Photographers' Blog

It’s Superman over California

June 28, 2013

San Diego, California

By Mike Blake

As technology costs drop allowing the individual inventor to become freer to pursue their dreams, create their ideas, and start up new businesses, the world will become a more fascinating place to live.

I first made contact with Otto Diefenbauch in early 2013 after a youtube video of him flying a cardboard-type plane along the California coastline went viral. We chatted and he said he was working on something even better and would drop me an email when he was ready to show it off. So, six months later when he dropped me an email I was curious to see what he had been up to. In this case, it was a much more refined and well designed “flying people” plane. I’m really not sure what to call them.

Otto would be testing some prototypes and I was invited to come along with my cameras. It was a bit of an early start, considering the past two months I have been working late helping edit the NBA and NHL playoffs. I was given very specific direction, though it was in somewhat of a strange location: Meet by some dumpsters off a side road in back of a building.

I met up with Otto and his business partner Ed and I got my first look at some prototype “flying people”. We traveled down a back trail to an open vista on a canyon. There was a bank of fog hanging and the sun was working at breaking through.

His prototype of Superman was the first to fly. The “flying person” was made from foam and electronic parts, was radio-controlled and runs on lithium batteries placed, in this case, inside superman’s head.

Ed held up Superman and the two of them went over a pre-flight checklist, not unlike the Marine pilots chatting in my headset on a recent Osprey flight I took with the U.S. military. But not as complicated. Ed held Superman into a slight off-shore wind and Otto moved his fingers around a controller in a manner that looked a lot like my son playing his Xbox. Superman was launched and it looked so realistic with the naked eye; it forced a total double-take of my senses. Superman was on a timer and he had a little over five minutes of power as Otto flew him in figure eights and all sorts of flight lines. I banged away on my shutter button and recorded the moments.

Next up was a test flight for Ms. Emerson, a bit of a cross between an angel and a Vegas black jack dealer. Then they tested a flying figure of Ironman. They all flew, all be it differently. Faster, slower, longer, it was a good test day for Otto as it ended with everyone in one piece and no long retrievals of his “people.”

So, Otto and Ed now had something that caught people’s attention and in the world we live in, that is 80% of the battle. How they innovate that into their business model, which for now is going to focus on promotional events, will be interesting to see.

I came away with a nice selection of images that went out on the wire and are popping up on screens and newspapers all around the world.

It’s a great idea that I’m sure you will soon be seeing in the sky at an event or in a city near you. And it’s great to meet two guys who are so involved in what they are doing without being totally focused on the potential monetary success. I can’t wait for you all to see this for yourselves.

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  • Editors & Key Contributors