Jun 21 2018

4 Ways Drones Bring College Campuses to New Heights

Universities are reaching lofty goals with new ways to integrate drones on campus.

As drones are becoming cheaper and more intuitive, universities are starting to consider the implementation possibilities for students, teachers and staff on campus.

The number of drones used privately and commercially is skyrocketing. The Federal Aviation Administration forecasts the number of private drones will double to 2.4 million by 2022, while commercial drones will grow from 110,604 in 2017 to 451,800 in 2022.

As excitement for unmanned aircraft systems rises, universities are exploring new ways to integrate drones into campus life. Here are just a few of the ways drones are making their way into higher education.

SIGN UP: Get more news from the EdTech newsletter in your inbox every two weeks!

1. Monitor Construction Projects and Worker Safety

With rising demand for amenities and space for living and learning, construction projects are a constant on many campuses. As concrete is set and support beams are lifted, onsite safety and project management can be a critical concern.

To make monitoring easier, researchers at the University of Illinois developed the Flying Superintendents project. The drones are designed to keep watch over construction sites by autonomously collecting and downloading video and still images. The project team can then assess this footage to track progress, more quickly identify safety issues, or predict and mitigate project delays.

“From these video streams, new computer vision methods will detect, track, and analyze activities of the construction equipment and craft workers in 3D to provide an accurate and direct measurement of productivity on the site, and enable root-cause assessment on performance deviations,” according to the university’s website. “By providing a visual interface to the outcome of monitoring operations, the system improves decision-making that can lead to efficiency in execution of the project.”

2. Increase Campus Safety with Unmanned Safety Inspections

Along with construction, building maintenance is an integral part of day-to-day campus life. Towering campus dining halls and dormitories can make even standard maintenance a dangerous undertaking.

Kansas State Polytechnic devised a way to limit the number of times campus staff would have to conduct these inspections by using drones with cameras to inspect campus infrastructure.

Along with campus buildings, the program has been used for taller, more daunting tasks like checking electrical and cell towers, transmission lines and bridges, University Business reports.

“People can focus a little more clearly when they have both feet on the ground and are looking at a camera versus trying to balance themselves on a ladder and make sure their safety clips are in place while simultaneously doing an inspection,” Kurt Carraway, executive director of K-State’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Applied Aviation Research Center, told University Business. “It makes that inspection safer and more effective.”

3. Encourage Student Creativity to Soar

Drones are not just for expanding the campus, but the minds within it as well. 

The increased popularity of UAVs is opening new pathways for students to explore the creative uses of these machines, and institutions such as the University of Michigan are excited to fan the flames.

Students at the flagship campus in Ann Arbor are able to experiment with drones in the university’s new outdoor drone testing facility, EdScoop reports.

The 9,600-square-foot facility, which cost $800,000 to build, is equipped with sensors and data-collection instruments, which cost an additional $200,000. The netting around the testing space allows students to subject drones to the elements while skirting outdoor flying restrictions.

Along with academic endeavors, the area is open for students to enjoy recreational activities.

“On Tuesday nights, we plan to set up bleachers and have drone racing and some other fun park-like activities,” Jessy Grizzle, director of Michigan Robotics told the Detroit News

4. Enticing New Students with Unique Campus Tours

One of the pulls for drone advocates is giving users access to new experiences while still remaining grounded. 

At Colgate University, unmanned vehicles allow recruiters to show potential students a unique campus tour from the air. 

Utilizing intuitive hardware, like DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro, campus marketing teams are able to explore creative ways to show off university facilities.

Drone video production for marketing has become so popular that new companies such as Sly Dog Productions have started partnering with universities to deliver compelling imagery of campus.

Cathy Baur, associate vice president for university communications at California State University San Marcos, told Sly Dog Productions that investing in drone video was “the best marketing investment I have made.”

kckate16/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT