By Ahmad Khazaee
Drones, also referred to as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), have no human on board. Instead, they are piloted from the ground or by a computer with a preplanned flight mission. The scale of these crafts can vary greatly, from something that fits in the palm of your hand to something larger than a sport utility vehicle (SUV). As drone technology has advanced, so have its applications. Some of the more popular uses include surveying ground sites, remote sensing, and 3D modeling.
At Colgate, we began exploring drone usage in 2013, and since that time, we have sent drones on domestic and foreign research expeditions and filmed a variety of campus events. The university has also used drones in simulations and/or as components of art projects. As “word” of Colgate’s experimental drone usage got out, we connected with other drone-pioneering campuses, informally exchanging ideas for new and novel ways to leverage the technology. At and around this time, there did not exist a formal platform for these types of exchanges, however, so we decided to create one. In 2015, we created our own event for drone usage in higher education, titled “Drone Fest.” There are other drone-related conferences out there, but those tend to be specific to other industries. We wanted a place to exchange ideas with other colleges and universities, and we were not the only ones. Since the first Drone Fest in 2015, we have met yearly with regular representation from eight to 10 schools. Some of the topics we have covered include: photogrammetry, geological mapping, war games, search and rescue simulations, and drone racing.
We have brought the knowledge gained at these events back to our faculty, working with them to explore new ways to conduct research and to enhance support for faculty who already use these crafts in their work.