A small red drone, dubbed “Spark” and adorned with silver decals, spent this past weekend hovering above the parking lot outside the Roy H. Park School of Communications, operated by Bryan Roberts, the associate dean of the Park School. “I call it ‘spidey sense,’” he says. Waving one hand to the left, the drone Roberts is controlling — which is produced by DJI Technologies — follows his movement.
But it wasn’t all fun and games in the skies above Park. Eight students were also there, taking part in a three-day workshop held by Mitchell Apple of Bird’s Eye View, LLC. The workshop, which taught students to operate DJI Phantom 4 Pro drones, was designed to prepare them for the 107 exam, which is required to obtain a commercial drone license. After receiving their license, students will be granted access to the Park School Drone Fleet at PPECS.
Learning how to pilot drones can open many professional doors for the students. “Being on the cutting edge of technology always gives you a leg up,” said Taylor Millican ’21, who hopes to use drone footage in her films, which are largely focused on issues such as criminal justice reform. “If you’re looking for internships or jobs, having a skill like this makes you stand out.”
Roberts sees other practical applications as well. The Spark drone in particular has the potential to benefit individuals with disabilities by helping them observe their environments more effectively from wheelchairs. “People get caught up in how fun a technology is,” says Roberts. “And using drones is certainly fun. But we also have to think about how it can help people. The applications are endless.”
A second student workshop will take place the weekend of Oct. 6, and a faculty and staff workshop will take place the weekend of Oct. 20.
While the workshops are currently only available to Park students, faculty and staff, that is likely only temporary. “Students should view this as a pilot semester,” said Roberts. “The workshops will be open to everyone eventually.”