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For drone businesses, it’s about getting off the ground in Aurora

September 28, 2017

AURORA | With a high-pitched buzz, Owen Brown’s drone slowly climbed into the air inside MindCraft Makerspace.

Flying the loud, little aircraft inside the storefront at the Stanley Marketplace offers plenty of challenges, including navigating around woodworking machines, electrical chords, 3D printers and sewing machines.

Outside the obstacles are gone, but drone pilots are faced with a tangle of regulations that many hobbyists aren’t exactly sure how to handle.

In the still-new and fast-growing world of drones, navigating those regulations — including rules near airports, crowds of people and a host of others — is as tricky as avoiding those cords dangling from the MindCraft ceiling.

“It is kind of like the wild West,” said Brown, a licensed drone pilot.

Brown and MindCraft offer drone classes for those hobbyists looking to stay on the right side of the law as they dip their toes into the world of drones.

MindCraft started offering the drone classes a few months ago. So far, Brown said they have all been individual lessons. Those are a little easier than having a group of new pilots trying to fly at the same time and risking midair collisions.

Despite the air-traffic control issues, Brown said he hopes to launch some group courses this month.

The classes start with the basics of owning a drone, he said, including how the high-tech devices work, details on the physics of flying and how to operate drones safely.

“The very first class, we don’t fly at all,” he said.

Jason Stuck, 46, of Commerce City, took a few classes with Brown earlier this summer.

Stuck said his wife got him a drone as an anniversary present. He realized early on that he needed a more structured training than he could get on his own.

“It’s easy to get a drone and go fly, wily nilly, but you don’t really learn anything,” he said.

The hourlong classes with Brown helped him grasp the basics of drone flying, he said.

After taking a few of the classes, Stuck opted to try for his drone operator license from the Federal Aviation Authority. After a bit of cramming for the exam, he said he passed it with a score of better than 90 percent.

Now, Stuck said, he has filed paperwork to form a limited liability corporation and hopes to get into the commercial drone business, likely using the devices for real estate and construction photography.

The possibilities with a drone are vast, he said, and he hopes the company will one day be able to use drones for projects that today require someone to climb a ladder or get on a roof, risking a nasty fall.

“Eventually the plan is to get into inspections,” he said.

Brown said the people coming to his classes now tend to vary. Some are older folks who are nearing retirement and want to know the ins and outs of drone flying for when they have more time to do it.

Others are considering a second career and see the possibilities drones offer.

And, of course, there are plenty of children and young people who are drawn to drones for the most-obvious reason.

“Obviously, kids are super excited about drones,” he said. “They are fun, first and foremost.”