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. Caesar

    300 bucks for a quadricopter equipped with 2 cameras? What a bargain. We have a group of citizens here in Colorado who follow the police around and video their behavior. We've gotta get like 5& of these.

    May 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Caesar

    50 rather.

    May 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Caesar

    You can see some of our videos on youtube. google 'denver police assault man walking his dog" or " ditto ABC reporter'. Wait till we get our hands on a few dozen of these quadricopters. What? You don't like what we do? Imagine how many "rodney kings" we've saved this year alone. Get a clue: speed-traps and remote-control red lights weren't invented to "serve and protect" you. Granted, the police serve a vital function..."rodney king" type abuse NOT being one of these functions. Watch out! you crooked cops. We're gonna really be on your azz now.

    May 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Caesar

    No offense to you law-abiding police officers. I do appreciate your help and support...though i wish you'd help us expunge ourselves of your crooked counterparts. But I do understand and respect the code you live by. (shrug)

    May 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey

    Yes, Joey at 10:28 AM was a fake.
    I was at church.

    May 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joey

    That's the real Cesar.
    The post had an identifying characteristic.

    May 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Caesar

    Ah yes! Church. Where would the world's armies be without churches recruiting soldiers for God...errrr Caesar. "Father Magilicutty, when you are done with that boy, send him to us! Hail Caesar!

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

    Different churches differ a lot.

    May 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey

    "Judgmental drivel?"
    Love your phrase, Troll (posted under my nom de plume).
    Well, get ready, because you're in for a lot of judgmentally configured eyebrows as long as you continue to brag about pineapples and what your mother gave you.

    May 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy

    @Joey @ 5:50AM:

    Where in my post did I *compain* of the cost of anything?

    May 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banasy

    *complain*, rather.

    May 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joey

    @ banasy, my friend:
    You did not complain.
    I did not write that you complained.
    I think I read your statement that you did not complain about the cost of–gas?–was it that?

    May 8, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joey

    @ raven:
    Of course you know Joey "of 10:28" was not I, don't you?

    May 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy


    When did I say that? I'm thinking that was a response that people complain about the gas prices, but blame the wrong person as being responsible. Of course I kvetch about the price of gas; any one who drives would.

    May 8, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. banasy


    Did you write the 5:50am post?

    May 8, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
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