Not long ago, we bought our kids a toy drone to play with. Our kids excitedly opened the box and awaited for the small drone to charge. Once it was charged they insisted that they didn’t need any help to learn how to fly it, they were big enough to figure it out for themselves. Being parents who want our kids to learn certain lessons through trial and error, we let them have a go at it. Needless to say the drone was repeatedly crashed into the ceiling, the walls, and the dog. We told them they had to find a way to fly with some control. Their solution, go outside where there are less obstacles. Sounded good, until about 15 seconds into this next flying lesson and the drone was stuck in a tree. This is an experience that many first time drone operators encounter. Luckily for us it was a small toy drone that cost under $20 and couldn’t cause any real damage. Many people think that flying a drone will be easy, like playing a video game. While drones are becoming more user friendly, they still take some skill. If an accident happens in a video game, you just move on. But, if an accident happens with a drone in the real world, moving on is not always so simple.
When drones crash they can cause serious damage to property, injure people, and not to mention the possible destruction of a costly drone. To be able to use a drone commercially, pilots must obtain a Part 107 license that states they are aware of all flight regulations. It’s similar in concept to obtaining a driver’s license, but the Part 107 doesn’t test a pilot on their flight ability. For those flying drones just as a hobby, there is no required training or license. Understanding that there was a need to find ways for beginner pilots to train two brothers from England, Alex and Toby Liew, developed a drone flight game called Drone Run.
As young boys, Alex and Toby spent much of their time outside with their father flying kites and model aircraft, quite a few of which they crashed. This early experience was the foundation that led them to have a passion for drones in their teen and young adult lives. Over the years they have amassed quite a collection of drones, with a particular penchant for those made by drone giant DJI. As Toby said, one of the aspects of flying model aircraft and drones that had always been the most enjoyable for them was the challenge of “Landing on a small platform, flying around obstacles, performing agile maneuvers, and flying low.” The brothers took that challenge and used it to design a game that would help drone pilots learn to become better, more responsible pilots.
Drone Run is a portable, octagonal platform landing pad and a circuit of sensor checkpoints. The platform hinges and folds in the the center to make it easily transportable. When you are ready to begin the game, the platform is opened and placed on a surface. If the surface isn’t entirely level it makes no difference as the platform provides it’s own stability. A drone is placed on the landing pad and the sensors are set up to complete a course. As soon as the drone lifts off from the landing pad, a timer begins and the sensors track the drone’s course. The goal is to take off smoothly, maneuver though the course, and land smoothly, all while maintaining a low altitude. If you take off to quickly, or fly to high out of the reach of the sensors you loose points, like you would in a video game. It’s a buildable challenge that teaches you to fly a drone in a fun way.
“We’re not saying every drone owner needs training,” Toby said, “in fact, the vast majority of drone pilots are completely responsible and operate their drones in accordance to the Drone Code, but to such drone owners, Drone Run breathes a new and thrilling lease of life into their expensive pieces of kit” For many hobby drone operators, they often loose interest in their drones after time. “Sometimes, there are only so many aerial photos one can stomach before their drone gathers dust in the back of their cupboard or at worse, on eBay,” Alex said. Drone Run can provide those who have lost interest in their drones a new way to enjoy their hobby again. But, perhaps most importantly, is that using Drone Run will ensure safe pilots.
For the majority of drone operators, they fly within the law set forth for drone regulations. However, it is the select few that fall out of this framework that we hear about on the news, giving the drone community a bad reputation. This is why Drone Run is so important to Alex and Toby. “Given the heightened pressure of drone safety and responsibility from the recent string of reckless drone flying events, Drone Run provides an innovative solution for ready-to-fly drones that pilots love using with their drones,” Toby said. “The gameplay compels users not only to keep their drone in their line of sight, but to fly low to the ground in a controlled and skillful manner. This eliminates the risk of dangerous and disruptive drone flying, and instead cultivates a community of responsible and proficient drone users.”
The platform will be able to support any small sized personal drone like a Mavic Pro, but certainly not limited to DJI brand devices. Alex and Toby want the world to enjoy drones the way they do, and they know that for that to happen drones need to be flown safely. “There must be improved drone safety through regulation and awareness, ensuring drone pilots and the public will be kept safe. We hope to provide a product that aids it. We have designed Drone Run to help beginners to learn the basics at a low-level and within line of sight, to set up in a controlled environment. Training is necessary for drone safety tests,” Toby stated. He goes on to say, “Become aware of the laws in your country for drone flying; find out where you can and cannot fly. Learn the basics of flying! Drones are becoming very user-friendly and easy to fly, but behind that should be a pilot that knows how to fly a drone properly.”