On a cloudless 75-degree day in Sewickley’s Blueberry Hill Park, as parents divided attention between peewee lacrosse and toddlers racing on grassy mounds around the field, eyes in the sky were capturing it all.
Conversely, the moment that the Pittsburgh Drone Masters meetup group sent the first of three DJI Phantom Quadcopters — 21st-century remote control aircraft decked out with high-definition cameras and GPS capability — 60-feet vertical, all eyes on the ground darted from the sky to the men behind the controls.
With laws and opinions surrounding use of unmanned aerial systems — commonly known as drones — in a state of flux, the moment in the spotlight was more glare than glow for drone master Tom Reinsel.
The Pittsburgh Drone Masters, a crew of around 40 unmanned aerial vehicle enthusiasts, are out to prove that privacy and safety concerns about drones are small prices to pay for what the technology can bring the nation.
“I never fly in front of people,” said Mr. Reinsel, a serial entrepreneur and Sewickley resident who said he usually flies on a Blueberry Hill Park hill with a little less foot traffic.
Taking the opposite approach, the group’s founder, Micah Rosa of the South Side, said the attention offered a chance to demystify the technology for a population that will have to adjust to a future with drones sharing the skies.
With Hong Kong-based DJI’s models retailing online anywhere from $600 for a basic model to $1,500 for a model equipped with a GoPro camera, many Pittsburghers have probably already come across a drone, including one that flew over PNC Park during a Pirates game late last month. The operator landed after a warning from Pittsburgh police, but the Federal Aviation Administration pursued an investigation of the incident regardless.
Whether it’s online or in person, Mr. Rosa has taken on the duty of telling the public that drones are the evolution of the model plane — not a device made to remotely peek into bedroom windows or to launch missiles at unsuspecting citizens.
“I’m big on education, so I try to be found in search results so that I can bring [drones] out in a good light,” Mr. Rosa said.
Between amateur enthusiasts, tech-savvy police departments and a White House order to explore commercial use by 2015, drones are simultaneously coming and already here for the American public.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com