Student Jonathan Dersch wins competition with video footage captured by a drone

Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics took videography to the skies when they recently held an UAS (unmanned aerial systems), also known as drones, photography and videography competition that allowed all aeronautics students to send in their best photographs and video work they had shot while using an UAS.

Liberty University student Jonathan Dersch took first place in the UAS videography competition with his video on the cranberry harvest season in Pine Island, New Jersey where he shot drone footage of the cranberry fields that supply the popular cranberry juice corporation, Ocean Spray Cranberries.  

“Me and some of my friends had heard (Pine Island) was harvesting their cranberries and just drove down one day to the main headquarters and asked to talk to whoever was in charge. They told us to come back tomorrow and that a supervisor would be with us and drive us around the cranberry fields for us, and that’s exactly what we did,” Dersch said. 

The next day, Dersch and his friends drove back to Pine Island and met with a supervisor for Ocean Spray Cranberries, who let them have all the creative filming freedom they wanted. 

“The supervisor drove us through these single lane ditches on the fields so we could get some amazing shots. I used my DGI Phantom 4 drone and flew it from the passenger seat of the truck. It’s got a 4K camera that is built into it, and it streams everything I film back to an iPad so you can get all the shots you want,” Dersch said. 

After spending hours filming, editing and publishing the cranberry harvest video to YouTube, Dersch submitted his final project into the UAS competition and was thrilled to discover that his video placed first in the entire videography competition. 

“I ended up winning a Liberty University Aeronautics ‘swag pack’ that had a custom water bottle and a bunch of personalized goodies,” Dersch said. “It was super nice.” 

Dersch grew up with a passion for the sky and flying. He explained that as soon as he got his hands on a plane, he knew that he wanted to one day be a pilot. 

“I have always known I have wanted to get into aeronautics. Since I was 5 or 6, I have been flying (remote controlled) planes and cars. And then I naturally upgraded to drones, which I still love doing, but now I’m all the way up flying the multi-engine Seminole here at Liberty,” Dersch said. 

As Dersch pursues his education in aeronautics and becoming a pilot, he also continues to fly drones for Liberty and obtain  his certifications with UAS for his commercial corporate aviation degree. 

Dersch has not only done drone videography work on cranberries, but also for car companies, social media influencers, churches, schools and even a retirement home residency where he made a video that aired on local television. 

“I have about 200 hours’ worth of drone work on a portfolio website ‘,’” Dersch said. “Also, on the Toyota website there is a video about ‘How to take your car in for a recall’ and I provided some of the aerial footage for that as well.”

Although Dersch enjoys using his skills in videography and photography, his main goal is still to become a pilot for a major airline. He said that if someone has a dream or passion for flying, they should pursue aeronautics and “jump right into it.” 

“It’s a fun career that anyone can do. Flying an airplane or drone is a lot less complicated than people think,” Dersch said. “If you told me three years ago, I’d be flying a multiengine airplane I would’ve never believed it, but now I’m flying with Liberty. I get to be a flight instructor this summer and have some jobs lined up for after I graduate. It’s crazy to me how people will just pay me to go out and do what I love doing. So, if you’re interested at all in aviation, just do it.”

Wallace is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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