By Mike Murphy
CANANDAIGUA — Brian Pitre remembers the first time he tried to fly a drone.
He put one — a hobby craft version — on the roof of a building. He put one in a tree. He smashed one into a driveway.
But he kept coming back — most anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to fly understands the appeal.
“Just seeing them fly is like the coolest thing you’ve ever seen,” Pitre said. “It’s so sexy that people are mesmerized by it.”
But even more sexy — at least to Pitre, who with business partner Dan Albert co-founded the Canandaigua-based SkyOp LLC — is the 195-page packet spread out on a chair in his office.
At times, the office can resemble a video game room, with joysticks operating drones of all sizes — including a model so tiny that it could be lost on a desktop.
But it’s the thick packet of proposed FAA regulations, released about a month ago, that has Pitre and others associated with the industry excited because the new rules might help set in motion some commercial applications for drones, which are currently prohibited.
The fear was a set of a crazy rules that would scare off investment in the industry and put the country even further behind China, Canada and Australia, which are head-and-shoulders above the United States at this point, Pitre said.
Although healthy skepticism abounds, some in the industry are predicting new jobs and a large economic impact.
These virtually silent flying machines might be poised to make a big commercial impact in the decades ahead.
“I’m here to tell you, it’s the next transformative technology that’s going to change our lives,” Pitre said. “It’s that big, and most people don’t understand it yet.”
Pitre, 66, has been in the computer business for 40 years and has run his own Internet company, dockside.net, for 20 of them.
A self-described “serial entrepreneur” and the “oldest geek you’ve ever met,” Pitre said he frankly was getting tired of the Internet and was looking for something else to do when he stumbled upon an article in Wired magazine nearly three years ago.
The writer described do-it-yourself drones and the state-of-the-art at the time of these small, unmanned aerial vehicles, and Pitre was hooked — from his geek standpoint and his business sense.
He hunkered down for months learning all he could and hit upon a discovery. He had seen this before, at the dawn of the age of the personal computer revolution.