Paddleboarder recovers drone from Grand Lake, returns to Illinois owner |

Paddleboarder recovers drone from Grand Lake, returns to Illinois owner

Courtesy photo
Staff Photo |

Flying drones

The FAA restricts the use of UAVs or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and regulates their operation. UAVs can be flown recreationally under model aircraft guidelines. The UAV must be used only for hobby and recreation purposes and must operate below 400 feet and away from airports and air traffic. The drone must also be within sight of the operator on the ground.

Prohibited in national parks

Drone use in national parks is prohibited under a policy implemented toward the end of August, according to a report by KUNC, National Public Radio.

View drone videos over Grand Lake

George Hovany has posted on YouTube several videos he took with his drone over Grand Lake. They can be viewed at

We have all lost or misplaced items of great importance — car keys, wallets, purses and work documents.

For George Hovany of Chicago Ill., recently on vacation in Grand Lake with his wife Pat, his lost item was a bit more high-tech. On Aug. 26 Hovany lost his unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or, as they are more commonly known, drone.

Through a series of fortuitous events Grand Lake resident Bradley Hilton discovered the drone, recovered it from the depths of Grand Lake and was able to return the item to its rightful owners.

Hovany used his drone during his vacation to fly over Grand Lake as well as exploration of Rocky Mountain National Park. It was his first opportunity to use his drone in a mountainous environment.

Unfortunately, while he was viewing the high country in the Park, his drone experienced a malfunction and crashed. The crash damaged some of the electronics on the drone but did not render it inoperable.

Several days later Hovany was flying his drone over Grand Lake when the vehicle stopped responding to his commands. The still functioning drone began slowly descending to earth, eventually reaching the surface of the lake before disappearing into the crystal clear waters.

Hovany and his wife immediately rented a kayak and began searching the shallows near the lake’s edge for the drone but had no luck in finding it. It was the third time he had lost the drone.

After searching for the drone, Hovany returned to Chicago empty handed, excited to purchase a newer and bigger drone.

Shortly after arriving home he received a phone call from Bradley Hilton.

“Did you lose a drone in Grand Lake?” Hilton asked.

Hilton had just recovered the machine from the cold depths of Grand Lake, in 20 to 30 feet of water.

Hilton lives in Grand Lake and works for the Grand Lake Marina. He is an avid stand-up paddle boarder and was making his way through the Grand Lake Canal from Shadow Mountain Reservoir to Grand Lake when he spotted the drone from his unique vantage point.

The young man immediately returned to shore and retrieved his snorkel and mask. A short while later, after diving into the lake, Hilton emerged with the drone. When he first spotted the UAV it was shimmering at the bottom of the lake. Hilton said he could not initially make out what the object was.

“I could tell it was a drone as I was swimming down,” he said.

Hilton has experience diving in Grand Lake. He regularly dives to remove trash from shallow areas near the shore.

He explained he was very lucky he was able to see the drone at that depth. Normally, the water being pumped into Grand Lake from Shadow Mountain is clouded with algae and stirs up the dirt and sediment at the bottom of the lake, making it impossible to view anything beyond a few feet.

Once out of the water Hilton discovered a reward sticker on the vehicle and Hovany’s Chicago phone number.

Hilton said the drone was in a box and on its way back to Chicago within an hour of being pulled out of the lake. Hovany received his lost drone back in Chicago on Sept. 8.

“Thanks to all the people at Grand Lake and the Inn for showing me a great time, and I look forward to the day I return with my new drone for some great videos,” Hovany wrote in an email to the Sky-Hi News.

Hovany’s drone is a DJI Phantom Vision. According to the DJI website the Phantom Vision is a remote controlled quadcopter drone with an attached 14 megapixel swiveling camera capable of shooting 1080p HD video.

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