Drones have something of a sinister reputation—How many is Obama watching us with right now? What if a CIA drone crashes into the Amazon.com drone carrying my new toaster?—but hey, wouldn't it be fun to have your own? Ryan Wood and Jon McBride (pictured) of Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems hope so; the West Valley company (2034 S. 3850 West, RockyMountainUnmannedSystems.com) opened just a few months ago and carries a variety of personal Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to help companies with difficult jobs as well as provide the public with the ability to fly unmanned drones and take professional-quality photography using UAV cameras.
What can people do with their own Unmanned Aerial Vehicles?
Right now, it's kind of a new concept, but we do have a few high-end buyers. We are hoping to partner with the governor's office as well as local police and fire departments, search & rescue, even the Utah Avalanche Center. We think it could be really beneficial to them. These can carry different cameras, like infrared for search & rescue, which can see someone from almost a mile away. Our motto is that it would be great for the three Ds: deadly, dirty and dangerous jobs. But right now, it's mostly hobbyists buying the smaller models.
What laws and regulations are there for drone use?
There's nothing that says you cannot operate any of this equipment. There are basic guidelines to keep us out of the airspace of real planes, so it tends to be that you can't fly over 400 feet or fly these within five miles of an airport. The FAA says that you can't fly over the Super Bowl or anything like that. The FAA will be making a ruling specific to UAVs soon just because there's so much technology out there and it's so accessible.
How difficult are drones to operate?
Anyone can fly one of these. There's not much of a difference between these and remote-controlled airplanes except that these are more advanced, have better technology and better flight systems. These have been so easy to operate; they can be GPS guided with waypoints where you don't even have to control them directly. The DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus is the most popular model in the UAV industry, and it's relatively easy to operate and assemble out of the box.
Why should people buy from Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems when the Internet is full of drone dealers?
The best thing we offer is great customer service and the knowledge we have about these products. A lot of time you go in to a hobby store and say, "I hope this is what I need," unless you really know the hobby. With us, you can come in off the street and get a full tutorial. Flying it for the first time can be kind of intimidating, especially if you just spent $1,200, so we help with that as well. If you buy online from a manufacturer, then you will more than likely have to assemble it, and that can be pretty difficult. Calibrating the UAV is also tough; we'll help you get it set up and ready to fly rather than having you just go into it on your own.
What does RMUS have coming up?
We sell, repair and do custom builds, but we'd like to bring in some new and unique products. We don't have a 3-D printer yet, but that might be in the works. Through our parent company, HRP Distributing, we just became the exclusive retailer of Thunder Tiger Robotix products, which has been around for 30 years. We feel that brand is going grow. They have the technology, the factories and the capability to really take it to the next level. We hope that Thunder Tiger's Ghost quad copter will be the DJI Phantom killer and take over that market. We expect it to be one of the best UAVs out there. HRP Distributing is also imagining similar retail stores like ours in our other warehouses in Florida and Pennsylvania. And of course we are still working on our online storefront, too.