An increasing number of university administrators are entering the drones market as researchers, students and teachers find more use cases for flying machines on campus.
“We have a fleet of several we’ve used right out of the box, and we’re configuring others to carry additional payloads,” Arthur Helmicki, a professor in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science tells EdTech. “Drones have a very multidisciplinary flavor, and that appeals to students and faculty. It’s not something any one discipline can claim it knows everything about.”
University Drone Projects Can Benefit from a Machinery Mix
When considering which drones to use, researchers may opt for more than one make or model, Helmicki. A project he’s working on involves about a dozen drones, ranging from custom-built flyers to a DJI model.
“Some are duplicates, so we can have them in two places at once,” Helmicki says. “Some have different capabilities, just like you’d have a toolbox because you might need a hammer and a screwdriver, or just a pair of pliers.”
The following features can factor in to choosing the right drone for the job.
Weight: Colgate University’s fleet has three models, including a DJI Mavic and Phantom 4 Pro. “If someone says they really need an extra-detailed picture, we’d suggest using the DJI Phantom 4 Pro because it has a much bigger sensor,” says Director of Engagement Ahmad Khazaee. “If they’re hiking three miles and need something more portable, we’d send them with the Mavik because it’s much lighter.”
Software: Software to process images may come with the drone or be purchased separately. One application builds visual models, Helmicki says. “A drone can take pictures in the air, but it needs software to help stitch them all together to create a 2D or 3D model of terrain or buildings.”
Visibility: The Yuneec drones’ easy-to-spot colors also made them attractive to DeSales University, says associate professor Chuck Gloman. “The H520 was bright orange, which is great,” he says. “You never miss it in the sky.”
Camera: Pay attention to the camera capabilities or check the propeller configuration to see if adding cameras is a possibility. If so, the drone will need to be able to support the extra weight, says Helmicki.
“It’s important to understand the benefits of a variety of features for certain types of applications,” he says. “Part of that is the type of cameras it can carry, the type of controller the drone comes with and if it can produce very high-resolution images.”