TechfestNW 2013: Drone Attack!

Whatever you've heard on the news about Iran or Pakistan, Oregon is ground zero for drones. 

Tad McGeer, a Hood River pacifist and inventor, founded the Columbia Gorge company, Insitu, that manufactures the ScanEagle spy drones now favored by the U.S. military. His current company, Aerovel, is developing long-distance drones for weather reconnaissance. Clackamas’ Aerosight custom-builds drones for private clients, while Hood River’s Cloud Cap Technology makes the autopilot and camera systems for just about every drone on the market. Northwest UAV in McMinnville builds the engines. 

Meanwhile, the city of Pendleton is promoting itself as a military drone test site, which prompted talk in the state legislature about banning drones from the skies; a new law passed in June will require warrants for drone surveillance by law agencies. An Oregon company called Domestic Drone Countermeasures plans to sell black boxes that would interfere with aerial spies.

But forget money or politics: We prefer spectacle. On Sunday, Sept. 8, in the OMSI parking lot—as part of TechfestNW—PDXDrones and tech-company Dialsmith will host an event called the PDXDrones  Challenge for anybody who just wants to watch drones go really, really fast. It’s sort of like radio-controlled helicopter races on steroids, with 10 drone pilots slated to compete in an obstacle course called the Drone Cage.  

A drone enthusiast group called the Roswell Flight Test Crew will also be assembling a drone onsite before the competition—in a single hour. After the high-speed drone war, the pilots will demo the drones just for funsies.

Don’t expect the drones near MusicFest events, however. For some reason or another, you aren’t allowed to fly these things over large groups of people. Which is where all similarity to my dive-bombing, eyesight-threatening, grade-school RC helicopter pretty much ends.

TFNW profiles: Rick Turoczy (TFNW curator, PIE PDX)Tyson Evans (NYTimes)Ward Cuningham (Wiki Inventor)Michelle Rowley (Code Scouts)Jackson Gariety (TechStars, teen entrepreneur) 

TFNW features: MFNW Installation by InstrumentPDX Drone ChallengeGoogle Gogglers

Tickets and official site:

GO: The PDX Drone Challenge is Sunday, Sept. 8, at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 1945 SE Water Ave., 797-4000, 11 am-3 pm. Free tickets available at 

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