South Dakota tower tech’s climb to 1,500 feet heads north of a million views

In Featured News by Wireless Estimator

YouTube is littered with many hundreds of climbers that are captured as they ascend a tower. Oftentimes their videographers weep at view counts struggling to break double digits. But a mundane drone-shot bulb replacement video in South Dakota recently went viral, and it’s expected to surpass over one million views this week.

Dronie-Taking-A-SelfieFilmed in September, eight-year industry worker Kevin Schmidt was captured climbing a 1,500-foot decommissioned analog tower near Salem that required its obstruction lighting bulb to be replaced.

A drone piloted by Prairie Aerial caught the Sioux Falls Tower & Communications employee as he climbed the structure on a picture-perfect autumn day, unlike today’s -4°F with a  -40°F wind chill factor at ground level.

At the same time, a dronie caught Schmidt taking a selfie.

A bootlegged copy of the tower climb appeared on Facebook and was picked up by CNN, the New York Daily News, the Daily Mail, among many other media outlets. As of early this morning it had reached over 930,000 views.

Todd Thorin, who owns Prairie Aerial, directed the video on his off time when he was not performing his day job as Director of Safety and Training for Sioux Falls Tower & Communications. His sons, Joseph and Michael, assist in piloting the drones.

And for those who will surgically inspect the video frame-by-frame for safety violations, it appears that they’ll find that Schmidt was double hooking and tied off 100% of the time and not violating any OSHA regulation.

However, Thorin might be gingerly sidestepping one FAA requirement as Schmidt fulfills another FAA lamping obligation.

FAA regulations say drones shouldn’t be flown above 400 feet. Higher than that, drones start to interfere with the national airspace.

But Thorin believes he’s in line with the “spirit of the law” even if he’s violating the “letter of the law,” he told Wireless Estimator. Regular aircraft, he said, are prohibited from flying within 500 feet of the tower.

“We’re not interfering with them and they’re not interfering with us,” he said.

Entrepreneurship runs deep at Sioux Falls Tower & Communications. Its president, Craig Snyder, a former Chairman of the National Association of Tower Erectors, and Bart Roberts, the tower erector’s Vice President, founded Pomegranate Market along with two other men in 2010.

The successful venture provides local and natural organic foods and has a 40-seat bistro.

Thorin joins many other videographers who are capable of taking exciting aerial shots that used to be the domain of Hollywood or big budget projects with drones and ever-changing video cameras. For the Salem shoot he used a customized Phantom ll drone and a GoPro camera. He founded Prairie Aerial in June of 2014 and has enjoyed providing video at less challenging heights and locations such videoing a marketing overview of the campus of the University of South Dakota.

He said that the Salem video has seen an additional 600,000 views after a pirated copy was placed on a ham radio Facebook page. He had the video removed due to copyright infringement. “Our YouTube video had close to 30,000 views on Friday and I couldn’t believe that within three days it was heading towards a million,” said Thorin.

At a keynote event yesterday afternoon at the Consumer Electronic Show, Intel’s chief executive Brian Krzanich unveiled Nixie, a wristband that transforms into a selfie-snapping flying camera drone.

Although Intel may lay claim to inventing the most unique wrist-worn drone, Thorin will most likely be credited with identifying the long-sought answer to: How many millions of people does it take to watch a light bulb changed?