May 7th, 2011
07:32 PM ET

iPad-controlled drone captures Tuscaloosa storm damage

In the week since a series of powerful storms and tornadoes devastated Tuscaloosa, Alabama, most of the images we've seen have been taken at ground level.

But CNN's Aaron Brodie caught a bird's-eye view using the Parrot AR.Drone, a quadricopter that can be controlled using an iPad or an iPhone. He said he got the idea to experiment with the relatively new technology about a year ago, and finally got the chance to test it out Friday above the ruins of Alberta, a neighborhood in Tuscaloosa.

"It's a bit challenging to fly, but when you get the hang of it you can get some nice aerial footage out of it," Brodie says.

The electronic aircraft retails for about $300 and comes equipped with two cameras, one facing forward and one facing down. Not satisfied with the quality of the video for broadcast purposes, Brodie rigged a GoPro HD camera to the drone, bringing the total cost of the outfit to about $550.

"This is really at the low end of what's possible," he says. "There's much more sophisticated drone technology out there that is now available to really anybody, including us in the news media, and I think this is going to continue to provide a whole new perspective on things."

More than 175 tornadoes hit the South and the Midwest April 27 to 28, weather officials said. The twisters caused at least 327 deaths, 249 of which were in Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, a massive tornado cut a 5.9-mile path of destruction, damaging or destroying more than 5,700 structures and affecting an estimated 13,700 people who lived and worked there, a spokeswoman said.

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Filed under: Alabama • Technology • Tornadoes • Weather
soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. Joey

    One won't have to hire a private investigator anymore to be certain that his wife really went shopping.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cesar

    No doubt that the right-wing politicians use this I-Pad to do disgusting things like gather information on the Iranian government or terrorists. No respect for privacy. My boyfriend and I broke up. I am available. I prefer men age 18-45, ONLY. Slim build please and tall, 6'0 minimum. Mmmmmm

    May 7, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. FrankIsMyPersonalPuppet4EverBWAAHAAHAAHAA

    I-Pad drone captures footage of Frank's mother turning tricks outside a motel-6.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy

    Oh, okay. It costs $550. To outfit the drone, but how much does a drone cost?

    May 7, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. RichG

    This isn't aerial! Yao Ming could have did this walking.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joey

    The TROLL is working here.
    He is practicing writing and acting.
    Maybe I'll tell him how I got to Carnegie Hall.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. the real Cesar

    I think this is fantastic and proves that technology can do wonders for mankind. I applaud Steve Jobs, Apple for giving us this technical marvel the iPad!

    @fake Cesar, shut up stupid.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey


    May 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tarik

    i feel lonely. lucifer(Cesar) hasnt used my make believe screen name in awhile now. what have i done wrong? maybe lucifer(cesar) has to many other voices in his head? sob....

    May 7, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cesar

    @banasy: LMAO! I didn't think of that.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Frankie

    Idiots. Read the f"'ing article. It says the drone retails for $300 and adding more special gear brings the total cost to $550.

    LMAO at how STOOPID you people are.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cesar

    @Frankie: Hey you filthy, low down, arm pit, smelling worthless POS, ignorant, MFer, a US Predator Drone costs the US $10.5 bucks. Go suck a boiled egg with rotten yolk, b*t/ch.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cesar

    @Frankie: Ooops, I thought they meant a military USAF drone. I take it back. Sorry.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy

    Seriously, Frankie? After re-reading the article, I find that you are correct about the cost of the drone, which is a fancier name for a flying model plane. What it doesn't factor in is the cost of either an Ipad or an Iphone. Must you be such an insulting little bozo?
    Yes, you must be such an insulting little bozo. Must come with the name you've chosen to post under.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cesar

    @Frankie: After reading banasy's post, I take back my sorry. Sorry.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
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