Steven Cohen was a professional photographer five years ago – but that was before he started to fly drones. Five years later, Cohen is a passionate drone advocate and enthusiast who now teaches the next generation about drone tech at a renowned technical high school.
Somewhere along the way, he became President of the Drone User Group Network (DUGN), founded by Timothy Reuter in 2012.
While you may not have heard of it, the DUGN boasts nearly 20,000 members globally, and is one of the world’s largest networks of drone users. Cohen says the group has grown “from the bottom up,” starting as an association of community chapters that “seek to promote the responsible use of flying robots for the benefit of humanity.” But as the drone industry grows, the organization has stepped up to serve the community: and the national chapter will now offer a range of support services for drone pilots.
The expansion of the DUGN comes as many recreational flyers feel left out of the Part 107 regulatory structure, which says that pilots should fly under some community standards, but doesn’t offer many options outside of the AMA. While the AMA has made significant efforts on the national level to accommodate drone pilots, “it’s on a club by club basis,” explains Cohen, which means that in some areas drone pilots don’t feel welcome.
The DUGN encourages the “safe and competent use of drones,” and stresses the importance of responsible and legal flight. They’ve published a Safety Code with recreational drone operators in mind, and the modest membership fee ($10 through July) will provide access to primary liability and hull insurance for members operating in adherence to the code; they will also offer a package of legal services for drone law questions and regional and local sites for drone operators to learn and to fly.
While the club is focused on services to drone flyers, it’s also concerned with advocating for the community. “We’re forging alliances with other industry players to bring a higher level of awareness about the positive uses of drone technology,” says Cohen.
“Our membership enrollment has been good – and we’d like to see that continue and grow,” says Cohen. Drone User Group membership grew exponentially in the last year – and Cohen and other club leaders hope that the trend will continue, giving the club – and the hobby – momentum.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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