Lofty ambitions for recent GHS grad

The sky’s the limit for new business, Western Slope Drones

Kevin Noreen

Special to the Times


As many pilots will tell you, the thrill of flying is something that’s, well, just plain unbeatable. Once hooked by the freedom of flight, there’s no telling where it can lead.

Just ask Lane Mangum, chief pilot at Western Slope Drones Inc., a new business in Gunnison that is literally taking off.

Lane, along with his father and business partner, Justin, started Western Slope Drones earlier this year to provide Gunnison and the surrounding area with high-end drone photos, video and event coverage — a quickly growing industry around the world.

“I was looking into an aviation career, maybe out of high school. But, it wasn’t super affordable at the time, so we wanted another route,” Lane explained. “I loved aviation or anything that flies, so we started researching the drones and we saw that the market demand was growing, and it is still growing right now.”

Lane has been flying remote controlled planes since 2010. After researching business possibilities this past spring, the Mangums launched Western Slope Drones in the beginning of June, shortly after Lane graduated from Gunnison High School.

Since then, Western Slope Drones has completed video projects for realtors and covered several live events, including Cattlemen’s Days. Lane does all the video and photo editing himself — time consuming skills that were largely self-taught.

He said it also takes time — often months — to get special permits and waivers required to fly drones in restricted airspace, such as that which encompasses much of Gunnison, due to the close proximity of the airport.

But, it’s all part of doing a job he loves, and flying just seems to run in the Mangum family.

“I’ve always been into aviation and liked it,” Justin said, adding that he obtained his pilot’s license in 2004.

In addition to video drones, the Mangums have racing drones, for fun as well as high-speed event coverage. They have plans to start a drone racing league in the near future.

Lane, who eventually wants to get his own pilot’s license, said drones fulfill the need to fly for him in the meantime, especially when using the first person view (FPV) goggles the racing drones are equipped with.

“You wear the FPV goggles … and it gives you that feeling of you’re actually in the cockpit flying it, and it’s an amazing experience,” Lane said. “They’re not just for photos, you can make a sport out of them, too.”

However, the appeal of aerial tours, and footage of extensive properties like ranches, is certainly the major draw for some of Western Slope Drones clients.

A. Danielle Worthen, with Hall Realty, Inc. in Lake City, believes using drone footage for marketing is the wave of the future in real estate. She has worked with Lane on several projects for locations that were either difficult to access, or too hard to photograph effectively.

“To capture the mountain feeling here, and to really capture where a property is located in relation to the mountains and the surrounding area, the droning ... just gives a completely different feeling of the property than really any kind of two-dimensional photo can,” Worthen said. “For any property, it’s location, location, location. But here, it’s location and views.”

Worthen added that using drones could also translate into more efficient use of a realtor’s time. With more complete views online, potential clients are better able to narrow which properties to physically visit.

Although drones themselves may have limits to how high they can fly, according to the Mangums, the sky is the limit for what drones could be used for in the future — from inspection of remote power or pipelines, to assisting in search operations.

“It’s such a new, burgeoning industry that everyone is just figuring out, because drones have a stigma,” Justin said. “So, it’s an education that drones can be used for good.”

Part of the job for both Lane and Justin is simply letting people know about drones in general, and the many positive uses they do have.

Western Slope Drones has plans to expand the business in the future to incorporate more training, as well as possibly investing in thermal drones for search and rescue.

“I think we want to be more of an advocate business where we’re spreading the word and helping it grow, as well as doing our own drone work,” Lane said. “You know, that’s where our goal is. … We just  want more people to get involved with us.”


Kevin Noreen


Gunnison Country Times

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