Monongahela River and 10 Mile Creek. A marina on the mouth of the creek dominates the right side of the image, the river on the left.
Transition – Photos of Late – Verticals Plug


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Transition: Loss of Opportunity

I thought I lost a job opportunity yesterday. The HR rep probably could not have heard my wife crying as she sealed my fate: not enough teaching experience. You cannot have experience because you cannot have experience. I was invited to pay for another degree. I have no steady income, so that was a no go. I spent the day in a fugue.


I had enrolled (re-enrolled) in a community college teacher certification program. I maxed my loans, I was going through a union, hopefully. I volunteered at a local community center that I thought I was going to miss when I had to move for a job. I taught kids to fly drones and do stuff with them. I had about fifteen unclassifiable emotions then. I had been haphazardly reading a lot of papers on physics, because physics tends to be more reliable than people. Sometimes I read stuff that is way over head because I might learn something, or more importantly, it gets me asking questions, asking why. I surf whywaves, but I did not feel like myself after I thought I lost the job.

In the summer of 2021, a company took me through five interviews and chose someone else. In the summer of 2020, the US Census interviewed and hired me to count people, go door-to-door during a pandemic in rural, backwoods SW Pennsylvania with a cell phone. They called me a month or so later and said they lost all of my info, so would I not mind too terribly repeating all the steps to get hired again? Uhh, I went through hiring and orientation again, only to have the job cancelled. In 2019, I pursued a job for a couple of months that ended up being available at night, and I tested for the technical skills required to do the job and performed well. I turned it down to care for my kids at night.

Having the job offer materialize June 6 and dematerialize 21 days later is consistent with the unreliable domain in which I try to find work. Looking for work is a job in itself. As they say, the journey is what counts. I am 100% down with that. Perhaps I am not the droid they were looking for. I was the droid.

Now I can return to my work. I got an SD card for my thermal camera. I am going to try to run some tests.

Local shots

Brownsville Bridge on a gorgeous day

Dunlap’s Creek at Monongahela River

Towards the old iron bridge, obscured by overgrowth and more recent construction
Dunlap’s Creek Bridge is obscured by the two-lane road and concrete plate resting atop it.

Drone Cinematography Classes!

So, everyone who attempted the test passed and earned an FAA TRUST certificate. We tested through a site administered by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University because I support their UAV technology courses.

The three days I participated as a volunteer instructor at Verticals were as follows: April 28th, May 5th and May 12th, 2022. I guided students through the process of learning how to safely fly drones in uncontrolled airspace. Two students flew my professional drone over the nearby Monongahela River, by an old truss bridge. One landed the professional drone, wow! On the first day! We planned a video with storyboards and a huddle on production elements. They brainstormed, scheduled shots, got gear, and produced the footage. One the last day, students edited and shared footage.

I basically hustled parts, minor repairs, battery charging, and network connections to and from supply to the production locations. I answered questions. One team was outside the building, another inside. I invited students to explore their own styles. They had fun. The teams erupted with creativity and effort. I had hoped to use the course module in a creative writing lesson or a programming lesson. The presentation that I use sort of serves as a class rubric, but I supply the students with worksheets to plan their productions step-by-step.

I learned some crucial limitations and opportunities for the next session. The most valuable thing is to have a report formatted to assign communication channels, teams, roles, and work schedules. Safety issues were routinely handled successfully. All craft and pilots, tablets and other parts of the Uncrewed Aircraft System (UAS) made it back in the box, so to speak. All inventory recovered, repairs and orders made, all data shared in the cloud, students back in their districts, rooms ready for the next class.

Verticals Plug

  • How to fly recreational drones with basic and advanced maneuvers.
  • How to plan flights for capturing media.
  • Get the soon-to-be mandatory – and EASILY OBTAINED – TRUST flyer certificate from the FAA, online for free.
  • How to film, edit, and share a video you make with drone footage and apps.
  • How to fly a drone with Scratch Python block code.
  • Provide information about industrial drone applications and jobs.

Local Resource in Action

Community groups will have some authority to determine the nature of its flight operations in local airspace come this fall 2022. As long as a responsible pilot is connected to the group, the area can develop flight operations that best suits the needs of the group. A FRIA is basically an area supported by a Part 107 drone pilot or more qualified pilots. The FAA determines the location and quality of FRIAs.

I can see a drone academy being a part of an 21st-century community, so I am studying what we need to do to qualify to become a FRIA. I have a break from school in a month, and I like to read legislation. One of the problems is that it’s not 1986 anymore. These rules were written before the Internet absolutely debased the concept of community. It used to involve, at the very least, physical mail for remote correspondence, on land lines, even. Brick and mortar have given way to ones and zeros. The architecture is in an electric field instead of a dirt lot. “Model aviation” was a concept that existed before FPV, before streaming, before smart phones, before laptops. Ridiculous changes continue to occur and need to occur more quickly because of climate change.

  • (1) is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
  • (2) is exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
  • (3) the mission of which is demonstrably the furtherance of model aviation;
  • (4) provides a comprehensive set of safety guidelines for all aspects of model aviation addressing the assembly and operation of model aircraft and that emphasize safe aeromodelling operations within the national airspace system and the protection and safety of individuals and property on the ground, and may provide a comprehensive set of safety rules and programming for the operation of unmanned aircraft that have the advanced flight capabilities enabling active, sustained, and controlled navigation of the aircraft beyond visual line of sight of the operator;
  • (5) provides programming and support for any local charter organizations, affiliates, or clubs; and
  • (6) provides assistance and support in the development and operation of locally designated model aircraft flying sites.

Time to learn

Topics in the Verticals Youth Empowerment program include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, drones, digital fabrication, coding, media production, design studio, blockchain, and crypto. Courses in the topics are presented alongside fitness and wellness resources. The center director is retired NFL pro-football player William James, who stepped off the gridiron and into a new life arena. William has an amazing base of supporters, collaborators, volunteers, and stakeholders who help make this happen. Very grateful.

Verticals Youth Empowerment Center is designed to stimulate young minds, give parents an inclusive environment in which to socialize, and to offer youth a sense of pride in themselves and their community. There are other facilities in the works.

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