There was a time when drones were just for military operations or model aircraft enthusiasts, but no longer. Drones are more and more being used for business, even small business.
Locally, Quantum Internet and Telephone, of Westminster, is using drones to survey land for cell towers, while Hampstead’s Up Above Media and Westminster’s Kohn Creative offer aerial photo services, according to Kati Townsley, executive director of the Carroll Technology Council.
And drones themselves are big business: A Goldman Sachs analysis projects drones will become a $100 billion industry by 2020.
“This is going to be a huge, huge, deal in the next few years,” Townsley said.
And so the tech council is offering a big, introductory drone event right now, on the evening of Thursday, July 12, to be exact. The Big Drone event will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Carroll Indoor Sports Center in Westminster. It will feature presentations on drones and the FAA regulations surrounding them, a cocktail networking opportunity, and some hands on drone-flying opportunities.
Tickets are $10 for members of the tech council, and $20 for nonmembers, available online at carrolltechcouncil.org.
“It’s to give the public the opportunity to come out, learn about drones, to debunk some of the myths of what exactly drones are, what the regulations are, how they have to be FAA regulated,” Townsley said. “We have rented the Carroll indoor sports center, so it’s a rain or shine type of thing and it will be in the air conditioning.”
A caged area will be made available for those that wish to try their hands at various models of drones, under the supervision of an FAA licensed drone pilot.
“They can bring their own drone, if they have one, or they can use one of the drones we have on site,” Townsley said. “My understanding is we will probably have close to 10 drones there, everything from beginning level, all the way up to the racing drones.”
One of the speakers at the event will be Chet Andes, program manager for the upcoming Carroll Community College noncredit drone pilot certification course, which will be offered beginning in late August.
“I will talk about some different industries that people might think of; real estate and [agriculture], construction, inspection and conservation,” Andes said.
He will also talk about the FAA regulations that were the impetus for the college creating its drone course — an August 2016 requirement that people operating a drone in U.S. airspace had to sit for an aeronautical knowledge exam.
“If you pass that exam you earn your remote pilot certification,” Andes said. “You also have to register your drone with the FAA, within certain limits.”
Andes believes those certification requirements will drive a market for certified, licensed drone pilots in industry, the type of pilot the college program will produce and which the Big Drone Event is a chance to learn more about.
“We only have 73,000 certified pilots right now in the nation,” he said. “They are expecting to need for more than 300,000 drone pilots over the next five years.”
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A previous version of this story misstated the cost of registering a drone with the FAA. Drones between .55 and 55 pounds are $5 to register.