Inside a former warehouse in Timonium, Terry and Belinda Kilby constructed a new drone course.
It’s 5,000 sq. ft., and benefits from 40 ft. ceilings that leave UAVs plenty of room to maneuver through obstacles of varying shapes on two levels. And when the lights of the warehouse go down, the colorful lights on the course come up.
The course inside STAR Academy is the result of the latest partnership for the Kilbys’ local drone photography and imaging outfit Elevated Element.
On Jan. 20, they’re expecting it to be be filled with racers navigating the obstacles as it serves as a centerpiece for the Maryland Drone Summit.
The event will have plenty of flying, but Terry Kilby said the overall goal is to show that “a hobby today can lead to a career tomorrow.”
That means along with racers and aerial photography the organizers will be bringing in heavy-duty UAVs from government-facing outfits like Belcamp-based Survice Engineering and Textron. They won’t be trying the course, but will offer a chance to see some of the work that unmanned aerial vehicles do the government and heavier industries. Reps from Baltimore’s RK&K and Laurel-based design and fabrication outfit RC Rotors and Aerial Media will also be onhand, as well as the University of Maryland.
The day will also feature a panel discussion about getting into the drone industry.
“It’s not just about getting a job flying drones. It’s about, ‘Hey maybe I’m interested in becoming an engineer. How can this tool benefit my existing career ambitions,” Kilby said.
It’s part of the educational offerings at STAR Academy, which has moved into the 16,000 sq. ft. building over the last year.
“Our goal is to bring as many credible authority figures together as possible,” said STAR Academy’s Tim Rhode, who oversees the wider tech education facility that also includes programming in robotics, game development and 3D printing. The drone education programming will be offered in four different tracks, and Kilby said kids and adults alike will likely take interest.
Having a newly-opened indoor option is good for winter, but the event is just a kickoff.
The course will soon start hosting a Friday night drone-racing league.
And the organizers are looking to go bigger when the weather breaks. Rhode said they envision a Maryland Drone Festival, held at a large venue where they can also have music, food and of course more room for bigger drones.