Jack Kramer went from being the coolest first grader around with a flying model airplane to self-taught certified drone pilot as a senior in college.
Kramer’s mom, Cathy, recalls getting him a new RC toy each year for Christmas. With the way their house was setup he was able to fly his toys up their two-story family room area, through the upstairs hallway and back down the stairs into the family room. He even had a RC blimp filled with helium at one point. Eventually he turned his passion toward drones when he went to college.
A look inside Kramer’s room would find various RC toys from throughout his childhood along with five drones. The aerospace engineering major has always had a passion for things that fly. His grandpa and uncle both flew airplanes. His grandpa, David, built a small airport in Dyersville, Iowa. He picked up Jack when he was just two years old in a tiny airplane and flew him from his home in North Carolina to Iowa.
Cathy said she was not surprised her son went into engineering. He was always taking things apart and putting them together as a child. One time when his parents would not let him get a motorized scooter, he decided to make his own by strapping a leaf blower to the scooter he did have.
“I’m not surprised he got into drones. I’m actually surprised he didn’t find them sooner,” Cathy said. “They are just like bigger toys for a bigger boy.”
As a freshman in college Kramer began teaching himself how to fly drones. He used his first one to bother roommate and fellow senior teammate Tristan Duran.
“He would fly this tiny drone he had purchased up to my top bunk while I was sleeping,” Duran recalled. “I remember being so annoyed about it because of how loud it was, but looking back on it now I realize how funny it was. Now Jack has developed a serious passion for drone filming. It’s just so funny to think that his dedication to flying and filming with these high-tech drones came from those times in the dorms our freshman year.”
Kramer’s hobby turned into something more when he got a call from one of his childhood friends.
“He had dropped out of school to fly commercially. He was doing video shoots and started his own media production company,” Kramer said. “He reached out to me and told me I should consider getting certified to fly commercially.”
To become a certified drone pilot, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires a test. The test requires a score of 70 and the FAA offers classes, but Kramer took a different route.
“I studied for about a week and used all the resources available to me. I used websites and lots of YouTube videos,” Kramer said.
Kramer passed easily with a score of 90 and just like that he was a certified pilot. He knew he had to start building a portfolio to show people what he could do with a drone and had the perfect platform to showcase his abilities.
“I am on a Division I athletic team so I bring the drone into the gym and it’s really cool,” Kramer said. “You can get some different perspectives that you couldn’t get without a drone. I’ve done a bird’s eye view down on both parallel bars and vault. You watch the Olympics and they have cameras everywhere so it kind of simulates that.”
“The videos he makes for our team now are extremely high quality, and take hours of hard work to capture,” Duran said. “I commend him for his dedication, to be honest.”
— Minnesota Men's Gym (@GopherMGym) October 13, 2017
The hard work paid off. Recently Kramer was hired for his first paid drone gig. He did an apartment demo shoot in Andover, Minn. He hopes it’s the first of many.
“My goal is for it to be my weekend gig,” Kramer said. “I’ll just be out there doing my favorite hobby and hopefully getting paid for it.”
During the week Kramer hopes to go from the driver seat to behind the scenes. He also taught himself how to build drones including his own personal racing drone. He took his building skills to the next level in his senior design class. Xcel Energy sponsored a project the class is doing to build a drone that inspects power plants.
“There is so much innovation to be done with quadcopter drones. You hear about drones delivering mail for Amazon so I think the market for drones is going to continue to expand,” Kramer said. “I want to be along the frontlines there trying to find out the new thing you can do with drones.”
Make sure to follow the Gophers on Facebook and Twitter to see some of Jack's work!
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