Brandon Tenold thinks drones get a bad rap. He's trying to change that, one flight at a time.
"I want to show that these are good because the media displays drones as killers, media displays drones as things that hurt people," Tenold said. "I want to show that they can do a lot of good."
The 17-year-old high school junior from Reva in northwestern South Dakota hopes to join the Air Force and eventually have a private-sector career in drone construction and operation. He has a good start, building and flying his own drones along with more traditional remote-control airplanes in his dad's auto shop.
It's big, beautiful country, but not without its complications. Strong winds and electrical storms will ground the battery-powered drones, which are affected by storms 30 miles away.
Brandon doesn't fly when the wind is more than 20 mph. But when he does send up his drone, it offers a unique look at the landscape. Equipped with a GPS system, auto pilot, video gear and a recorder, the drone can quickly offer images that would otherwise take horses, pickups and even larger airplanes.
Federal regulations prevent him from flying his drones above 500 feet.
But the benefits of drones will become clearer in coming years, as they are used to benefit people in agriculture and other industries, Brandon says.
"With this you can check your cattle from a couple miles away," Tenold said. "If you have a dead calf, or a dead cow somewhere, you can fly over it and see exactly where it is. It's also good for agricultural, such as crops."
There's another great thing about a drone that has appeal to a teenager.
"They are incredibly fun to fly," Tenold said.