Drone enthusiasts hover their drones in their air at Port Gamble RC Field during a Saturday picnic hosted by the Kitsap Drones group. (Photo: Jessie Darland / Kitsap Sun)
A fleet of drones buzzed around the Port Gamble RC Field on Saturday, twisting around sharp turns, ducking under hoops and dropping little parachutes from above.
The Kitsap Drones group was formed around six years ago by Sam Rasmussen to bring together drone enthusiasts. At first, it was only about four or five members, said Robert Rawlings, one of the original members. On Saturday, the group hosted its first event since COVID-19 began, inviting members together in the sun for some food and flying.
The group has members of all ages with all different experience levels. Some of the pilots are hobbyists, while others have commercial licenses. Some purchased their drones, while others made them themselves.
Ian Pluska, a 16-year-old from Hansville, was known among the group for his super speedy drone. Pluska won a drone race in Olympia recently and will be competing at more local events. He’s hoping to qualify to compete nationally in Florida. The other members of the group are impressed with his ability to accurately navigate at such high speeds.
“Two years ago he was 14 years old flying 140 mph,” Rawlings said. “His actions, reactions, responses are incredible.”
Pluska became interested in drones after watching Youtube videos about them. He decided to build his own and has become involved in the community. Though there aren’t many his age in Kitsap with this hobby that he knows of, there are young drone enthusiasts all around the country, he said.
Ed Sisk may not have a drone as fast as Pluska’s, but he has multiple drones of his own design, many with a creative twist.
Sisk flies drones as a hobby and enjoys making comedic videos of the footage he gets. He added an eagle head on one of the drones and a knight toy that rides it. He bought Star Wars-themed toy drones and modified them with higher-tech drones so they function better. Another drone had a pirate ship on it, and one of his RC planes was made in tribute to the band Van Halen.
Some of the drones were maneuvered by pilots wearing a headset with goggles that show the view of the camera on the drone. These are called first-person view, or FPV, drones. Others are controlled without the headset.
Robert Zollna showed off his underwater drone to the group and flew around some of his others. He became interested in drones when they first started being sold commercially before there were many rules formulated about their operation.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said.
The use of drones is expanding and will continue to expand, said James Morton. He works as an FAA safety representative and educates hobbyists and employees on regulations and how to fly.
Some people aren’t thrilled about drones flying over their yards and see them as an invasion of privacy, Morton said. But the airspace above the fence line isn’t anyone’s property, he said. There are rules that have been put in place to prevent drones from flying over certain areas — like Naval Base Kitsap.
Drones can fly for miles, but FAA rules call for them to be flown within sight of the naked eye, Morton said. Different municipalities have different rules for flying in neighborhoods or public places and parks.
There are many applications for drones in our lives, Morton said. He teaches law enforcement and search and rescue teams how to use heat-mapping drones to find a suspect or victim. The drones used in these situations also have a speaker so that sirens or a recorded message can play. Instead of sending a dog or person to look for a suspect or victim, the drone can be launched high into the air and the thermal imaging will show the warmth of a body. Firefighters can use thermal drones when arriving at a burning building to locate hot spots before entering, Morton said.
It’s likely delivery-by-drone will be a reality soon, he said, and drone light shows are gaining popularity. Fishermen could use them to drop nets from above.
One of the most popular uses for drones is photography and cinematography, which is what Reid Hu, a high-schooler from Seattle, enjoys the most. He got into drones at the start of COVID-19 and now makes videos of his footage set to music on Youtube. He takes his drone to the wilderness, diving down mountains and capturing the breathtaking landscapes of Washington.
“It all comes in parts, they build the whole thing themselves, there’s a lot of soldering going on, then there’s a lot of programming going on on the computer, then there’s the actual flying,” said Hu’s mom, Jennifer Reid. “The whole process is pretty amazing because it brings together the technical skills for building, and all the critical thinking with programming, then you bring in the flying.”
Reid says she feels like drones have been a good hobby for people to get into during COVID-19. It’s a fun way to explore while we’re trapped in our various places, she said.
Read or Share this story: https://www.kitsapsun.com/story/news/2021/05/16/kitsap-drones-group-buzzes-through-port-gamble-rc-field/5118112001/