Balloon provides lift for economic development
Published 11:07 pm Thursday, August 14, 2014
Folks in downtown Suffolk Thursday evening may have noticed a large object hovering near the intersection of North Main and Washington streets.
It wasn’t a bird, a plane, Superman or an alien spaceship, though. Piloted from the ground by Jeff Sheffield and Keith Andrus with Ethicom Associates, the balloon had an attached camera that was taking photos for the city’s Economic Development Department.
Ethicom is the public relations firm for economic development, Andrus said. The firm was taking photos of the downtown area to use in promotional products for economic development.
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The balloon also has been seen recently in the Harbour View area and at Bennett’s Creek Park during last week’s TGIF concert. The business is trying to get a number of different types of shots, including those depicting commerce, like in downtown Suffolk, and lifestyle, such as at the concert.
Powered by helium and tethered with a cord to a dolly on wheels, the balloon can be raised or lowered by increasing or decreasing the amount of line available from a spool.
The attached camera is controlled from a hand-held box. The operator can see what’s in the camera’s view, adjust its spin and angle and take photos using the box.
The balloon and its camera provide pictures closer than a photographer in an aircraft can get, and it doesn’t carry the legal baggage that drones currently have, Andrus said.
The balloon can go up to 500 feet, but downtown’s photo shoot on Thursday didn’t require it to go nearly that high, Andrus said.
Sheffield said he got into the balloon business because it uses a lot of the same technology as radio-control planes, a hobby of his. He said he “had to have one” after he learned about the balloon and visited its manufacturer for a test drive.
So if you see the balloon hovering in your area of town, don’t worry about alien abductions — just look up and smile.