Twice a month, Yves Dehouck, ’10 (AXP-9), lugs a two-pound mass of finely tuned propellers, circuitry, and a lens out to a plot of land near his home and sends it off into the heavens.
Well, not heavens. As an enthusiastic amateur drone photographer, Dehouck is well aware of the safety regulations that come with his chosen hobby. The rule, he said, is “if you fly the drone, you should be able to see it.” So he aims for the sweet spot: low enough to keep out of trouble, but high enough to capture the sweeping vistas of the world below.
It’s a pastime he discovered by way of a lifelong fascination with aviation. Born and raised a stone’s throw from Koksijde Air Base in Belgium, Dehouck grew up wanting to fly helicopters. However, as a young child, Dehouck wore glasses, which was a no-go if you wanted to fly. He thought his dream of becoming an aviator had already crashed and burned.
Undeterred, Dehouck turned to his other childhood passion, photography, but kept helicopters in the back of his mind—so much so that four years ago, he moved to Hawaii for three months for the express purpose of earning his helicopter license. But back in Singapore, license in hand, Dehouck discovered that flying choppers was more costly and restrictive than he had imagined. “If you don’t start [flying helicopters] when you’re very young,” he said, “it’s very hard to make a career out of it.”
It was then that he discovered an opportunity to combine his two hobbies in a way that would have seemed interstellar as a youth: drone photography. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a marriage of both worlds,’” he said.
By day, Dehouck is the vice president, Asia Pacific, for Blackboard, a company that provides a learning management system for many schools and universities across the globe. It’s a job he admits has nothing in common with his newfound hobby. So, before going full throttle into the pursuit, he first needed to understand the basics. For the first three or four months, he and his then 11-year-old son Xander flew a tiny camera-less drone—one of six Dehouck now owns—around their house on a daily basis, just to get a feel for how it moved and reacted.
Once he felt he was ready for greater heights, he purchased a $1,000 drone with a built-in camera, and from there his hobby took off. Using an iPad to monitor the drone and make shot selections, Dehouck has taken more than 2,000 photos. He uses Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to add final artistic flourishes, and many of his photos are available on his website, YvesDehouckPhoto.com. There you’ll find spectacular aerial shots of Brazilian beaches, the castle-adorned countryside along Germany’s Rhine and Mosel Valleys, and the gorgeous Singapore skyline. Every time Dehouck goes on vacation, his drone is an essential carry-on; he’s photographed scenery on five continents, including Australia, where he recently moved after living 21 years in Singapore.
Perhaps most amazingly—it’s not exactly like flying a kite—Dehouck has yet to have a single drone mishap. “So far, so good,” he said with a laugh. Should one occur, Dehouck has no plans to ground his hobby. “I’ll keep this drone until it stops working or crashes,” he said. “And then I’ll get another one.”
—By Blair R. Fischer