Some people fly kites in the summer sky, but last Tuesday, a dozen guys gathered to fly objects that don’t need strings: drones.
The Northern New England Drone Users Group — which started last winter — gathers every week or two to promote the safe and smart use of drone technology. The group most recently hosted a “Fly In,” an opportunity for enthusiasts to fly their drones together. A variety of men of all ages with an assortment of drones showed up to a field near the Ethan Allen Homestead to fly.
These battery-operated drones can differ in size, from a couple inches to a couple feet; most are around a foot wide. Some attendees built their drones from a kit or from scratch, while others purchased an already made drone. Many of the drones had been customized to include camera mounts and other features — sometimes made using a 3D printer. “[One of our members] has a 3D printer so he has done some unique stuff for those parts that might be hard to find, or to customize something,” says Jon Budreski, a leader of the user group.
The best part about flying drones? “For some it’s building, some it’s flying, but for me I think it’s fitting a map together to get a mosaic and seeing that information that previously was not available,” Budreski says. A couple attendees even had goggles that allowed them to see their drone’s camera in real time and navigate from the perspective of the drone.
The event was held within five miles of the Burlington International Airport, so the group informed the airport of their activity, though all attendees flew well below any aircraft, at about 100 feet. “The drastic increase in inexpensive drones and the ease of flying them has become a valid concern for the FAA,” says Adam Newhard, another leader of the drone user group. “The Northern New England Drone User Group would like to get out in front of the issue to promote and educate around safe flying.”
Sometimes the group runs into people who are hesitant about drone technology, but members say that Vermont is pretty open-minded overall. “When you’re doing a map, you’re looking straight down so you can’t really see who the person is, so you’re just taking a bunch of images. People aren’t really spooked,” Budreski says. “The biggest thing is safety, more than privacy.”
From this new technology, the three leaders of the drone user group — Budreski, Newhard and Ian Ray — have created the company Airshark. It was a finalist in this year’s Launch VT competition.The company aims to improve workflow solutions for energy inspections. “Because it’s newer technology and because we’re new, we’re having to do the hardware, software and data analysis to provide some level of information. But the idea is to improve the workflow and provide a new level of information to reduce costs, be a little safer than what’s out there today and get a richer information,” Budreski says.