With the popularity of drones soaring experts and enthusiasts are gathering at BCIT for a first of its kind event in Western Canada.
It’s Drone Fair 2016, which will bring together pilots, experts, industry, regulators – and for the first time, the general public.
The all-day event will feature 20 vendors, along with speakers on topics ranging from aerial safety, to mapping, to the thorny issue of privacy.
With the growing presence of drones in the sky — and the corresponding bump in unsafe operation, organizer Steve Watts says education and safety will be a key focus of the event.
He says Transport Canada will be making a presentation on their “know before you fly” campaign, and key regulations like the nine kilometer no-fly zone around airports.
“We want the people to know that the only way for this industry to grow effectively and as big as it possibly can and help so many people with the positive applications is to fly safely, be aware that there is rules and responsibilities.”
Watts says that means knowing the rules of the sky, but also learning to treat drones as serious aircraft.
“You need to be able to maintain that aircraft, you need to be able to know that your batteries aren’t charged. You need to be able to tell if your props aren’t on correctly. So not only about knowing about where you can fly and where you can’t fly, but also how to fix something or make sure that your aircraft is safe.”
“Even now, some of the vendors we have at our fair, they’re local, small companies but they’re growing massively because of the need and the want from this sector. It’s quite amazing.”
He says with the foothold the local industry now has, B.C. is well positioned to succeed as new applications pop up from construction, to search and rescue.
“There will be a lot of new startup drone companies, everything from surveying to security to film and television will just grow huge because of the business here now.”
READ MORE: The future of drones in B.C.
And that boom could see a further boost in the future.
Watts says BCIT is starting its own drone program which will look at both the technical side and uses for the aircraft, which could help supercharge the industry.
“It’s huge. It’s going to produce many many valuable employees and many jobs as well.”
Fun and games
But while safety and industry will be big elements of the event – Watts says part of what makes this event different is how it will interact with the public.
That means fun. Visitors will have a chance to handle and fly a drone, and there will be several demonstrations.
That includes a competition by students form UBC, SFU and BCIT who will build aircraft from 3D printed parts… and a high octane First Person View drone race.
“There’s a camera on your little racer drone and the pilot wears goggles. And so you’re basically piloting from the first person point of view of the drone. First time you put the goggles on it’s vertigo. But after that, it feels like you’re flying.”