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Peet’s manager conquers the air Gadget gets photography off the ground

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Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 3:34 pm | Updated: 10:36 am, Thu Jul 12, 2012.

A connection is made. Tiny lights along spidery, perpendicular arms flash red and white, and finally green and steady as a soft whirring fills the air.

A young man, gazing intently on the contraption, touches his handheld device. The little machine slowly rises and hovers, as if awaiting further direction.

It’s not a clip from the old television series “Lost in Space,” but rather Aisamac Gomez, longtime manager of Peet’s Coffee in Half Moon Bay and his flying machine equipped with a camera.

Gomez, 34, took a break from lattes and mochas for something that fires him up even more than caffeine: the hobby that takes him to the air, albeit vicariously, with his radio-controlled gizmo.

“There’s adrenaline, to know you’re out there and gravity can take you down anytime,” he said.

He calls it a “quad,” with its four obvious parts: arms made of two long bars crossed at right angles, with a GPS mounted above the crux and a battery below.

With a longtime interest in aviation, Gomez hopes to earn his wings. “I always dreamed of being a pilot one day,” he said.

For now Gomez, originally from Puerto Vallarta, lives in San Mateo with his wife and two children, age 2 and 6. The youngest is interested in flying, he said.

He shares the flying machine with Foster City resident Robert Barbutti, who works in real estate but loves photography — from the ground or overhead.

The men met a few years ago when Gomez checked out a Foster City field used by radio-controlled plane aficionados. The two formed a lasting friendship.

“We’re always together,” said Gomez. “We have the same kind of passion for aviation.”

The two obtained the parts for their radio-controlled gadget from stores around the Bay Area.

The little almost-plane depends upon the four propellers at the tips of its four arms, for speed and height. It can hover, and travel about three miles, Gomez said.

In keeping with federal regulations, he keeps it to a maximum height of 400 feet, but said it probably could go higher. Should the battery die, the gadget will descend slowly, not plow to the ground in a crash landing.

Proudly Gomez demonstrated its capabilities by showing a video taken as it floated over a San Francisco park.

All the while, it remains under his control, he said. “You will lose visibility before you lose control,” he said.

Keeping that fine control is why he doesn’t fly it when there is wind above 5 to 10 miles per hour. “You need to have the skills.”

What is he flying toward in the future?

“I want to keep flying (the gadget) and work on my pilot’s license!” he said.

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