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
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