How the hobby of drone photography became one PEI man’s ‘escape from reality’ after a devastating stroke

Hobbies offer us an escape from the routines of our daily lives, can serve as a creative outlet and a way to relieve stress.

And sometimes hobbies can pay off and provide a new perspective on life — something Kyle Jay knows firsthand.

Gone are the days when aerial photography had to be taken with an airplane. Instead, Jay’s hobby is using a drone to take photos and videos of the scenic landscape of Prince Edward Island.

The Fanningbrook, PEI native says it’s a fairly straightforward process if your drone is in the under 250 gram category.

“It was my starter drone that I had when I entered the industry,” he says of his DJI Mavic Mini.

“There is no license or registration required, more or less use your common sense, and keep in mind that you are sharing the sky with planes, so always give them priority.”

14 years ago, PEI resident Kyle Jay suffered a stroke that left him in a wheelchair.  While recovering, he saw a drone for the first time and fell in love with the idea of ​​drone photography and video.  - Contributed
14 years ago, PEI resident Kyle Jay suffered a stroke that left him in a wheelchair. While recovering, he saw a drone for the first time and fell in love with the idea of ​​drone photography and video. – Contributed

escape from reality

For him, however, flying a drone is more than getting unique angles in photos.

Fourteen years ago, Jay had a stroke.

“I am confined to a wheelchair and I have speech problems. Using a drone is, so to speak, an escape from reality,” he explains.

“During a stay at the Stan Cassidy Rehabilitation Center where I work on walking etc., I was approached by my roommate, an aboriginal. He wanted to show me his drone.

For Jay, this simple encounter changed his world.

“My face lit up and I texted my mom saying I wanted one. Nobody expected that,” he says.

His answer ? “You will crush it, but OK.”

Seal River at sunset.  - Kyle Jay/Aerial Photography of the Island - SaltWire Network
Seal River at sunset. – Kyle Jay/Aerial Photography of the Island – SaltWire Network

Since that time, Jay has turned his hobby into a business, Island Aerial Photography.

Jay flies and operates the drone all by himself.

“My carer, parents or friends will drive me around and act as my lookout for the day. I trained them all, they love it more than me! We saw the island pretty well from one end to the other,” he adds.

When asked what his favorite place on PEI was, Jay said: “It’s hard, PEI has so much beauty above the trees .”

“This year, I would say the tulip fields of VANCO Farms Ltd. in Dromore, PEI.

Above Mooney's Pond.  - Kyle Jay/Aerial Photography of the Island - SaltWire Network
Above Mooney’s Pond. – Kyle Jay/Aerial Photography of the Island – SaltWire Network

How to start

Thinking of trying out a drone? Ask permission first, suggests Jay.

“People don’t own the sky, but not everyone likes drones flying without knowing why. Most of the time, with a simple explanation, people are okay,” he says.

Using a drone above the sub-250 gram category, like the DJI Mavic Air 2 he currently uses, requires a license and registration, which is needed immediately.

Insurance is not compulsory, but it is a good thing to have.

“Seeing the quality produced (with the DJI Mavic Air 2), I knew I needed it,” he says.

“PEI. has so much beauty above the trees,” says Kyle Jay. – Kyle Jay/Aerial Photography of the Island – SaltWire Network

Jay says the basic certification license required for large drones “essentially allows you to fly 95% of PEI, but requires you to stay away from airways such as Charlottetown” .

A metropolitan center, Charlottetown has a red circle around it which you cannot enter as it requires an advanced license. It took Jay about a year of study before he was also ready to take this exam.

This means he can request permission to access the appropriate channels to fly his drone in the Charlottetown area using the Nav Drone app. This app makes it easy to coordinate with the Charlottetown Airport and notify incoming air traffic that a drone is in the area.

“Before, I only had basic access to certification using the app, so I never needed to notify as I had my own procedures, emergency checklist and my numbers to call,” he said.

But his drone is never within direct range of runways and approaches.

Jay says the app confirms what processes are needed during the operation. In certain situations, the airport must be contacted before take-off and at the end of the flight. He and the Charlottetown airport can communicate through his ground spotter using a cell phone.

“So overall it’s a very enjoyable hobby that comes with great responsibility,” he says.

Stewart C. Hartline