Description: They may call themselves the Alaska Drone Racing League, but this group of RC enthusiasts is so much more. The AKDRL isn’t focused on competitive flying, but instead on teaching their community how to fly safely. Drone operator, Steve Colligan helped start the non-profit about a year ago, to organize statewide activities from rural Alaska to some of the larger cities.
“So trying to coordinate through the rules, through the regulations, while also trying to get people excited and educate folks about flying safely. We have a bit of a task ahead of us.”
Alaska faces unique challenges when it comes to flying, especially with it’s complicated airspace. To combat some of these challenges, the AKDRL gathers at a local mall to fly.
“When the public will come up and they’ll watch. And they’ll say, can I try? Well sure and you put a controller in their hand and they’re just amazed that they can actually try it just by walking up and asking. Some will say, well how much does it cost for me to try it? It’s nothing here you want to ty and it just lights up their eyes.”
Mall manager Mau Tousey see’s benefits for the mall and community as well.
“We’ve got something cool that once people come into the mall they’re like ‘Wow I didn’t’ know there was a drone racing league.’ So once they have questions, they also have people they can connect with to answer these questions.”
The AKDRL also visits local schools to create interest in STEM education. The outreach is especially important in some rural parts of the state.
“It really brings young folks together and that’s what it’s about for us and there are challenges. Largely drug and alcohol abuse other social issues. We have the highest level of suicide and these are opportunities for us to outreach. To create the thought of a job. Or use this technology to communicate with each other and it’s been incredible.”
The AKDRL works closely with local government on the ‘Know Before You Fly Campaign’ and to determine No Drone Zones.
“I’ve seen it open up to a much broader amount of people and I love the way the team is coming at it because we’re all approaching it from different directions and hopefully fostering the community in a way that’s responsible.”
The league is up to around 20 members and is consistently growing. The AKDRL isn’t trying to compete with the Major Leagues out there, but they do hope to host some races in Alaska soon.
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