Grünheide near Berlin is a picturesque place in the German state of Brandenburg — the very place where Elon Musk is building Tesla’s fourth Gigafactory for the production of electric cars and batteries.
It’s also where 13-year-old Silas Heineken lives with his family. He can rightly be described as one of the staunchest supporters of the first Gigafactory in Europe. It’ll eventually produce up to half a million electric vehicles each year, ratcheting up the pressure on Germany’s own carmakers.
Silas’ admiration for Elon Musk’s future-oriented projects and his love for technological developments in general have turned him into arguably the best-known non-professional video chronographer of the Gigafactory project on the ground.
Drone battle with security
Using his drone, he’s been providing valuable aerial shots of what’s going on in Grünheide, making his footage available for free to the large internet community of Tesla fans all over the world.
But the other day, while setting up his drone for yet another round of shots, he was stopped in his tracks by security staff, telling him he was violating the law and threatening to file a charge against him.
“The security people also called the police,” Silas told DW, “and when the officers arrived, they were actually a lot friendlier to me, saying it was no big deal and suggesting the security people should drop their plan to file a charge all the more so since I’m a minor, but to no avail.”
Silas said he hadn’t been aware of any wrongdoing. The Grünheide Gigafactory compound had not been declared a no-fly zone for drones, nor had he violated any regulations to protect regular air traffic.
“I didn’t know what to make of it,” Silas’ father and passionate Tesla car driver Peer Heineken told DW. “It was a strange situation, and when I came to the scene by chance, I just watched how my son was handling it all, and he didn’t seem to require any external help.”
Wasting no time
Instead of being intimidated by security, Silas went home and on the same day made a video explaining to his followers what had happened to him and why there wouldn’t be any fresh drone shots from him until further notice.
“I also launched an appeal to supporters on Twitter with a link to my video,” Silas explained. “But really big traffic kicked in when the folks behind another Tesla-supportive YouTube channel, Third Row Tesla and TTN [Tesla Time News], took up my story, linking to my own stuff and asking Elon Musk to grant me permission to keep flying my drone in Grünheide.”
The effort didn’t go unheard, and Musk himself retweeted “Fine by me.”
Silas was over the moon, understandably. Silas and Peer made a copy of Musk’s response, collected some other relevant material and took it to the security people. The latter were already in the picture, appeared a lot friendlier than during their first encounter with Silas and even congratulated him on what he had achieved with his perseverance.
Things taking a turn
A deal was struck with security, meaning that Silas can keep flying his drone, but before every new round of shots, he’ll briefly tell the guards on the ground about his activities.
“I’m proud of my son,” says Peer. “It’s like seeing him reap the fruits of his long-term penchant for technological developments, the internet, drones and video editing — here it all came together, and I’m certainly glad that educational efforts in our family are paying off. I’m happy that Silas is focused on something meaningful and doesn’t just squander away his time.”
Peer and Silas Heineken at home in Grünheide, Germany, in front of the family’s Tesla Model 3
Right from the start, Peer and Silas have followed the lively debates among local residents on whether the Gigafactory will be a good thing for the region or not. Despite some reservations about the logging of trees for the factory and its expected high water consumption, their initial support for the project has never waned.
“All things considered, I do think that Musk is taking the future to Grünheide. With his companies and various projects he’s one of the brightest innovators of our time,” says Peer. “We’re getting one of the most technologically advanced factories in the world, and that’s a really gripping development.”
“I’ve been all for the Gigafactory from the get-go, and that’s still the case,” Silas remarks. “Going forward, I can see myself applying for an apprenticeship in the factory,” he adds. “I don’t know yet which profession I want to take up when I’m an adult, but I wouldn’t rule out working in the Gigafactory, who knows.”
Either way, there’s every reason to believe that the worldwide Tesla fan community, and maybe Elon Musk himself, will hear and see a lot more from Silas in the years ahead.