Great Lakes Drone Company CEO Matt Quinn waited as long as he could as one storm after another rolled through Frederick, Maryland, before calling off the custom-choreographed show crafted in honor of AOPA’s eightieth anniversary. A few miles southwest, members who signed up for a DARTdrones workshop managed to get some mapping practice between storms.
Eight students who signed up (at a discount) for the DARTdrones mapping and modeling workshop had better luck. DARTdrones Chief Flight Instructor Colin Romberger adjusted the schedule a bit to find a flyable gap in the weather and transition from the classroom portion inside AOPA headquarters to a farm a few miles southwest where students took turns flying to capture images used to build maps and 3-D models.“This hands-on is really important,” said Michael Whitcomb, an AOPA member since the 1980s who holds remote pilot and airline transport pilot certificates, and works as an engineer at Montgomery College. “I’d like to see AOPA do more of these.”
Fellow workshop participant Robert Verret of Louisiana works in the oil and gas industry, and is looking to build a business of his own around drones.
“I’m getting a lot out of it,” Verret said on the second day of the workshop as he and fellow students made another series of flights over the farm a few miles from Frederick. He and other students came in with Part 107 certificates, but much to learn about what drones can deliver. Verret said the workshop organized by AOPA (and among many benefits offered to AOPA members with an interest in drones) was the third DARTdrones class he had taken since seeing the company featured on the television series Shark Tank.
While the workshop participants got their thumbs on control sticks and learned the fine points of data capture and analysis, back in Frederick, Quinn and his crew waited in vain for a break in the rain long enough to get the show in the air. While unable to fly, they stuck around May 11 to exhibit the drones and field questions about the technology. Quinn said AOPA will get a makeup show at some point, and set his sights on the next events on the company schedule, including the AOPA Fly-In June 21 and 22 in Livermore, California, which will now feature the debut of the commemorative drone light show, with another display to follow at the final AOPA Fly-In of the year Sept. 13 and 14 in Tullahoma, Tennessee.
Quinn’s crew was not alone displaying unmanned aircraft among the exhibitors: Civil Air Patrol Maryland Wing members had a Cessna set up with a display table under one wing, and on that table was one of the 1,300 DJI Phantom 4 drones recently acquired for wings across the country. Officers and cadets are currently training to deploy the drones for missions including bridge inspection that are more easily and efficiently accomplished using the new technology.