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In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Becomes a Drone Pilot for a Day


The offer came simply via the subject line of an email: “Want to fly a drone?” It was from Todd Backus of DATRON, a maker of--among other things--military grade radio communication systems and tactical data networking setups based in Vista, Calif. It was a question that didn’t require a whole lot of consideration on my part--if there were drones to fly at AUVSI’s massive unmanned systems show in Washington D.C. last week, I was going to fly them.

And that’s how I end up on a soccer pitch far from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center piloting a small quadcopter drone and quietly praying that we won’t be arrested. Not that we’re up to anything criminal, but I have no idea how close or far we are from D.C.’s numerous “high-value” locations and the restricted airspace that surrounds them. What I do know is that if I’m jailed on suspicion of terrorism, my editors likely won't cover my expenses.

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