California Capital Drone Swarm recap (with FPV drone video)

A swarm of activity around drones in Sacramento was the intent of an event held last week evening at McClellan Park, and that is what happened.  A standing-room only crowd of more than one hundred people from many segments of the community assembled for an evening of information, inspiration, and demonstration of drone technologies.

A packed room listening to one of the experts talk about drones at the California Capital Region Drone Swarm

A packed room listening to one of the experts talk about drones at the California Capital Region Drone Swarm

The October 12th “Drone Swarm” event was hosted by the Drone Pilots Federation. DPF is an international non-profit organization with members in over 30 countries and is based in Sacramento, California.  The event featured networking with other drone enthusiasts and professionals in the local community, hearing from experts on a comprehensive range of drone topics, and watching an indoor drone race.

“I had to drag my girlfriend out of the house to come to this, but now she is really fascinated by everything she saw here and I’m so glad I came,” said one attendee who has recently started flying his own drone.

Bruce Parks, President of Drone Pilots Federation, led the presentations with an overview of drone technology applications and possibilities.  While this event focused on aerial unmanned aircraft and flying robots, Parks emphasized that drone technology is going to have an increasing role in ground vehicles, watercraft, and space exploration.  His presentation gave examples of how drone technologies are providing benefits in diverse applications such as emergency services, nature conservation, anti-poaching efforts, and agriculture.

Bruce Parks, President of Drone Pilots Federation, provides an overview of the broad scopes and benefits of drone technology applications in our society. In the background are two flying wings that are designed, built, and flown by one of the other speakers at the event.

Bruce Parks, President of Drone Pilots Federation, provides an overview of the broad scopes and benefits of drone technology applications in our society. In the background are two flying wings that are designed, built, and flown by one of the other speakers at the event.

The second presenter was an official from the regional FAA office.  He received many questions from the audience about the new laws and procedures that took effect on August 29th of 2016. These are referred to as “Part 107” laws based on the new section of FAA code.  For many questions, he urged people to go to the FAA website on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), located at www.faa.gov/uas.

Other presenters were experts on the commercial drone industry, state and local politics regarding drones, drones in K-12 education, DIY drones (Do It Yourself projects), and drones for large scale industrial projects.

Another long-time authority on aerial drones who spoke was Patrick Egan, Americas Desk Editor of sUAS News (small Unmanned Autonomous Systems) and Executive Producer of the corresponding sUAS News podcast. Egan sought to “talk people down from the clouds” if they were thinking about starting their own drone service business.

You “need other skills sets [besides flying a drone] to round out the business plan,” said Egan.  “In many instances, B2B [with drones] misses the mark because many drone people are not experts in agriculture, map-making, and many of the other potential professional applications.” 

Connecting drone enthusiasts and operators with experts and decision-makers already working these commercial industries was one goal of the Drone Swarm. Based on the energetic discussions and positive feedback from people across many backgrounds, the event was a great success.

Thomas Bartlett, owner of Image In Flight, explains how he used drones to capture aerial images of the Golden 1 Center during its construction and how he worked with Nokia to inspect their cell phone towers.

Thomas Bartlett, owner of Image In Flight, explains how he used drones to capture aerial images of the Golden 1 Center during its construction and how he worked with Nokia to inspect their cell phone towers.

While some time was provided for questions and discussions during the presentations, they concluded by 7:30pm.  The room immediately burst into a loud frenzy of conversations as people talked about what they had heard and approached the speakers for more discussions.  In the meantime, one corner of the room was about to become the featured space for an interactive drone flight demonstration.

As many attendees talked with each other, owners from nine companies based in the region who provide drone products or services talked with people at exhibit tables.  There was unanimous surprise that the regional drone industry could have such a comprehensive and vibrant presence.

One of those small business owners was Dwight Adamson of Fast Track Hobbies, located in Rocklin, CA.  This large hobby store currently hosts an indoor drone race every other Monday evening.  The drones are flown either with the naked eye (referred to as Line Of Sight or LOS), or with goggles that use a forward-facing camera on the drone and transit this video in real time to the pilot. 

This FPV technology and flying (First Person Viewer) is advancing so fast that micro-sized quadrotor drones that fit in the palm of your hand are now available at prices starting under $200.

Screenshot of a video, showing the drone racing course obstacles and a table with products from a local hobby store that sells the drones and hosts a regular drone racing event.

Screenshot of a video, showing the drone racing course obstacles and a table with products from a local hobby store that sells the drones and hosts a regular drone racing event.

These small drones (called "Tiny Whoops") were the vehicles used to provide an up-close demonstration of their capabilities.  While drone pilots flew their aircraft around an obstacle course with LED lighting, video of their camera feed was patched into the large screen at the front of the room.

Phones and cameras were in wide use as people captured the excitement to enjoy and show others later or share on social media.  On the projection screen is a live video feed coming from one of the drones on the make-shift race course located in the same room.

Phones and cameras were in wide use as people captured the excitement to enjoy and show others later or share on social media.  On the projection screen is a live video feed coming from one of the drones on the make-shift race course located in the same room.

If you missed the event in person, one of the FPV pilots has a big treat for you.  Chris Budd recorded the video feed of his flights at the Drone Swarm. He edited the footage and produced this 2-minute video on YouTube.  Enjoy the Whoopin’ at the California Capital Drone Swarm!

One woman summed up the reaction of many people when she said,

“This was so exciting to meet other people who are doing amazing things with drones and see everything that is happening. Thanks for putting on this fun event.”

Due to the positive turnout and response from this event, another one is planned in the future.  According to Brett Hoffstadt, Vice President of Drone Pilots Federation,

“We are thrilled and humbled with the results from this event. I encourage people to take the information and connections they gained here; become a safe and positive role model for your efforts with drones, whatever they may be.  Be sure to connect with us at Drone Pilots Federation if you want to learn about our next event in the Sacramento region.”

Membership in DPF is currently free and available by going to their website, www.dronepilotsfederation.org.  They also have a presence on social media with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. 

“Some of our members have already contacted us with interest to hold a similar event in their city,” Hoffstadt said. “We love this idea and have a few discussions underway.  I encourage our members to let us know if they want to pick themselves to lead an event near them.”