but it seems what stuck the most was flying remote control airplanes. My grandpa always had a few that we would mess around with to keep me entertained. I never thought much of it as I grew up but once the drones hit the market, I thought “hmm” those could be fun.”

November 2018, looking towards Bourbonnais from the North of Kankakee River State Park.

Years later, Offerman (whose nickname “Buzz” was given to him as a little kid due to his year-round cut style by his uncle) would receive a DJI Mavic Pro from his pilot grandparents.“Once I saw the world from above, I was hooked” he said. “Since then, I’ve learned quite a few photography skills, and now I see it almost as a challenge to get the next best shot.”

Offermann started an Instagram account devoted to the drone hobby roughly a month ago. It has captivated the interests of not only the county, but other photographers and drone enthusiasts across the globe. To date, Offermann has only shared a fraction of what has been years of accumulated footage from an aerial perspective in Kankakee County and beyond. His travels have taken him to the beaches of Miami to the West Maui Mountains of Hawaii, with manypit stops in between, and lots ofswooping shots of rural Midwestern perspectives.“Kankakee County may not be known for its scenic landscapes, but you take a peek at it from way up and some of these pics may change your mind.”Offermann said.

June 2018, between the Kankakee Country Club and Community College on the River.

The road to that perfect picture experience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Aside from monitoring weather conditions and keeping a constant eye on wind speed, there are several challenges a beginning drone enthusiast needs to be aware of before taking flight.“When you’re first learning you definitely lack some skills, and oftentimes overlook what your controller is telling you about calibration, GPS interference, satellite issues, airspace warnings, among other things. I’ve hit trees, I’ve had to emergency land in sketchy places, I’ve had my battery freeze on multiple occasions and lose all signal and video feed. If you’re flying a drone, you’re going to have issues, but luckily none of which have cost me anything yet.”

For any newcomers to the drone hobby, Offermann has a few tips and tricks:

  • Watch YouTube tutorials, and get a firm grasp on air regulations and FAA rules (it’s not as complicated as it might sound).
  • Don’t fly in winds above 15 mph.
  • Buy a super cheap small toy drone to learn the controls and the general feeling of flying a quadcopter.
  • Fly in a wide-open space. There are many of these in Central Illinois. Take advantage of this.

Also, don’t fly indoors Offermann warns. “Four or five years ago my grandma bought me a drone to mess around with on Christmas (one of the small models before they started putting cameras on them). It was just one of those things she grabbed and thought we could have fun with on Christmas night. And she was right. We all took turns trying to fly it in the living room (not recommended), and when my uncle got his turn, he flew it directly past his ducking head and into the lit fireplace. Without the ninja like reflexes of my aunt it would’ve been toast in no time, but she willingly almost sacrificed a limb and reached in and flung it out. I’m not sure we’ve ever laughed harder.”

Be sure to follow Garrett “Buzz” Offermann on his Instagram @BuzzFromAbove for more stunning aerial shots of the Kankakee County region…and beyond!

Kankakee from the Air

Buzz from Above has spent the past several years gathering stunning sights from Kankakee and beyond. So much so, he started @BuzzFromAbove on Instagram, which features a variety of drone shots he's gathered in his flight time.

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