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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Eye in the Sky: Artesia teen looks to take drone operation from hobby to business

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Tharen Goodrich stands alongside his hovering drone in Baish Veterans’ Park in front of City Hall. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Tharen Goodrich stands calmly on the edge of Fifth Street as his drone races toward him at around 40 mph.

Just before impact seems imminent, the drone jolts to a halt and hovers harmlessly in the air in front of him like some sort of obedient, futuristic pet.

Goodrich, a junior at Artesia High School, is demonstrating the capabilities of his DJI Mavic Pro, the drone with which he’s taking his first steps into the world of professional aerial photography/videography.

He got his first paying gig in November, not long after earning his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 license.

“As a hobbyist, you have a certain amount of things you can do, but if you want to do more with your drone, you have to get a Part 107 license,” Goodrich says. “It’s not really a pilot’s license, but it’s pretty much just right underneath that. You learn a lot of the same material, like knowing the weather, airspace, how to read the charts…”

Goodrich, working for the Artesia Chamber of Commerce, lifted off around dawn Nov. 4, 2017, alongside the hot-air balloonists participating in Artesia’s annual Balloons & Tunes Festival. He captured stunning shots of the colorful orbs rising over the east side of the city, the Pecos Valley as their backdrop.

It took the teen a month or two of study to prepare for his Part 107 exam, which he passed on his first try.

“I’ve been operating drones for four or five years,” Goodrich says. “I’ve just recently been getting into the higher-end models and photography, but just flying them is something I’ve loved to do for a while.

“Once you have that skill, you’re not going to lose it. It’s a blast. I love flying it and to just go out, take pictures, and get more practice on the sticks.”

Drones were a natural progression from the RC cars Goodrich has enjoyed since his childhood. After extensive online research, he settled on the Mavic Pro, which retails at around $1,000, as his first major investment.

Now he’s hoping to continue using his skill set professionally in order to keep the upgrades coming.

“I’ve been trying to get my name out there,” Goodrich says. “I’d like to expand the business and get a little more well-known, have a few more jobs, because the more money I make, the better equipment I can get.”

As of now, Goodrich can take up to 12MP photos and record 4K video at 24 frames per second. He can drop to 720p at 240 frames per second for slow motion shots and most often videos at 2.7k, as he’s found it produces more vibrant color and less noise on 1080p televisions.

He’s also submitted a number of waiver applications to the FAA that would permit him to do more with his Part 107 certification, such as fly during nighttime hours or within 500 feet vertically and 2,000 feet horizontally of the cloudline. There are several Part 107 regulations that can be waived for operation, but they are often difficult to obtain.

“It’s a lot different for hobbyists than if you have a Part 107,” he explains. “You have way more freedom with a Part 107, especially because one of the main problems for hobbyists is that you aren’t supposed to fly within five miles of any airport.”

As Goodrich points out, that effectively eliminates Artesia’s entire city limits.

“Even dirt strips are considered airports, so from the Artesia Airport to the hospital to any dirt strips… if you look at a map of it, you can’t really fly in Artesia at all.”

For those wishing to graduate from hobbyist to license-holder, Goodrich recommends putting in the work before taking the exam.

“It wasn’t really hard once I studied, but you’ve just got to be devoted to it,” he says. “You have to commit. You’re not just going to walk in randomly and pass that test unless you’re a pilot.”

As for flying something on which he’s aboard, Goodrich says he hopes that license is in his future, as well.

“I’m most of the way there, but I would like to get my pilot’s license someday,” he says. “My grandpa is a pilot, so he’s been thinking about renewing his medical, because he’s also a certified flight instructor. He might be able to teach me, and that would be really neat.”

He’d also like to try his hand in the world of competitive drone racing.

“I’d love to get into that, Goodrich says. “My friend Taylor Geschwender and I decided over the next six months, we’re going to build a couple and race each other.

“You can buy them pre-built, but if you build them yourself, you have a better idea of what to fix when it breaks, and they’ll perform better because you can put on different motors and different computers to make them operate better. Drone racing takes a lot of skill, because a lot of them don’t have a gyro on them, so if you move the stick, it’s going. You’ve gotta be quick.”

For now, Goodrich is enjoying learning more about photography and videography. He’s taken aerial photographs of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, as well as landscapes outside the city. He says his family – parents Lance and Robin Goodrich, and sister Brogen, 10 – plans to visit the Breckenridge, Colo., area and Hawaii soon, and he’s looking forward to shooting there.

Back on Fifth Street, Goodrich navigates his drone past a flock of pigeons swirling over the Land of the Sun Theater and aims his camera toward City Hall. From that height, the landscaping of Artesia’s municipal hub stands out. The eagle atop the Freedom’s Fire statue appears airborne, and the sunset gleams off the panels comprising the Wall of Honor.

“Everything just seems to look a little more interesting from the air,” Goodrich says.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Anyone wishing to contact Tharen Goodrich for information on his aerial photography and videography services may reach him at tharengoodrich@gmail.com or 575-308-2037.)

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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