North Notes
Spokane North Rotary Club Bulletin
March 19, 2018
          Fund event canceled: The spring fund-raising campaign to help needy kids, especially at Holmes Elementary School, will be delayed until late September or early October.    The annual fund-raiser, which has provided about $20,000 for school needs, had been scheduled June 4.
Drone cameras, and much more,
are on the way
          The friendly skies are getting a lot more crowded -- at least below 400 feet -- as a wide new assortment of unmanned aircraft cameras and other items jockeying for air space.
          Explaining the fleet of area drones for the March 19 club meeting was Colleen Hennessey, sales and marketing manager for Empire Unmanned on Atlas Road in Hayden, Idaho.
          Drone cameras detail scientific air measurements for crops, mines, construction and a number of other surveillance “photogrammetry” duties, Hennessey said.  She showed slides of unmanned aircraft that look “like a little bat,” a small blimp and mini-UFOs.
          Hennessey, an Oregon native, moved here from New York City two years ago after working for a NASA company, and as a consultant with Microsoft and other technology firms.
          Empire Unmanned is part of a family with Empire Airlines, Empire Aerospace, Empire Holdings and Ohana Hawaian.  Empire Airlines opened in May 1977 at the CdA Airport and has a fleet of about 60 aircraft, mostly serving cargo clients, including Fed Ex.
          The Empire Unmanned branch opened in 2014.  It was the eighth commercial drone company certified in the U.S. by the FAA.
          The drones, limited to 400 feet and below by the FAA, records scientific data mapping – even pixel by pixel -- for crop development and weed control, power lines, towers and cell phone towers, timber inspection and even forest fire damage.  “The cameras can see through the smoke and can detect hot spots,” Hennessey said.
          She said unmanned aerial photography is mushrooming.  Empire Unmanned started in the West and quickly spread nationally and is adding international clients, Hennessey said.
          Larger payloads than cameras might also mine pay dirt.  Amazon, Fed Ex and other companies are looking at product drone delivery.
          One caution in the wave of  “unmanned” automation was noted this week when a driverless Uber car crashed into a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz., killing the woman pushing a bicycle crossing the street, even though a staff operator at the wheel.  Watching thousands of parcels float around in drones might make some people wary. 
          Hennessey said “you need a human element” in certain situations.
          So far, unmanned aerial camera and other devices have been generally.
          Asked how wildlife was disturbed by noisy rural drones, Hennessey said problems have been minimal and drones are working “on silencers.”  She added that one ram in a mountainous area “took out a drone, and then chases the guy who was trying to recover the camera.”   
          Hennessey, who in her consultant roles, have worked in a variety of high tech industries, said, “This is the most rapidly growing industry I’ve ever been in.”  New ideas and patents arise every week, she said.  So far, a corridor area from New York City to Syracuse is the only certified product pathway, but growth is expected soon.
          She said bigger product payload drops are expected in the next one to two years.
          So move over birds, you might see some more drones crowding over the tree tops.
          Now what about those camera drones viewing above while you sunbathe on the deck?
The bulletin producers:
          Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
          Photos: Sandy Fink and Eric Johnson
          Program coordinator: Brad Stark