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San Antonio Area Drone Enthusiasts Long for a Park of Their Own

San Antonio Area Drone Enthusiasts Long for a Park of Their Own

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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Drone pilot Robert Youens of Austin (left) chats with Stef Hendrik about flying a drone as hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event featured flying demonstrations, workshops and exhibits on the Northwest Side. The event was held in what is called Class G airspace, which has no restrictions on drone flight other than basic rules. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News) less

Drone pilot Robert Youens of Austin (left) chats with Stef Hendrik about flying a drone as hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on … more

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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San Antonio Drones’ Chris Fisher (third from left) shows siblings Zeus and Phoenix (left) Blowe how to fly a drone as hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event featured flying demonstrations, workshops and exhibits on the Northwest Side. The event was held in what is called Class G airspace, which has no restrictions on drone flight other than basic rules. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News) less

San Antonio Drones’ Chris Fisher (third from left) shows siblings Zeus and Phoenix (left) Blowe how to fly a drone as hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former … more

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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San Antonio Drones’ Chris Fisher (left) shows Zeus Blowe, 11, how to fly a drone as hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event featured flying demonstrations, workshops and exhibits on the Northwest Side. The event was held in what is called Class G airspace, which has no restrictions on drone flight other than basic rules. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News) less

San Antonio Drones’ Chris Fisher (left) shows Zeus Blowe, 11, how to fly a drone as hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. … more

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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Barry Boren wears FPV (first-person view) goggles while flying his drone through a race course as drone hobbyists attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday.

Barry Boren wears FPV (first-person view) goggles while flying his drone through a race course as drone hobbyists attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday.

Photo: Kin Man Hui /San Antonio Express-News

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Jose Alfonsin of DroneTech UAV walks past a mockup of an unmanned aerial vehicle made by his company as drone hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. DroneTech manufactures the aircraft in San Antonio. The event featured flying demonstrations, workshops and exhibits on the Northwest Side. The event was held in what is called Class G airspace, which has no restrictions on drone flight other than basic rules. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News) less

Jose Alfonsin of DroneTech UAV walks past a mockup of an unmanned aerial vehicle made by his company as drone hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo … more

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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A racing drone zips past an obstacle as drone hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event featured flying demonstrations, workshops and exhibits on the Northwest Side. The event was held in what is called Class G airspace, which has no restrictions on drone flight other than basic rules. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News) less

A racing drone zips past an obstacle as drone hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event featured flying … more

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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Drone hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event featured flying demonstrations, workshops and exhibits on the Northwest Side. The event was held in what is called Class G airspace, which has no restrictions on drone flight other than basic rules. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News) less

Drone hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event featured flying demonstrations, workshops and exhibits on … more

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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Elite drone racer Mark Braymer of Boerne checks on the blades of his drone after it took a tumble through one of the obstacles on the race course as drone hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio Winterfest Drone Fly-in at the former Alamo Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event featured flying demonstrations, workshops and exhibits on the Northwest Side. The event was held in what is called Class G airspace, which has no restrictions on drone flight other than basic rules. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News) less

Elite drone racer Mark Braymer of Boerne checks on the blades of his drone after it took a tumble through one of the obstacles on the race course as drone hobbyists and the public attend the 2018 San Antonio … more

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio area drone enthusiasts long for a park of their own

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Eleven-year-old Zeus Blowe gazes up into the air on this cloudy, bleak day admiring the white drone he was directing overhead.

Blowe, who’s in the fifth grade, has flown a drone several times but this model is one of his favorites. It has a small screen attached to the remote, allowing him to navigate the sky from the drone’s perspective.

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“It was pretty easy,” Blowe said afterward. “The controls are sort of difficult, but you learn how to fly forward and straight.”

For about 10 minutes on Saturday, Blowe learned the ins and outs of recreational drone flying at the 2018 Winterfest Drone Fly-In at the former Alamo Golf Club on the city’s Northwest Side.

The event, in its first year, offered the public a series of flight demonstrations, as well as education on the different types of unmanned aerial vehicles and the rules that govern them. It brought out dozens of professional operators, hobbyists and families, many with youngsters aspiring to operate a drone for the first time.

At the far end of the former golf course, now owned by the City of San Antonio, organizers set up a racing demonstration where professionals sent drones flying through obstacles.

Later in the afternoon, officials showed how drones are used as tools. For example, CPS Energy uses them for utility line inspections that would potentially put a worker in harm’s way, insurance companies use them to assess property damage, and fire departments use them to fight fires.

The event was hosted by Droneport Texas in cooperation with the city.

Mike De La Garza, who helped organize the fly-in, said he hopes the event encourages the city to dedicate an area of land where hobbyists and professionals can exclusively fly unmanned aerial vehicles.

Many drone operators fly at parks, but there are several FAA and state laws that regulate when, where and how unmanned aerial vehicles can be flown. For one thing, it’s illegal to fly a drone within a 5-mile radius of an airport without permission from the airport’s air control center.

It’s also illegal to fly a drone directly over people, which makes it hard to fly at some parks that are full of kids.

If drone enthusiasts had an area exclusively dedicated for drone flying, it would make compliance with those laws much easier, De La Garza said.

“Today is proving there is an audience and appetite for drone events and drone recreational flying,” De La Garza said. “The biggest issue is making sure people understand the rules of the air. The drone community is united in understanding we want to be safe. We don’t want accidents.”

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