Drone event takes flight on campus

UOIT & DC students recently had an opportunity to see, pilot and get a new appreciation for drones.

The Drone Intro Day was an event at Durham College in mid-March that was organized through the collaboration of UOIT’s ACE Center for UAV Research, the UOIT & DC UAV Union as well as Clarion Drone Academy.

Drone is another name for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which come in all shapes and sizes. UAVs range from the MQ-9 Reaper, a larger drone that has gained notoriety through use in the American military, to the Litehawk Neon, which is a cheap, lightweight drone that is available at any hobby shop and resembles old-school RC Helicopters more than the Reaper.

Drones, or should I say UAVs, aren’t just something for the military to play around with, there are many reasons for people in college to be interested as well. At the Drone Intro Day, dozens of people took part in both a learning experience involving drones, as well as an opportunity to pilot one.

Bruce McPherson, the president of Clarion Drone Academy, is knee-deep in the industry and was a speaker at the Drone Intro Day event. McPherson uses his industry knowledge to conduct seminars which DC & UOIT students were able to experience for the $20 admission price.

Bruce touched on everything from Google paying $100,000 a year for experienced drone pilots, to what is known in the industry as the Quadcopter Revolution. Quadcopter is a name for any drone with four propellers, and they are quickly becoming the go-to model for drone enthusiasts.

According to Bruce, birds, which is industry slang for drones, aren’t just for hobbyists. “The commercial arena for drones right now is huge,” says Bruce.

However, with any new industry comes many new regulations. Transport Canada has established so many rules for commercial drone pilots, that it’s difficult to understand how they can do business at all.

Most commercial pilots have to fill out an SFOC (Special Flight Operation Certificate) to do any commercial flying. In the end they are limited to where they can fly based on population buildup and proximity to any airports.

Drones are being applied in a wide range of tasks. From crop inspection for farmers to residential photography for real estate agents, drones are being used in more ways than you may think.

Florentin von Frankenberg, a UOIT grad student and speaker at Drone Intro Day, had his creation, the Omnicopter, on display.

“To be truly useful, drones need to be able to physically interact with their environment,” says Florentin.

This is already taking shape, as some drones are being used from everything to delivering coffee, to using a ‘follow me’ feature that calculates a person based on their pixels within a camera, and is trained to follow them from a great distance.

The Drone Intro Day was a kick-off event to discuss all of these advances in the industry, through the guest speakers, as well as giving students the opportunity to get their hands on a drone to pilot.

“This is something that we want to offer at least once a year to students,” says James McDonald, a UOIT Business student and member of the DC/UOIT UAV Union.

The UAV Union helped organize Drone Intro Day and is already working on a UAV Industry Day follow-up to the event. Similar drone-related events will likely take place on campus throughout the school year.

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Matthew Pellerin is a second year journalism student at Durham College. He enjoys writing about politics, technology, and news ranging from around the world, the local community, to right on campus. When he's not waxing poetically on his blog, he's usually nose-deep in world news.