There will be a literal buzz surrounding Thursday, July 11, the date of the second annual Big Drone Event, a production of the Carroll Technology Council in conjunction with Carroll Community College.
“It is open to the public and to members and it is an opportunity to receive education and hands-on experience about drones, what they are doing and the industry,” said Kati Townsley, executive director of the tech council.
The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Carroll Indoor Sports Center, and will be $10 for tech council members and $15 for the general public, and tickets are available online at www.carrolltechcouncil.org. Children ages 8 and older may attend with supervision.
“It would be nice if they would register on our website, but if they don’t I’m not going to turn people away at the door,” Townsley said.
Advanced registration will help her with a head count, as the first part of the evening will be a food and networking event.
“Then around 6 p.m., 6:15 p.m. we will be having our educational presentation, that is being done by Chet Andes of Carroll Community College,” Townsley said. “He oversees the drone program.”
Andes is the program manager for the college’s commercial drone pilot certification course, and will be presenting on the state of the industry.
“I will hopefully have some past students and instructors there and other people there helping to give some demos, hopefully some hands on flight for the participants,” Andes said. “Then we are working on an exciting raffle with one of our drones. There will be a little bit of competition too, where they will have to complete a challenge.”
There will be Parrot Mambo drones that attendees can try flying, according to Andes, and there will also be the much larger DJI Mavic models on hand, though he said they might be reserved for demonstrations.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office will also be on hand to demonstrate the use of some of that agency’s larger drones in the law enforcement sphere, according to Townsley.
The first Big Drone Event launched in 2018 as a collaboration between the tech council and the college after the college launched its drone program, which itself was initially just a response to the FAA’s requirement that commercial drone pilots sit for an exam to receive a remote pilot certification, according to Andes.
“When we first got started we just had a ground school, a flight school and exam prep,” he said. “The whole idea was just help people prepare for that FAA remote pilot certification.”
The first Big Drone Event then was a good opportunity to connect with the community about the new program at the college, and it fit in with the tech council’s mission of helping businesses and the community with technology needs, according to Townsely.
“It was really interesting because we had everybody from smaller children who were there flying for the first time, all the way up to some older folks who were there and just excited to see the technology,” she said.
But the college program has continued to evolve since it first began offering the non-credit certification last August, and Andes said the program now offers a workforce training certificate.
“Think of it as kind of a mini-degree. So we now added classes such as advanced flight school, aerial photo and video editing, foundations of aerial data,” he said. “A drone is really a flying camera and computer, it’s able to capture a lot of data. There’s the still pictures and video, but there is also all that Metadata; latitude, longitude and elevation, and from that we are then able to make maps, models of locations.”
Adding such skills to the college’s program will help students rise to the top in the growing drone industry, according to Andes, noting that the FAA is now estimating there will be demand for around 350,000 remote drone pilots in five years time, about three times as many as are currently flying.
Despite that projected growth, competition for well-paying gigs could be stiff. As reported by the LA Times, at least one drone photographer noted in 2018 that he was getting $175 for a job that would have garnered $2,000 in 2015.
But Andes notes that the industry has diversified beyond photography and is now looking for pilots with broader skills and in different industries, where the additional skills taught at the college can be applied.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of infrastructure, like asset inspection, cell towers,” he said. “Real estate is still really, really big, construction is another one that we are seeing growth in. And then for us, agriculture is where we are really trying to showcase how drones can be used, especially here in Carroll County.”
And in another evolution for the college, beginning in the fall, students will be able to take Drone Technology 1 and Drone Technology 2 as for credit courses, according to Andes.
And in the meantime, those interested in seeing what drones are all about can get their hands on hands-on experimentation on July 11, according to Townsley.