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The Roswell Flight Test Crew interview - Part 2 : Testing a drone to fly on Mars in Oregon?

The Portland-based duo, Roswell Flight Test Crew is busy writing articles and blog, updating their YouTube channel and giving lectures about drones.

In the second part of our interview, we asked them about advice for beginners who are just starting to fly drones, and the advantages to fly it in Oregon.

Read Part 1 here, where we asked them how they started to fly and enjoy it since the early days of drones.

Using a big 3D-printed hexacopter for thermal imaging

Q: What kind of drones are you flying recently? Any favourites?

I am flying a couple of new drones right now, starting with the Inspire 1  from DJI. Obviously, that's not a new drone, but it took us quite a while to finally take possession of an Inspire 1.

And, I must say, I like it! It's extremely agile and I just have fun throwing it around the sky: flying it more like a model airplane than a camera ship. However, it's also a fantastic aerial imaging rig: the video and still images you get are just phenomenal, especially when compared with the hand-built systems I have spent most of my career flying.

I also received the X-Star Premium from Autel Robotics and, especially at the price point, it's a remarkable aircraft with a rich set of features.

Finally, I've got a Yuneec Typhoon H waiting for me to unbox and test. I really like the Typhoon Q500 series, and everything I've heard from people whom I trust suggests that the “H” is a terrific aircraft.

In addition, I've had the opportunity to fly the Xiro Xplorer – which is truly formidable given the price – and it just looks cool: like a stealth fighter and a shuriken had a baby. Oh, and I'm also excited to try the Ghost Drone 2 from eHang.

And, our current utility bird, which we use when we're doing thermal imaging demonstrations for firefighters and other public safety agencies is the Vortex – a big 3D-printed hex from Atlanta Hobby. It's big and heavy, but it feels extremely confident in the air: stable, but with plenty of power when you want to move...

Q: Well, you are flying varieties of drones!


Q: What advice would you have for someone who is beginning to fly drones?

If you're just getting started with drones, I would urge you to begin with a simulator – like RealFlight, made right here in my home state of Oregon. They have a version specifically for drones. It's a great environment to learn the fundamentals of flying: you can crash all you want and it won't cost you a nickel in spare parts.

Then, graduate to a small quad. There is a company called Dromida that has produced a series of extremely tough little quads that are perfect for learning. The current version is the Vista UAV, and you get everything you need to fly for less than $100 – aircraft, radio, battery and charger – and it's nearly indestructible.

Once you've mastered the simulator and the mini-quad, then I'd suggest you graduate to a mission specific aircraft, built for aerial video, racing, or whatever you are interested in doing.

Oregon has a long history in both aviation and technology. And it's a great place to fly

Q: Why do you fly drones in Oregon? What are the advantages?

I fly drones in Oregon because that's where I live, but in many ways, I'm extremely lucky that this is where I ended up. Oregon has a long history in both aviation and technology. We've got big companies like Intel, FLIR and Tektronix, Evergreen Aviation, Columbia Helicopter and Insitu – plus a whole bunch of startup companies that are moving aggressively into the drone market.

Another thing is that it's just a great place to fly. Oregon has a reputation for being a very rainy place, and that's true for Portland and the valley, but the majority of the state's land area lies east of the Cascades, and the predominant landscape is high desert. They get more than 325 days of clear weather a year over there! So, you can basically go flying whenever you want.

Also, we've got three FAA-approved test ranges – the only ones on the West Coast, and each one offers a unique environment. Tillamook is located on the coast and has the ability to fly up to 130,000 feet. Right now, they are testing – and I'm not making this up – a UAV to fly on Mars! They are flying high in Earth's atmosphere to simulate the thin Martian air.

On Mars? It sounds like sci-fi movie...

Continuing to teach people about drones and demonstrate their safe, beneficial use

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Q: What is the outlook for the Roswell Flight Test Crew? Where do you see it going in the future?

My hope for the future is that we will be able to continue down the path that we have embarked upon: teaching people about drones and demonstrating their safe, beneficial and non-intrusive use for society at large.

Moving forward, my goal is to get on a more regular schedule in terms of producing videos for our YouTube channel. And to continue to build our relationships within the industry and the community. To be honest, the biggest impediment is that there just aren't enough hours in the day to take advantage of all the opportunities that come along for us.

They are constantly learning and reporting about drones from all over the US. They have been experiencing the evolution of drones at first hand from early days. It seems that believing possibility of drones and curiosity for the technology are the major driving forces for them.

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