February 4, 2023

Steven Cohen was a professional photographer five years ago, but that was when he started flying the drone. Five years later, Cohen is a passionate drone advocate and enthusiasts now professed in the famous next generation drone technology high school.

Along the way he became president of the drone User Group Network (DUGN), founded by Bar Reuters in 2012.

Although you may not have heard of, DUGN has nearly 20,000 members worldwide and is the world’s largest unmanned aircraft network user. Cohen said the group has “bottom-up” and began to serve as a community association chapter “seeking to promote responsible use of flying robots for the benefit of mankind.” But with the growth of the UAV industry, social organizations strengthened: The National Chapter provides a range of support services for UAV pilots.

The expansion of the DUGN comes as many recreational flyers feel left out of the Part 107 regulatory structure, which says that pilots should fly under some community standards, but doesn’t offer many options outside of the AMA.  While the AMA has made significant efforts on the national level to accommodate drone pilots, “it’s on a club by club basis,” explains Cohen, which means that in some areas drone pilots don’t feel welcome.

The DUGN encourages the “safe and competent use of drones,” and stresses the importance of responsible and legal flight.  They’ve published a Safety Code with recreational drone operators in mind, and the modest membership fee ($20/year) will provide access to primary liability and hull insurance for members operating in adherence to the code; they will also offer a package of legal services for drone law questions and regional and local sites for drone operators to learn and to fly.

While the club is focused on services to drone flyers, it’s also concerned with advocating for the community.  “We’re forging alliances with other industry players to bring a higher level of awareness about the positive uses of drone technology,” says Cohen.

“Our membership enrollment has been good – and we’d like to see that continue and grow,” says Cohen. Drone User Group membership grew exponentially in the last year – and Cohen and other club leaders hope that the trend will continue, giving the club – and the hobby – momentum.