It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s just one of M.J.’s drones!
With over 2,600 followers on her Facebook page, VIEW from ABOVE – Wisconsin, Kenosha resident Marge Freund, known as “M.J.” is generating quite the buzz online over her unique and masterfully shot aerial photos she has been capturing using drones.
Graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the early 90’s, M.J. was immediately hired by Abbott Laboratories and has worked with them for the past 27 years. She discovered her love for flying before graduating UW-Oshkosh, as she pursued her pilot’s license on the side and began flying planes in 1992.
Flying planes less frequently in recent years, M.J. began to discover her passion for another type of aircraft; drones. Not really thinking too much of it, M.J. began using her drones to capture images of Wisconsin from above. Posting a few of these images on her Facebook page, M.J. began getting a really good response from the Facebook community and decided to make a professional page for her photos. Picking up speed, M.J. began receiving for-hire inquiries and she decided to get her drone pilot certification in order to be able to “fly-for-hire.” Her Facebook page now has over 8,000 photos and has reached over 1 million engagements as she continues to gain followers daily.
We recently sat down with M.J. for this exclusive Smart Reader interview.
Q: For the readers who don’t know, what is a drone?
A drone is a U.A.S., an unmanned aircraft system, that you fly from a controller and it can go up in the air about 3 or 4 thousand feet. But there are legal limitations on where and how high up you can fly it. Drones can range in price from $200 to the 30-40-50-thousand dollar range. The drone I have right now is the Mavick 2-Zoom and I can easily get up to about a thousand feet in the air.
Q: Do you have to be certified to fly the drones you use?
No certification is necessary to be simply a “hobbyist.” However, all drones need to be registered through the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) at faadronezone.faa.gov and there are still very specific rules/guidelines that a drone hobbyist needs to follow when flying because they could end up in a lot of trouble. Additionally, if you want to fly-for-hire or use your drones any other way which generates income, you must be certified. I am certified so that I can ‘fly-for-hire,’ meaning I can be hired by any organization or individual to take pictures.
Q: What are some of the general rules and regulations you need to follow?
Q: What is your favorite time of year to take pictures with your drones?
I love the summer because it’s warm and you can take your time outside but I also really like the winter because you can get some really beautiful and contrasting shots.
Q: How high can your drones fly?
Drones are allowed to fly up to 400 feet above ground level. But let’s say I want to drone a structure that is 1,000 feet tall; legally, I can fly 400 feet above that structure.
Q: Do you have a favorite spot in Kenosha where you like to drone?
Our iconic red lighthouse on Simmons Island. Every time, the photos are different.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face with flying drones?
People have a terrible misconception about what drones do. And I get it because there are certainly drone operators out there who do take advantage of their technology in a negative way. But it’s unfortunate that this seems to be the reputation that we get.
Obviously, weather can be a challenge, along with trees and power lines.
Q: Can you fly a drone in rainy or snowy weather?
Weather is a definite factor when flying. Typically drones are friends to fair weather, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fly in the rain or the snow. You just have to be aware of the conditions, especially wind conditions, or heavy snow. There is a lot of things we learn as we go, but there are also a lot of Apps that we can utilize to help with droning. There are also waterproof or water-resistant drones and other specialty drones that are specific for working through harsher weather conditions.
Q : Your hobby has grown to become a little business for you. What services do you provide?
I do a bunch of different stuff. I take pictures for real estate, golf courses, weddings, gardens, churches, buildings. I have done search and rescue for lost dogs. I love covering the big events and parades, and then I will also work with individuals and groups who will come to me with unique projects such as tracking, scavenger hunts, or even just taking pictures of a group from above.
Q: If someone is interested in starting to drone, where should they start?
One thing I highly recommend is going to YouTube and starting the search there by watching videos from other droners. A favorite YouTuber of mine, Ken Heron, is a great resource, and I would strongly suggest checking his channel out. The website dji.com is a great resource as well.
Interview conducted by Donald Stancato.
Edited by Cassidy Gillespie-Dipinto
To see M.J.’s awe-inspiring gallery of thousands of photos, visit the Facebook page “VIEW from ABOVE – Wisconsin.” And tune in to Happenings Q&A on Monday, December 16th at 1:30 p.m. when M.J. joins Frank, Kim, and Reanna on the show. Find us on your radio dial at AM1050 or online at www.wlip.com.
The story originally appeared in the December 5th edition of Your Smart Reader.