Well, as I was headed to the hardware store for the third time today, I saw the lights soaring above a neighborhood and decided to track the operator down. It took about two minutes.
I met Gary and his friend Fred. They were busy flying two radio controlled airplanes, both lit with up LEDs. When I spotted them, they were standing in the driveway of Gary's house on a quiet residential street.
After assuring them that I meant no harm and was merely curious about their models, they agreed to answer some questions and to let me shoot a few pictures. In the above photo, Gary is holding the model I saw the other night. You can see that it is modeled after a bird-of-prey. Gary hand cut the model out of Styrofoam and painted the plumage onto the foam. The engine and controls are off the shelf RC parts. The LEDS were wired into the bird by Gary.
Here it is with the LEDS on. The top are blue, the bottom are white. All of the LEDs are wired through a switch allowing Gary to shut them off from the ground.
As the bird is made of Styrofoam, it is very light weight and is launched by turning on the electric powered motor and throwing the model into the wind.
With relatively new batteries, the bird can fly for up to half an hour on a charge. The radios have a range of a couple of miles and the bird can climb to an altitude of 900 feet. It does all of this almost silently, the electric power plant is almost silent.
Gary landed the bird in a space about twelve feet long. As it requires very little space to operate from, Gary likes to fly it from his house. He has built several of them and is thinking of a way to make and sell them as a business. He is kind of secretive about flying it from his house he doesn't want to piss anyone off - or at least he doesn't want to get caught pissing anyone off. Apparently, he likes to fly over a nearby baseball field and get the spectators there wondering about his bird. Sometimes, they get a little fired up.
I am grateful Gary allowed me to take pictures and that he answered my questions. It made it worth it to track him down. I think his product is cool and I wish him well with it. At least now, when I see weird lights maneuvering in the hood, I will know what I am seeing.
Thanks for reading,