Sometimes The Best Story Ideas Come From Out Of The Blue

Sometimes it's the unexpected and the unpredictable that leads to the best story ideas for UAS Magazine.
By Patrick C. Miller | October 13, 2016

Sometimes I spend days wondering what I’m going to write about for UAS Magazine and other times stories just fall into my lap. The feature story I just completed for the next issue of our print magazine and a story posted this week on our website are good examples of great stories that seemingly came out of nowhere.

When Elbit Systems of America brought its medium-sized Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) from Israel to the U.S. for a precision agriculture research project about 30 miles down the Interstate from our offices, it was pretty much a given that we’re going to cover it. Although precision ag is forecast to be one of the most profitable commercial uses for UAS, it’s not generally a topic that gets people excited about UAS technology—outside of rural areas.

In late August, Elbit held a field day at the Hillsboro (North Dakota) Regional Airport from which the Hermes flew missions throughout the summer. Speaking at the event were three members of Congress, state officials, researchers and industry experts. But to me, there was one person who stood out above all others because she explained how the availability of high-resolution UAS images and elevation data gathered from a UAS flying 8,000 feet above the Red River Valley impacted her farming operation and her business as an agronomy consultant.

While awaiting my turn to introduce myself to Sarah Lovas, who runs a farm with her husband a short distance from the Hillsboro airport, a farmer attending the event echoed exactly what I was thinking. He told her that nobody who spoke that day did a better job of selling the importance of UAS technology to precision agriculture than she did. Lovas clearly and concisely explained the value and the impact of the data from the Hermes in a way that even a city slicker like me could understand. She was the best person to tell the story of the project to readers of UAS Magazine, and I was pleased when she agreed to be interviewed for my feature story.

As reporter, my inbox is constantly bombarded with emails from people who think something they’re associated with is worthy of coverage on our website or in our magazine. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes I’m left wondering why on earth they took the time to tell me about something that obviously has absolutely nothing to do with what UAS Magazine covers.

This week, I received an email from World View Enterprises in Arizona that at first glance had me reaching for the mouse to hit the delete button. Fortunately, I continued reading and became intrigued with the company’s Stratollite high-altitude balloon platform. I’d never considered the possibility that UAS technology could make balloons useful for so many purposes. The vagaries of weather and winds aloft seemed to make them too impractical.

This email led to an interview with Taber MacCallum, World View’s chief technology officer. It was one of those mind-blowing moments where someone makes you think outside the box of what is possible with UAS technology and enables you to see how a UAS balloon could fill the niche between satellites and conventional unmanned aircraft. And then I began to understand that the opportunity was more of a chasm than a niche.

Thanks to those who reach out to provide the UAS Magazine team with ideas and to those who suddenly and unexpectedly show up on our radar, we almost always have interesting subjects to write about.