Carlsbad pilot flies the pop star on the Volantis
CARLSBAD — For just under a minute, in front of a multitude of cameras and reporters, Gus Calderon literally held the fate of Lady Gaga in his hands.
Standing a few yards away, Calderon, a Carlsbad resident, was the first-ever to fly the pop singer on the Volantis, a remote controlled flying vehicle, on Nov. 10 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York.
The occasion, in part, was the release of Gaga’s new album “ARTPOP.”
But it was more than a stunt, said Calderon, a former commercial pilot and who founded Isis Copter, a remote-controlled aerial photography company.
The Associated Press reported from the event that Gaga wanted to make today about something even more important to her, and that something is the youth of the world.
“She wants it (the Volantis) to be a message about inspiring the youth,” Calderon said. “She wants to convey to the public that they should not feel that they’re blocked by ivory towers or corporate walls, that there are ways to get your ideas out there and she supports that.”
Having been passionate about flying since he was a kid, Calderon has been building and flying remote-piloted vehicles for more than 35 years, but never anything this large, he said. “It handles, obviously, in a different manner, but it is actually quite stable because of its size; it’s a remarkable machine.”
While details of the machine are still being held under lock and key, it was described at the event as a “flying dress.” The Volantis has a platform, which Gaga stood on, and a white fiberglass bodice of a female figure that she stood behind. Batteries powered six rotors to create the craft’s lift.
Calderon had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and couldn’t talk about any of it with friends or family until the day of the event.
That was all the way back in July, when he was contacted by a friend of his, Mike Henning about getting involved.
Still he wouldn’t talk a whole lot more on the project, citing that work on the Volantis is still going on. He could only describe the Volantis as a very “unusual” machine because of its weight. “And it weighs a lot,” he said.
With a week’s worth of flight training, practicing and training for the event, he still had plenty of reservations about actually flying the machine during the event.
Flying in those conditions, even though it was indoors, it was cold, and that was affecting the batteries, he said.
But talking with Gaga before the event, he was impressed by what she had to say, adding that she was “definitely the most inspirational person I perhaps have ever met.”
You really don’t get to know people like that by looking at photos or reading quotes in the media, he said.
Besides the flight, Calderon said he and the 27-year-old singer talked about the challenges she’s overcome and about some of the risks she’s taken.
“We went ahead with the flight,” he said. “And she was just so determined and focused. I was really, really impressed by meeting her. It was just an incredible experience.”
Calderon said he came away from all of this, “inspired.”
“I think one of the takeaways is that she could have gone to some major corporation,” he said. “But she wanted to show that somewhat regular people can pull together when they’re challenged with something like this that may seem impossible. And they could actually do that.
“A lot of people said, ‘Oh, it’s impossible,’ ‘It’s crazy, it’s not going to happen,’ and so she proved she was right. That if you really put your mind to something you can accomplish incredible things,” he added.
He knows a little something about that as well. Earlier this year, Calderon and his wife filmed a documentary about unmanned aerial vehicles.
While controversy surrounds how they’re used militarily, he noted the good ways in which they could be used, too.
The film, “Civilian Drones — Search and Rescue,” can be seen for free on civiliandronesmovie.com.