Entrepreneurial spirit takes flight at Broomfied Remote Control Airfield

Entrepreneurial spirit takes flight at Broomfied Remote Control Airfield

"UAS Professionals Drone Demonstration"

By Kimberli Turner

There’s no stopping 9-year-old Jack Bonneau — not only does he have a way with small business, but also in taking on local and state representatives in friendly competition — and smoking his opponents.

Broomfield’s Bonneau is the young entrepreneur who last summer founded Jack’s Lemonade Stands.

Every week, Bonneau and his crew sell lemonade and iced tea at the Erie, Lafayette, Louisville and Westminster farmers’ markets. Jack’s Lemonade Stands teaches area kids about math, money, sales, responsibility and entrepreneurship by putting them to work at one of four stands.

“By the end of the summer Jack’s stands will have helped over 100 kids,” Bonneau said.

On Wednesday, in honor of National Startup Day Across America, Bonneau challenged Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, and Broomfield Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Stokes to a drones dual at the Broomfield Remote Control Airfield at West 144th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard.

Broomfield-based UAS Professionals’ chief operating officer Nathan Ruff and president Joe Falconer provided the drones and created the obstacle course that had contestants traveling the straightaway course, slaloming the aircraft in and out of 25-foot pylons and ultimately flying them through a 30-foot-high goal post.

“The judges had a scorecard — 8, 9, 10 or ‘ouch,'” Ruff said. “It was a great competition, Jack edged the congressman and the mayor pro tem out with straight 10s.”

In a flying feat, Polis maneuvered his drone under the goal post, Ruff said, making some of the UAS officials slightly nervous, while the others flew their drone over the posts. But Polis still came short of the win, giving the lead to Bonneau.

“I had a lot of fun flying with Mr. Polis the congressman, and the mayor pro tem. It was kind of scary flying it, because I thought I was going to crash it,” Bonneau said. “I never flew a drone before. You could hover, turn right, turn left, it was just really, really cool.”

Luckily no one received an “ouch” rating, though Falconer was nearby with a partner control on the drones, in case one went haywire.

UAS Professionals last year founded the company, at 11705 Airport Way, and was the first Broomfield company in April to receive the Federal Aviation Administration 333 exemption waiver to legally conduct commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations nationwide. Only a handful of waivers have been granted to Colorado companies, with less than 400 companies nationwide receiving the waiver as of May.

Rudd said the “incredible technology” could be used for search and rescue, recalling a Maine sheriff who recently located rafters stranded on a rock in the middle of a river, or to serve farmers tracking chlorophyll levels. He said individuals in Kenya pair the drones with thermal imaging to track animal poachers in restricted areas.

“It’s almost a window into the future,” he said of the technology.

Polis founded Startup Day Across America in 2013 with California Rep. Darrell Issa to recognize innovators and the importance of startups, and for those entrepreneurs to connect with lawmakers to understand how federal policies impact their businesses.

Ruff said Wednesday’s event served as a platform to recognize startups like his own, to shine a spotlight on the growing aircraft industry and to simply have fun.

Ruff aims for UAS Professionals to serve as a go-to for the first time drone flyer hobbyist or someone interested in flying commercially, as the FAA works to finalize rules in how to integrate aircrafts into national airspace.

“We’re trying to make Colorado and the Boulder area a little bit like Silicon Valley was back in the day with the Internet,” he said. “We’re hoping to help lead the way in that.”