A Tehachapi resident and business owner has a company that is taking off — literally.

Derrell Willson III, a retired Air Force systems manager, started his company earlier this year. Aerius Imagery provides grand views from a camera on a drone for local businesses and other organizations. 

Willson hopes to continue to meet with local businesses to show ways to "promote tourism ... show drone technology, what it's able to do, why I'm here doing it, my credentials and showing off capabilities."

Aerius Imagery, which is licensed and insured, has assisted with pubic events such as Relay for Life, Chalk on the Walk, and helped develop plans for hobbyists to operate drones on Edwards Air Force Base, along with providing services for companies outside of town.

The journey to starting his own commercial drone business hasn't been easy, though. Successfully managing and complying with laws from the Federal Aviation Administration has taken more than a year.

In order to legally have a commercial drone license, an owner needs to be certified by the FAA and have extensive knowledge similar to having a private pilot's license.

The FAA requires owners to take a test, which if passed qualifies a person to obtain a 107 commercial drone pilot's license. The license takes months of study and covers all knowledge necessary to operate an unmanned aircraft.

An owner has to know air registration rules, operation and limitations, details on remaining clear from other aircraft and information for operating on restricted property such as airports or military bases.

Willson has worked with DeWalt Corp. in Bakersfield, providing aerial and timeline photography so the business has views of where gas pipelines are installed. This helps the company track work for future reference. 

"He is very professional and knows every single rule out there and for the 107 license, which is a huge plus and because we deal with the oil industry and one who knows all the regulations is priceless for us," said Adam Stubbs, survey project manager/coordinator for DeWalt Corp.

Due to the popularity of owning drones, many times the rules are not clearly understood. According to Willson, the operation of a drone for this type of license and Class G airspace (Good to Go) is only permitted in the daylight, at local clubs or flying fields, indoors and outside a five-mile radius of airports.

There are some exceptions, however. To fly at or near airports, a special code by the manufacturer is required verifying the 107 commercial drone pilot license. In addition, these specific drones are permitted to fly up to 400 feet in the air.

Willson also participates in drone racing. He is a part of Bakersfield Multirotor club that meets every Saturday. The racing drones can go up to 70 mph and race about two feet off the ground. 

For more information, visit facebook.com/pg/aeriusimagery/posts or call 661-805-6908.

Small Town, Big People is a series of stories focused on interesting people in the Tehachapi community. If you would like to nominate someone for a future installment, e-mail editorial@tehachapinews.com.