On September 23 and 24, Propwashed exhibited at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire in cooperation with the Northern New England Drone User’s Group and Vermont Drone.
A group of pilots gathered each day for open flying and a series of events. Since there’s a fairly limited amount of space available to us and safety is an absolute must when there is a large crowd nearby, a selection of our best pilots were invited to participate. This gave us an excellent group of talented individuals who put the best possible face on the hobby. Propwashed handled event coordination at the race course and managed much of the details and logistics for the group. The primary goals in exhibiting at the Maker Faire were education and community outreach.
An artful display of acrobatics never fails to get a response, so we opened each day by sending our best pilots out to show off. This was a great way to draw in a crowd right from the gate opening, as kids of all ages simply couldn’t resist coming to check it out. It was a great conversation starter.
Our group is no stranger to wing flying. We sent up a model plane with several streamers flying along behind, and then a few quads up to cut them by flying nearby. Race quads are small and can be hard to watch from a distance, but this gave spectators something very large and easy to see. We had a few collisions as pilots went for the last remaining ends of the streamers, but carefully controlling the flight paths kept everything safely contained on the field.
Our flagship event was a three heat quad race. Each of 8 pilots participated in one of two heats, with the top two finishers moving on to a final round. Our course featured gates, hairpins, and a slalom. It was extremely tight compared to our community races given the small space we had, which also kept the action intense. A big crowd loved the speed and finesse of the fastest racers—and the crashes drew just as much crowd reaction.
3rd Person Challenge
Most of our readers know that FPV flying can be an out-of-body experience. We wanted to let attendees discover the kind of control that’s necessary, but flying a drone requires many hours of practice before someone can experience it first-hand. To help demonstrate some of the coordination that’s necessary to develop, we invited audience members to don a set of goggles connected to a camera pointed at themselves and perform a simple task: stacking plastic cups into a pyramid. Most participants couldn’t complete the task in under two minutes. The event was a hit with young kids, who lined up to try it out.
Of course, there’s nothing like flying. An enclosed 20×20 tent was set aside where anyone who wanted to fly could be set up with an E010 micro quad and given a brief flight lesson. These Inductrix-like machines take a lot of abuse and are great for first-time pilots. The flight tent always has a steady stream of participants, some coming back over and over again all day long. A volunteer in the tent managed the never-ending cycle of battery charging.
Battery Safety Tests
Perhaps one of the more interesting events for long-term hobbyists were the battery container tests and demonstrations. On Saturday, we triggered battery burns by physically breaching charged packs. On Sunday, we switched methods and overcharged them until they burst, which was a much more exciting display. The idea was to show how various containers do or don’t work to contain a LiPo fire event, promoting safe handling and storage. Our results will be published in a future article; watch for that in the coming weeks.
Booth Displays and Open Pits
Our booth had lots to look at and take in! There was a wide range of drones on display: an Inductrix, some racers, Phantom, Inspire, and a hex rig powered by two 6S batteries, capable of 40 minutes of flight. Display boards covered topics like types of drones, components of a drone, uses, regulations, and privacy. Our battery safety display covered charging, handling, and storage of LiPos—accompanied by an example LiPo safe bag, ammo can, BAT-SAFE, and even a burnt LiPo in a jar to pick up and look at. At least one member was on hand at all times to answer questions.
The real draw was our open pits, which Faire attendees could walk right up to and stand about two feet away. Throughout the weekend, there was a constant crowd standing by to watch as pilots built, repaired, and set up racers—then went flying. Multiple sets of goggles were always on hand for a ride-along experience, and the group was engaged in countless conversations, pausing only to set up a few of our more formal events and demonstrations.
Get out into Your Community
At a time when future regulations are uncertain and there’s a lot of unfounded fear of drones in general, this kind of community outreach is an important part of keeping our hobby going. There was a lot of preparation involved, but in the end we had a lot of great conversations with a lot of folks. Those conversations are the key to educating the public and creating familiarity. It’s up to us whether we allow the conversation to continue without our input, or to have our voices heard in shaping the perceptions in our communities. Get involved in the local groups in your area, and do your part to promote and preserve the right to safe and respectful flying!