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. Peter

    It is unfortunate that a country of this stature, who rules the world, from the skies like a god ,and lacks comprehensive leadership to deal with these pressing issues...where are the Presidents akin to our late leaders that took the initiative and got things done, America has become a cold, hostile place to live, We lack the sense of unity that made us what we are...There are hundreds of thousand unemployed, Why can't the government promote an agency akin to the peace corps, that utilizes the young folks sitting on their a$$ and make them earn their unemployment check by working in this storm zone, to rehabilitate and get these folks back on their feet....it would promote a culture of selflessness and charity and would without a question cause a paradigm shift in the minds of our youth, This is what makes a nation great! ...Our former Presidents built dams with the unemployed, without that community mindset we would all be speaking German, as it helped us win WW2 via the Industrial revolution which depended heavily on the Electricity those dams produced....Our country is on a road to extinction...this play station culture is thoroughly unsustainable!

    May 8, 2011 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      The presidents that you refer to lived in more bi-partisan times, and those times are gone forever. Keep in mind that many politicians thought it wise to let the auto companies liquidate after bankruptcy, and to let the US banks fail during the financial crisis – that is, after all free-market economics. No more GM, no more Chrysler, no more US financial dominance in the world... it would simply be the free-market in action.

      The long-term economic effect on the US is secondary to political ideology these days.

      May 8, 2011 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Lecter

      And this is related to storm-chasing drones HOW? Are you suggesting that we not sent automated drones but manned planes in danger's way because of unemployment?
      I know CNN readers are dense, but try to stay on the subject.

      May 8, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joey

    Some above Joey posts are not mine.
    Good morning.
    "Practice" was my joke. I think that troll IS something related to acting or writing: its brain slips into a branch of Stanislavsky very easily.
    REAL Cesar, you're usually easy to separate from trolls.
    I thought there was just one.
    I usually don't say "practice" for music: it's work, and that's what I call it.
    banasy, why complain about prices of anything? That's what it is. I hate the food bills now.
    Gonna have a nostalgic pizza (Uno's) party with friends tonight who are all in town at the same time.

    May 8, 2011 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joey

    I meant, "just one troll."

    May 8, 2011 at 5:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. A drone license? TerrorintheSKIES

    America has become a cold, hostile place to live, We lack the sense of unity that made us what we are...There are hundreds of thousand unemployed, Why can't the government promote an agency akin to the peace corps, that utilizes the young folks sitting on their a$$ and make them earn their unemployment check by working in this storm zone,

    What if anyone else did this DRONE privacy invasion? What NEXT?

    May 8, 2011 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joey

    @ Peter:
    That was an interesting post this morning.
    I think that when our country's people functioned that way, there was both more selfishness and more charity than there is now.
    The difference then was, to me, a sense of necessary responsibility and self-reliance.
    When our country functioned, the first place we looked was to ourselves, not to the government. Yes, dams were built, and power lines, but we did not expect a "check" if we didn't get a job on the dam project: women "took in" sewing and sold eggs in the middle of town.
    I help people all the time, but, honestly, I help others because it helps me first. That is the art of selfishness.

    May 8, 2011 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. FelaFromAfrica

    American is now like Mike Tyson. Once he was called Iron Mike Tyson but now he is just like a deflated tyre ans so is America. It was then but not now. Remember that one time France was a super power but no more today. England once ruled the oceans but today all we hear are Somali pirates. To everything there is time. Americas time came is now going faster. Lookup to China and beware

    May 8, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. FelaFromAfrica

    America is now like Mike Tyson. Once he was called Iron Mike Tyson but now he is just like a deflated tyre and so is America. It was a super power then but not now. Remember that one time France was a super power but no more today. England once ruled the oceans but today all we hear are Somali pirates. To everything there is time. Americas time came is now going faster. Lookup to China and beware

    May 8, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    Good, if you're right. Let's be like France and stop giving away so many billions in foreign aid. I like that. HEY guys, who has been posting under my name? Stop it guys. Pretty please???

    May 8, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. FelaFromAfrica

    @Cesar what ar you saying? That America is messed up today because of foreign aid? How much aid is that ? Compare that to your government debt. What is that ? 16,000,.......... ( i dont know the number of zeros to make a trillion) It's not foreign debt buddy!! It just that time up.

    May 8, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. FelaFromAfrica

    @Cesar
    By the way, dont get me wrong. I love the resilience of the Americans. The ipad/drone guy is smart and I must confess that the skills and all the experiences in technology that I enjoy today is all, with thanks , American. However, the country is messed up. Can you imagine what would happen if all the US dollar that is all over the world is to be returned to America? I also thought poverty was in Africa but wat we see of the homeless there is no difference with ours here. There is poverty is a superpower country too. Yes America is indeed hostile to its own people.

    May 8, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. Joey

    I've been thinking, guys. Maybe WE are the trolls. banasy. cesar. jazzzz. raven. phillip. We regail these message boards with off-topic banter and judgmental drivel. WE ARE THE TROLLS

    May 8, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Cesar

    @Joey 10:28: Shut up fake Joey. Stupid.

    May 8, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cesar

    @FelafromAfrica: The funding in foreign aid is part of the national debt. Hellloooooo.

    May 8, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. Cesar

    Indeed, hostile, or maybe negligent, FelafromAfrica.

    May 8, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. raven

    Im not usually one to fall into conspiracy theories or paranoia but jeez, the possibilities of bein watched are gettin limitless! And joey of 10:28, posting off topic may offend your sensibilities but it doesnt make us trolls.

    May 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
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