Game of Drones

By on August 15, 2018

Lititz father and son’s hobby goes viral

When Lititz Springs Park flooded on the first weekend of August and the covered bridge on Log Cabin Road was covered with water, the Drone Guys were there.

Providing a bird’s eye view of the rain swollen Lititz Run and the Cocalico Creek, Eric Wenger and his 12-year-old son Nathan were on the scene with their trusty drone to capture video of the landscape­or rather, waterscape- below.

“We’ve been doing this for two years,” says Eric Wenger. “But only recently did our drone pictures get noticed.”

Noticed, indeed.

When Wenger posted his video of the rain-submerged Lititz Springs Park on their Facebook page 717 Drone Guys, their video ended up being shared on Facebook, including by the Lititz Record Express and LNP. Next thing they knew, ABC News asked to use the video for a story about the heavy rains and flooding in the East. Soon, the Drone Guys’ video was on CBS News, NBC News, WGAL-TV, CNN, the Washington Post and even Yahoo Europe.

The Drone Guys were suddenly famous all over the globe.

“It’s pretty amazing really,” says Eric Wenger. “It’s just a hobby, but we really enjoy it.”

Nathan Wenger and his father Eric (left) spend quality time together shooting drone footage around the county.

At this point Wenger has no plans to make it a commercial enterprise. For one thing, he already has a job, as an accountant and managing partner of RKLTax Services Group in Lancaster. To operate a commercial drone, he would have to get special aviation licensing through the FAA. Wenger is considering volunteering for the Lititz Fire Company doing drone videos of fire scenes, emergency scenes, flooding, rescues and searches. He was contacted by Duane Ober, administrator of the Warwick Emergency Services Commission, which serves the Warwick area’s fire and emergency services departments.

Ober was very interested in having Wenger document emergency scenes and help assess storm damage from flooding, tornados and wind. Wenger’s drone could also be used to track a lost child or pet, or look at traffic situations.

“I’m very happy to help in any way I can, as a service to my community,” says Wenger, who lives in Warwick Township, overlooking the airport. His enthusiasm for drones got started when his wife Kristin gave him a drone for his 40th birthday two years ago. Wenger had always loved photography, and he was thrilled to get a view from above. Drones cost as little as $30 to well into the thousands. Wenger’s drone was a mid-range drone equipped with a GoPro video camera.

The Wengers have three children, Josh, Alexa and Nathan. But it was their youngest, 12-year-old Nathan, who shared his Dad’s excitement for the flying camera. They filmed the lush rolling countryside of Lancaster County, wandered along the Susquehanna River and safely up to Chickies Rock. The peach orchards, farm fields, meadows and streams were captured from above.

“The first time I filmed in Lititz Springs Park was for the Sunday in the Park that my church (LEFC) sponsored,” says Wenger.

The 717 Drone Guys captured these breathtaking overhead views of Lancaster County.

After heavy rains the first weekend of August, the Drone Guys viewed flooding along the Cocalico Creek, where a family had to be rescued from a cottage near the covered bridge. When Kristin Wenger was out for a run, she noticed that many country roads had flooded, and saw an image of the flooded Lititz Springs Park. Eric and Nathan headed over to the park and captured overhead footage of the ducks swimming in the new “Lake Lititz.”

The flooding in the park caused the Rotary Club to make adjustments to the Lititz Craft Show. The park was still too soggy for exhibitors a week later, so they were moved farther along East Main Street and South Broad Street.

“So we decided to video the Craft Show. It was huge. I had no idea,” says Wenger. In just two weeks, Eric and Nathan have become the famous Drone Guys. Their Facebook page is called 717 Drone Guys and they are getting lots of attention.

“I don’t really care about that,” says Nathan. “It’s just fun.”

As much fun as seeing the world from above can be, there are rules. Because the airport is within five miles, they have to notify air traffic control. The drone cannot fly higher than 400 feet. They cannot fly the drone in the valley near the airport. There are many other regulations for responsible droning. The drone is operated via a joy stick with a view from an iPhone on the ground. That’s how they navigate and see what the drone camera sees. It gets tricky in places like Lititz Springs Park with lots of tall trees. The resulting videos and still images are breathtaking in detail.

“We’re really just a father and son having fun with our hobby,” says Eric Wenger. “It’s all pretty cool.”

To check out the Drone Guys of Lititz, go to 717 Drone Guys on Facebook.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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