Rick Bentley

KMPH adds drone to its arsenal, waits for FAA clearance

Ryan Hudgins, left, and Chris Costello are the KMPH drone pilots.
Ryan Hudgins, left, and Chris Costello are the KMPH drone pilots. rbentley@fresnobee.com

KMPH26 is taking its news coverage to a higher level. The local Fox affiliate has added the DJI Inspire 2 drone to its arsenal of ways to report on a story.

Getting a drone and getting to use the drone are two very different things.

Federal Aviation Administration rules state a drone cannot be flown within 5 miles of an airport, which means the drone cannot be used at the TV station because it’s within the 5-mile circle from Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

The 5-mile zone around the airport also includes Fresno State and a large part of Clovis. Downtown Fresno, including Chukchansi Park, are off limits because of Chandler Airport.

Those rules apply to hobbyists, but because KMPH will be using the drone commercially, the station can get a waiver. The FAA has not ruled on whether KMPH will get the waiver and Jack Peck, vice president and general manager of the station, isn’t sure when the ruling will be made.

When it comes, KMPH will be ready. Station news photographers Chris Costello and Ryan Hudgins spent three days training in Florida to use the drone properly. Their testing included reading weather conditions, proper safety measures and even identifying positions using longitude and latitude.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group, owner of KMPH, has mandated that flying the drone is a two-man operation. One of the two pilots must keep the drone in sight at all times to make sure that it doesn’t get near obstacles. Sensors around the drone that can detect an obstacle, stop it in flight and safely move it around the obstacle.

The KMPH drone has two cameras, one fixed straight ahead to create a point of view.

There are limits to how much a drone can be used around large crowds. Peck says that events such as parades can still be photographed by keeping the drone away from the crowds and using the zoom lens to collect images.

Battery capacity for the drone is between 20 and 30 minutes.

While KMPH is waiting on the FAA ruling, the best option for using the drone will be outside the Fresno and Clovis city limits. It has been used to document flooding.

Actor appears at Sierra Vista Mall

Actor Vernon Wells, who appeared on the TV shows “JAG,” “Power Rangers Time Force,” “Power Rangers Wild Force,” “MacGyver” and “Knight Rider,” will be the special guest at the Weekend Blender: Indoor Mall Show at Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis. The show will be held from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 24, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 25, and from 11 a.m.to 6 p.m. Feb. 26.

The Weekend Blender will feature vendors, an art hop for kids and special events. For information on the show call 559-347-4881.

Despite having a long list of acting credits, Wells is best known for his role of Wez in “The Road Warrior.”

Comcast adds app for Roku

Comcast has added an Xfinity TV app for Roku, a way to connect to online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

The app lets Xfinity TV customers watch live and on-demand programming as well as their cloud DVR recordings, delivered over Comcast’s network on Roku devices in the home.

To use Xfinity TV app on the Roku platform, add it from the Roku Channel Store.

Et cetera

▪ Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, hosts of the History Channel series “American Pickers,” are headed back to California in the spring to film episodes. They’ve traveled the country since 2010 looking for items associated with cars and motorcycles.

If you or someone you know has a large, private collection, the Pickers can spend the better part of the day looking through, send your name, phone number, location and description of the collection including photos to americanpickers@cineflix.com or call 855-653-7878.

▪ The celebrity guest for this year’s 31st annual Fresno Home & Garden Show is Pete Nelson from Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters.” The event is March 3-5 at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

He runs Nelson Treehouse and Supply, the company responsible for designing and building some of the world’s most unique treehouses.

For more information about the home show or to buy tickets, go to www.fresnoshows.com.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1