Inside Hooperfly’s grand plan to launch an army of homemade drones

There’s Silicon Valley in San Francisco and Silicon Alley in New York City, but we’re of the humble opinion that Silicon Forest in Portland may just be one of the most innovative new tech hubs in the U.S. In our new video series, Got it Made, join host Ezra Cimino-Hurt as he meets some of the unique people who marry cutting edge tech with innovative ideas in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. And believe us, they’re doing Portland proud.

Meet Rich Burton of Hooperfly, a man who is hoping to hoping to democratize the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) building process. Operating under the belief that anyone should be able to build a flying device, Burton doesn’t rely upon kits or pre-made parts. His UAVs are constructed with resources that are lying around his garage.

Of course, they’re not exactly materials that would be lying around any garage, but they certainly are accessible. The foundation of all Hooperfly’s designs depend upon cross-linked polyethylene (or Pex). Burton shapes these “little pieces of white tubing” into a circle, then begins a repetitive connecting process with zipties and more Pex that ultimately forms the beginning of an airframe.

But the really cool thing about Hooperfly’s flying robots (because that’s what Burton considers them — not drones), is that they can be flown and launched without a transmitter. While most drones today require a one-to-one relationship between a flyer and an aircraft, Burton explained, his hope is to launch multiple UAVs around the world, simultaneously. And really, it’s transcended hope — Burton has met with already considerable success in this endeavor.

“We can do so much more when we’re connected and empowered to help each other,” he told us. And of course, being called out of the blue by musicians like MIA to create drones for her music videos isn’t a bad perk either.

“I’m just a guy trying to figure it out,” Burton said. And if you’d like to figure out drones along with him, just check out the Hooperfly Github page.