Sky is limit for drones, enthusiasts say

DOVER — Drones are the next big thing, a rapidly growing market that’s soon to create myriad new opportunities and businesses.

That’s according to a group of enthusiasts and experts who came together Monday to discuss the potential unmanned aerial systems have for the global economy.

Drone pilot Jordan Bates holds a drone. Co-workers Mark (left) and Kyle Ryan stand behind him. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

Drone pilot Jordan Bates holds a drone. Co-workers Mark (left) and Kyle Ryan stand behind him. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

“We believe drones offer our state a unique opportunity to become a leader in this emerging industry. UAS are being used across the country and throughout the world in very innovative ways,” Delaware Technical Community College President Mark Brainard said.

“In agriculture, farmers are using this technology to assess crop yield and to look for more efficient ways to apply pesticides and irrigation technology. In infrastructure, companies are using this technology to inspect utility lines, rail lines, bridges, etc., and obviously first responders are using this type of technology to deliver medicines, supplies and assistance in remote areas where they don’t have access to someone in trouble. It seems as if every single day we’re learning about new applications for this technology.”

DelTech hosted three forums Monday, one in each county, detailing the uses of drones. Roughly 75 people attended the mid-day event in Dover, where several men who work with drones explained what they see as limitless possibilities.

The drone used by the Ryans in July to make the first delivery of medical supplies. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

The drone used by the Ryans in July to make the first delivery of medical supplies. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

Though some people think of remotely operated battlefield aircraft when they hear the word drone, the term covers a much broader spectrum. Not only is flying drones a rapidly growing hobby, many businesses utilize the vehicles as well.

Main speaker Mark Ryan runs a company, Ryan Media Lab, that uses drones to capture images and video, and Mr. Ryan is among those who believes drones can help transform the world.

“There’s undeniably positive things that can be accomplished with drones,” he said.

The presentation included several brief demonstrations with Ryan Media Lab’s ATOM4000 drone, showing how to control a small aerial vehicle.

The Federal Aviation Administration restricts how and where drones can be piloted, and Delaware also imposes some guidelines. Information on the Department of Transportation’s website states that drones must be registered with the FAA, flown below 400 feet and kept out of state parks.

DelDOT hosts a task force that works to ameliorate drone-related issues. The group is scheduled to meet next on Thursday.

A drone in action in front of a video screen Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

A drone in action in front of a video screen Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

Mr. Ryan said he is working with the FAA to gain some additional clearances and show drones can be flown safely in public places.

Shyam Chidamber, a businessman who works with drones, spoke with excitement about how “flying robots,” as he referred to them, can shape the future.

Unmanned aerial systems make it easier to film scenes for movies, help utilities examine large-scale machinery and structures and can be used to transport goods.

“I don’t see why we cannot have a drone in every garage,” he said, noting more than 1 million drones were given as Christmas gifts this year.

Drones could have an impact on the world similar to the Internet, creating new businesses and making existing ones more profitable, Dr. Chidamber said.

DelTech is hosting a four-hour lesson on drones next month, and the college also offers a camp for children.

One of the people in attendance Monday was Jon Taliaferro, of Dover. Mr. Taliaferro operates a business that uses drones to conduct inspections and create 3-D images for power companies. A self-taught pilot, he said he began flying radio-controlled aircraft as a kid and recently moved on to drones, starting his own company in June.

“The wave of the future,” he said.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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