Drones give us a bird’s eye view

You may not believe that drones can be used for historic preservation purposes, but we learned how drones can be very useful at Kump Education Center.

We were surprised on Wednesday when we saw a Frontier bucket truck drive onto the City of Elkins historic Kump property where we have no digital equipment yet. We could not figure out what it was doing there.

Lucinda Barrick, the Mayor’s wonderful secretary who always helps people make good connections, had told me to call Chad Chidester for help reaching the top of the chimney using a Frontier bucket truck. However, when Mr. Chidester and his helper Jeremy Kittle came out to look at the chimney a few weeks ago, they said the top of the chimney was too high for their bucket truck, but before they left, Mr. Kittle told me that he had a drone and would be happy to help us if we needed to check something on the top of the house.

While Malcolm Long has been restoring the 1924 heating system at KEC, he has tried to maintain the historic look of the radiators and keep construction costs down.

New gas boilers are much more energy efficient, but venting the boilers is no easy task in a building that has not been heated since 1962. New boilers do not need to use a 60-foot chimney, but we could not vent pipes lower without pouring steam onto the driveway beside the Kump house where people will need to drive cars and may want to park. Therefore, we expect to take the vents out through the old chimney.

Mr. Long told me that it would be wise to use a drone in order to find out if the chimney was in good condition and if the 3-inch pipes could be put in the 94-year-old chimney before we rented an expensive bucket truck.

Workers would have to reach the top of the chimney and put 10-foot sections of pipe down through chimney openings. Before we paid to rent an 80-foot bucket truck, he wanted to look down through the chimney using a drone. He was glad to hear that Mr. Kittle was willing to use his own drone for preliminary exploration of the work site.

It was so much fun to see that drone fly. It had four propeller blades synchronized to whirl in two different directions simultaneously and stabilize the drone for precision photography. It took pictures of the chimney top and gave us a clearer understanding of the ways the pipes will feed down through the chimney sections.

After the drone did its work, Mr. Kittle let it go high in the air like a bird, and we could see the roof top and the whole Kump farm from 120 feet above ground. Then it landed itself perfectly.