The Pelham (N.Y.) Half Marathon and 10K is an annual charity event, held over Thanksgiving weekend, that has grown from nine runners in 2011 to an expected 1,600 participants this year. Net proceeds from registration fees and sponsorships go to the Pelham Civic Association, which helps neighbors in need. I’m a proud member of this organization.
The 13-mile route covers nearly the entire town of Pelham, but local news media haven’t had a way to capture that sprawl. The promotional media, particularly the videos, are lively and inviting but are limited to what can fit in a frame from the ground.
An inexpensive drone with video capability would enhance this coverage significantly, giving viewers a sense of proportion and context. More than that, video from the sky might encourage a whole different type of engagement, with viewers trying to figure out where their houses and other landmarks are on the course.
There’s been some discussion on the local Facebook discussion groups about doing this. The hurdle, according to the discussions, isn’t cost but rather the FAA’s certification requirements. If I’m reading the aeronautical chart correctly on vfrmap.com, Pelham is within six nautical miles of LaGuardia Airport, requiring drone operators to contact the air tower for any flights above 500 feet. Commercial flights terminating at LaGuardia often use a flight pattern that takes them directly above the Town of Pelham.
Even so, drone photography of the event could be field-tested in advance by a licensed operator using a flight path below 500 feet. Once an ideal flight path is charted, the drone could be programmed to follow the same route during the event itself, as long as the operator has line-of-sight during the entire voyage, in keeping with government rules.
The hypothesis would be that aerial images could give Pelham residents a better sense of place and a compelling view of the race to complement the video and still photography from the ground.