Framed by the diagonal street that connects the main gate of EAA AirVenture to the forums area is a triangle of land that over the years has proven to be a prism that spotlights a newest member of the aviation community before it mixes invisibly into the larger community.
Now named Aviation Gateway Park, this prism was borne with the arrival of light sport aircraft, which now exhibit with and among the rest of kit and airframe manufacturers. This year the spotlight illuminated drones, which flew almost constant demonstrations in the three-story cage sponsored by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Long, always filled bleachers faced the alfresco end of the cage. It was even harder to find an air conditioned seat that faced the cage from that end of the Innovation Center.
Full bleachers were just one way to measure the popularity drone integration at AirVenture. Roughly half the floor space in the Innovation Center was filled with drone sellers large and small, and the crowds around them reminded me of the Garmin booth when it introduced is GPS products in the early 1990s. And many of the visitors there were not leaving empty handed.
Love them or hate them, drones are part of the aviation community, and AirVenture’s Gateway Park did its part to make their integration with the larger aviation community safe. The cage that defined their flight area addressed the immediate concern, and the narrators expanded that message during the demonstrations, at least at the half dozen demonstrations I watched. As part of their descriptions of each drone’s capabilities and uses, they explained where and how to fly them safely.