View from the sky: UW-Whitewater students launch drone to capture city market's impact

October 02, 2015

At first, the object hovering over the park, capturing the bustling scene and colorful tents of the market below, garnered little attention. Eventually, the bright sunshine reflecting off the silver body caught peoples' eyes, and the gentle whir of its motor could be heard above. A small boy chased after it with delight.

Three University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students — Mitch Fiene, Austin Kadulski and Evan Woodbury — brought their drone to Cravath Lakefront Park in downtown Whitewater to capture aerial images of the new Whitewater City Market.

The students had answered the organizers' request to visually depict the geographic and community-building impact of the new market, first held on July 21. It has grown to include more than 45 vendors and attracts more than 1,000 market-goers every week.

The Whitewater City Market Facebook page is filled with photos of people of all ages — and dogs — enjoying the amenities, but organizers were looking for a better way to show the greater impact the market has had on the community in such a short time. A newspaper article on Fiene, a senior entrepreneurship major from Prairie du Sac, and his unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) company led the organizers to him.

Fiene started DMZ Aerial with his cousin Zachary Fiene. The company uses small drones to collect data and send it to the cloud, where clients and consultants can review it immediately. While the service has clear agricultural uses, the drones can also be used for non-business applications, such as showing the impact of an event. Fiene, a member of the social entrepreneurship student organization Enactus, was happy to come to the market to fly the drone with fellow Enactus members Kadulski and Woodbury.

"The Whitewater City Market is an amazing addition to our community," said Fiene. "We were thrilled to see how many people are enjoying this event and have been happy to share the impact. The images taken from our UAV can be used to help show how much this event has grown and share this with the community."

Whitewater City Market was designed as a venue for local producers to sell their products, including fresh produce, eggs, grass-fed beef, honey and handcrafted products like knit wool socks and signs made from barn boards. A less apparent, though no less important goal, was to provide a community gathering spot, said market co-manager Tami Brodnicki, executive director of Downtown Whitewater, the organization that manages the market.

"We received a lot of input from community members that they wanted a place to connect with each other and spend time together," said Brodnicki. "So we created a courtyard of sorts with Adirondack chairs, family-style tables for eating and checkers and other entertainment. There's even free music every week."

Whitewater City Market is held Tuesdays from 3 to 7 p.m. through Oct. 27. In 2016, the market will be held Tuesdays from May through October.


Jeff Angileri

Sara Kuhl

 Written by Kristine Zaballos