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Roswell Flight Test Crew Interview - Part 1 : Technological Evangelists Of Drones

The Roswell Flight Test Crew, technological evangelist of drones, is based in Portland, Oregon U.S.A.. Catalyst met them for the first time at InterDrone in Las Vegas in September 2015.

We interviewed Patrick "Lucidity" Sherman (pictured at left in the photo), a member of Roswell Flight Test Crew to know how they go about flying and enjoying drones since the early days of the technology.

Our first drone didn't have a camera, accelerometers and GPS

Q: When and why did you start to build and fly drones?

My interest in the technology that we describe today with the word “drone” began in 2010, when it was known first and foremost as First-Person View (FPV) flying. The idea of mounting a video camera on a radio-controlled aircraft and sending back a live video feed was still a pretty exotic idea at that time.

The first actual “drone” that I flew was a Gaui 330x-s, which was among the first commercially available multi rotors. It arrived in a kit, and it was just a flying machine, without a camera or any kind of video system. Indeed, it didn't even have accelerometers built into the flight control system, so it did not have the auto-level capability like all modern drones do – and certainly no GPS position hold.

Q: When and how did the Roswell Flight Test Crew start?

We'd been flying for nearly a year, and I could finally go more than 30 seconds without crashing, and we had reasonably reliable FPV systems. For a change of pace, we decided to go to Portland's world-famous Rose Garden to go flying.

I'm sure that today the police would run you off if you tried to fly a drone at that location, but this was still early days.

We were taking in aerial views of the gardens. The battery on my aircraft started to run low, so I turned towards home to land. When I lifted the FPV goggles off my head, I saw a crowd of like 20 people standing there, all smiling. We spent the next 45 minutes answer questions about the technology, how it worked, and so forth.

I guess that those people were really surprised with that since drones had not been popular yet then.

Brian “Techinstein” Zvaigzne (pictured at right in the main photo) – another early member of the Roswell Flight Test Crew said that we should put up a website with the answers to all of their questions on it, then hand out business cards with the address on it, so people could learn more about it themselves.

This is still very, very early in the evolution of drones as we know them today. So most people – even most RC enthusiasts – had never seen a multirotor before. Whenever we would go out flying, someone would inevitably spot one of our vaguely disk-shaped craft glowing with LEDs and shout: “Look! It's a UFO!”

We don't take ourselves too seriously. Playing with drone is a tremendous amount of fun

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Q: What are the characteristics and mission of the Roswell Flight Test Crew?

As far as characteristics go, to begin with, I hope it's clear that we don't take ourselves too seriously. Whatever else it is or could become, playing with this technology is a tremendous amount of fun, and we want to make sure that other people take away that sense of it when they interact with us.

What I'd hope they would say is that we're eager to share our knowledge and to help others achieve what we have achieved. Also, that we are transparent: we share not only our successes but also our limitations and our failures, as well. I've always said that “We're students first, teachers second” – and even now I feel that is true. There is so much to know about this technology that if you're not constantly learning, you're falling hopelessly behind.

Somewhere along the way, we emerged as recognized experts in the field, writing for magazines that include RotorDrone, Drones, Model Aviation, Drone360 and Drone in the UK, and speaking at conferences such as: InterDrone, AUVSI Xponential, Drones Data X, the International Drone Expo, the World Drone Expo, AMA Expo, the Drone User Group National Conference, and others.

I would say that our mission is, “To demonstrate the safe, beneficial and non-intrusive use of drone technology.” One way I occasionally hear people describe us is to say that we are “technological evangelists.” We believe so much in the potential it has to make life better that we feel compelled to share that belief.

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Roswell Flight Test Crew started flying drones before it became popular. Now, they are writing and speaking about drones as experts. We asked them for advice for beginners, and advantages to fly drones in Oregon in the second part of the interview.

Part 2 here


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