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Drone for the holidays?

It makes a delightful Christmas gift; one that takes you back to your childhood, but maybe you don’t quite know how to handle it. If you received a puppy, they can’t help you, but if you received a drone, then Patrick Sherman and Brian Zvaigzne are on it.

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY: PATRICK SHERMAN - Patrick Sherman and Brian Zvaigzne of the Portland-based Roswell Flight Test Crew are organizing Drone for the Holidays to teach new pilots who receive drones as holiday gifts how to fly safely and responsibly.Sherman, an administrative analyst for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, and Zvaigzne, a small-business owner who lives in Tigard, have organized Drone for the Holidays, a free workshop from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 3 at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus.

New pilots of all ages are welcome to attend. However, children under age 18 need to be accompanied by a responsible adult.

“Our goal is to teach people who receive drones as holiday gifts how to fly them safely and responsibly. We’re holding this event because drones are the hot gift this year, meaning that a huge number of aircraft are going to find their way into the hands of people who have never, ever flown before,” Sherman said.

“We want to make sure that people learn how to use them in a safe, controlled environment — both so they don’t damage their new drones trying to teach themselves how to fly, and also so they learn to use them responsibly, so that they aren’t a danger, or a nuisance, to other people,” he said.

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY: BRIAN ZVAIGZNE - Drones are one of the hottest gifts for the holidays this year, according to Duane Hesketh, owner of Tammies Hobbies in Beaverton. To keep up with the brisk demand, he stocked his shelves with multirotor aircraft of all sizes and capabilities.Sherman also noted that this workshop is part of a nationwide series of workshops, all happening the same day, because national analysts predict that 250,000 potential pilots will be taking to the skies after Christmas.

Why drones?

“Drones have exploded in popularity over the past few years because they make it possible for anyone to experience the joy of flight. You can put on a pair of video goggles or watch a TV screen and see what the aircraft is seeing in real time, allowing you to know what it feels like to be a bird, soaring over the landscape,” Sherman said.

Also, he adds, “the increasingly sophisticated flight-control systems that have been developed are making them easier and easier to fly.”

However, “People should get some experience with a computer simulator or a docile, palm-sized aircraft before they try flying a larger, more expensive model, both because of its potential to hurt someone or cause property damage, and also to avoid damaging an expensive aircraft owing to pilot inexperience. That is exactly what this event is designed to do,” Sherman said.

He added, “The widespread adoption of this technology has generated some controversy, including reports of these aircraft flying near full-size airports and endangering manned aircraft. These are extremely serious issues, and everyone who is passionate about this technology understands that this is an unacceptable state of affairs. That’s one of the main reasons we put this event together — to help these new pilots understand where they should, and should not, be flying.”

Workshop

The specific audience that Sherman and his instructors want to reach are the people who received drones, also called quadcopters and multirotors, for Christmas. This can be anyone from a child who got a $50 drone at a mall kiosk, to a real estate agent who got an expensive drone designed to take aerial photos of their listings.

The workshop will be led by a group of very experienced radio-control pilots from all over the Portland metropolitan area, all of whom have had formal experience teaching new people how to use this technology, Sherman said.

Sherman and Zvaigzne are the main organizers of this event, but they note that they are hobbyists only. They do have a website, Roswellflighttestcrew.com, but they do not have a drone business.

This is an important distinction, in that the two men are not paid for any of the activities they engage in, so they do not need a license from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly their radio-controlled aircraft.

Instructors Sherman and Zvaigzne have donated countless hours participating in fire department simulated rescue operations and controlled-burn exercises. They have even flown drones over the Cheat River in West Virginia, helping map the cold and hot spots in the river, which is largely inaccessible in places.

They will be joined at the workshop by Lawrence Dennis, operations manager at Clackamas-based Aerial Technology International, and Ken Gullberg, who has worked for PCC for 25 years as a technical specialist.

Dennis describes himself as a drone store owner, operator and manufacturer since 2007. His company is an unmanned aerial systems distributor and resource for the UAS industry. It provides private and commercial UAS operators with an affordable way to build, operate and maintain their aerial systems.

He says that drones have become both more popular and more accessible, because “barriers to technology have dropped, enabling anyone to manipulate a complex device. It’s rewarding to command a device of your own and see the world around from a perspective never seen. It’s like being a kid again.”

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY: JON HOUSE - Rather than buy a drone, Patrick Sherman and Brian Zvaigzne test out their own.Dennis loves engaging with people on the controversy surrounding drones and is looking forward to answering questions on Jan. 3 at the workshop.

He added, “Just keep it positive, drones themselves are good. The fears are human error.”

Gullberg first developed an interest in radio-controlled devices in 1996. When he discovered RC helicopters, “it was love at first sight.”

About five or six years ago he started a community education class in RC-model aircraft of all kinds at PCC.

“The hobby has changed so much in the last couple of years. I now have been working with multirotor and camera platforms,” Gullberg said, noting that he considers himself a pure hobbyist, and is volunteering at the workshop to help people and promote the “spirit” of RC-model aircraft.

Anyone who would like to learn to safely fly drones, quadcopters or small electric aircraft should attend the workshop, he said.

He added that Consumer Electronics predicts “that the flying drone industry will reach $85 million this year, with 250,000 units sold in 2014. We of the RC-community want to keep our hobby safe through proper use of these drones, which are more than just toys.”

Free flying

What: Drone for the Holidays, a free workshop providing instructions on how to fly drones

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3

Where: PCC Rock Creek Campus, Building No. 5, 17705 N.W. Springville Road, Portland

Details: Visit dronefortheholidays.org to learn more about the workshop. Visit Roswellflighttestcrew.com to learn more about Patrick Sherman and Brian Zvaigzne. Aerial Technology International is located at 9053 S.E. Jannsen Road, Clackamas. Call 503-344-4397.

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