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The sky's the limit: Get in the zone at Drone Day celebration

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Free events on two days offer info, demonstrations, display of technology

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Patrick Sherman, left, one of the organizers of International Drone Day, watches a drone, while Brian Zvaigzne operates the flying machine. The two men are the founders of the Roswell Flight Test Crew, a website devoted to building and flying drones.Expect the unexpected at Oregon City's Clackamette Park on Saturday, May 6, Day Two of Portland's International Drone Day.

Starting at 11 a.m., drones will take to the sky, and drone aficionados will be on the ground to answer questions and give advice, but once night falls, something special will take place.

"We're going to have a 40-drone aerial lightshow, similar to what was at the Super Bowl. A lot of people are not expecting this quality of an event," says Curtis Dart, one of the organizers of the local IDD.

"There is a lot of mystery, a lot of fear of the unknown about drones, and IDD is the one day around the world we can show that drones are good," he adds.

Two days of drones

The two-day free event begins with a series of presentations from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 5, at Cascadia Restaurant and Bar, 9000 S.W. Washington Square Road in Tigard. But the real hands-on action takes place at 11 a.m. to dusk Saturday, May 6, at Clackamette Park, 1955 Clackamette Drive, in Oregon City.

"It has nice open spaces, beautiful scenery and is a safe place to do this," Dart says, adding that the park is the ideal place to fly drones because it is situated right on the Willamette River, and drones will not be flying over busy city streets.

"The highlight of Friday's event is the opportunity to teach new drone pilots what they should and shouldn't do," Dart says.

Additionally, speakers will showcase how drone technology is being used for search and rescue, among other things.

"In Washington, we had a rock climber fall 20 feet and break his ankle. He was lodged under some rocks and rescuers didn't know exactly where he was. They used a drone to find him, and they were able to get him back to safety," Dart says.

Saturday's event at Clackamette Park features plenty of expert drone users to answer questions and introduce people to the technology.

Dart, who has been flying drones for about eight years, notes that this marks the third year that IDD has been celebrated in Portland.

COURTESY PHOTO - Many enthusiasts will be happy to celebrate International Drone Day in local events in Tigard on May 5 and Clackamette Park on May 6.'Democratizing the air'

Beaverton resident Patrick Sherman, another organizer and a speaker at Friday's event, says the purpose of IDD is twofold.

"First, to give the public at large the opportunity to see drones up close and understand their beneficial applications," he says.

"Second, here in Portland, we're hoping to reach new drone owners and educate them about how they can fly safely and legally and be good citizens in the drone community."

Sherman has been flying drones since 2010 and enjoys "introducing people to this technology and helping them understand its potential — which makes International Drone Day one of my favorite events in the whole year."

He has flown drones all over the world and has met a lot of people who were afraid that drones would be used to spy on them.

"However, once they see the technology close up and get the chance to ask a few questions, that apprehension evaporates. It's incumbent on each of us to use this technology in a safe, responsible and nonintrusive manner," he says.

Also, he notes, "drones are democratizing the air. It used to be that only people who could afford to become private pilots and rent or buy an airplane could enjoy guiding themselves through the aerial environment. With drones, that's an experience which is open to many, many more people; this is the beginning of a new era in aviation."

'New perspective'

T. Kenji Sugahara, another organizer and speaker on Friday, notes that the IDD events are "open to anyone who is interested in flying drones, interested in flying drones commercially or even just curious.

"People will have a chance to talk with hobbyists, aerial cinematographers, professional drone pilots and many other experts in the industry."

Sugahara, a Salem resident, says he started flying drones five years ago as a new way to take videos of bike races.

"I enjoy flying, as it allows me to show the world a new perspective on the everyday and the amazing. I love taking pictures and video," he says.

"I am also a geek who not only loves being on the cutting edge but loves to tinker with things. I've put together and repaired my own drones. I am consistently amazed at how far the technology has come in these five years."

'Something magical'

Everyone who attends the event will takes something away from it, Sherman says.

"We hope that members of the general public will get a chance to see drones first-hand and ask questions about them, so they can get a better understanding of the technology and how it can be used to benefit society.

"People love to watch drones fly, and there will be plenty of drones flying. There is something magical about watching a drone climb up into the sky and then watching the video it sends back. It's an experience that people never forget," Sherman says.

"We also hope that people who have purchased a drone or who are interested in purchasing a drone will come out to the event, as well. If you have questions about drones, you're going to be hard-pressed to find a better place to ask them."

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/internationaldronedayoregon.