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Droneport seeks flyers; Aerodrome seeks to expand UAV use through training, education

Tate McCurdy and Mark Belizario arrive at Aerodrome’s port for unmanned aerial vehicles in Eldorado Valley ready to film. The two men work for Verascan, which specializes in filming and geological surveying through the use of drones.

This day, McCurdy and Belizario are making a video using their drone to advertise Aerodrome’s flying space to recreational and commercial flyers. They take out their drone, a white DJI Inspire with a built-in high-tech camera.

The drone takes off, its propellers swirling, unbothered by the gusty winds. The drone soars through the port, its camera documenting the flight.

“Fly through those obstacles,” McCurdy says to Belizario, referring to the obstacle course set up every Saturday for hobbyists to race their drones. “Then get a good shot of those mountains.”

The drone continues to whirl around the 50-acre plot of land in Eldorado Valley. Belizario smiles. “This place is perfect,” he says, his eyes focused on the little screen attached to the drone’s controller. “A lot of places in Nevada have restricted air spaces, but here you have all this free space to fly.”

Aerodrome is currently working on a permanent lease with the city so it can construct a full facility complete with an UAV airport and fully equipped commercial and recreational training facilities.

“We want our facility to teach people a real skill set,” said John Daniels, Praxis Aerospace Concepts president and Boulder City resident. “This is a place where drone operators can train their employees and hobbyists can learn how to fly and fix their aircrafts.”

Currently, Aerodrome uses a small patch of its land to train for commercial drone use and give hobbyists a place to fly and learn the ins and outs of proper piloting.

“This is a safe place for hobbyists to learn how to properly fly,” Aerodrome Education Coordinator Joanne Leming said. “People need to understand that you don’t just go out and fly drones without the proper training. There are laws and safety hazards. Here, people can practice all they want and there is nothing to harm.”

Recreational flyers also can expect the company to expand its obstacle course for longer and more complex drone races.

The port is also looking to expand training opportunities for businesses using drones. Aerodrome plans to put up a mock cell tower that can be used by companies to find deficiencies that would mirror real-life repair issues.

“We want commercial companies to get a really authentic training experience,” said Dave Meeker, droneport manager. “A company like AT&T could use our cell tower and practice spotting and making repairs using drones.”

The droneport is in the early stages of development and the company’s main goal is to simply get people to show up, which is why Verscan filmed a video using its drone.

“Drones are a booming industry,” McCurdy said. “We want to keep the industry growing and we do that by supporting places like this port.”

Meeker said that the best thing Aerodrome can do is embrace all manner of drone flyers from the casual hobbyist to the most high-tech companies.

“We need to embrace hobbyists as well as businesses,” Meeker said. “Helping every manner of drone use is beneficial to us because the community is going to use this port and help it expand.”

Aerodrome applied to the Federal Aviation Administration to turn the plot of land into an official airport. The company expects to receive a response in the next three months.

Longtime hobbyists or newcomers to drone flying can come to the port every Saturday, weather permitting, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for drone races and public flying.

Visit www.flyaerodrome.com for additional information.

Contact reporter Max Lancaster@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow him on Twitter @MLancasterBCR.

Look, up in the sky…

Ron Eland/Boulder City Review

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