Although clear laws regarding drones are still being established, universities are considering ways to capitalize on the technology to enhance students’ education.
Drones have delivered books to students on campus, been infused into art programs and served as the basis for university research. Professors of multiple disciplines, including engineering, the social sciences and education, have incorporated drones in their lessons and research projects.
“Everyone wants to get involved, it seems. One track is technological — a lot of the most exciting and advanced drone technologies are currently being developed in big university laboratories like UPenn’s GRASP Lab or Embry-Riddle,” Arthur Holland Michel, co-founder and co-director of Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone, told Tech Page One.
How drones will be regulated remains to be seen, but it appears they won’t be disappearing from university campuses anytime soon.
Lending drones to students
The University of South Florida received major media attention when it announced plans to purchase drones and create a lending program for students. These quadcopters are remote-controlled aircrafts that fly using four sets of rotors.
The library plans to develop a training workshop prior to granting students permission to borrow the drones. To receive approval to use this technology, students must describe how they plan to use it and what they’ll get out of it, according to CNN.
The goal is to keep USF’s library relevant in an age of growing technological advancements. First-year students who use the library have higher GPAs and retention rates than those who don’t, according to a 2013 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Perhaps employing drones will encourage students to continue using the library.
In addition to USF’s library, an Australian textbook rental service called Zookal is using drones to deliver books. For now, the service is limited to 0.6 miles from its distribution centers, but the radius may soon expand. Zookal delivers 300 textbooks a day to students across Australia, and it only takes two to three minutes to complete a delivery.
Studying the drone for arts, humanities
Beyond making deliveries more efficient, drones are revolutionizing art at universities. Drone technology brings us to a new frontier of artistic expression, from aerial photography to randomized, robotic graffiti art.
“It’s a burgeoning art movement, and by looking at it, we can reveal all sorts of interesting things about how society is responding to technological development with non-political and non-economic vocabularies,” Michel explained.
Aerial drone photography has inspired photo contests, with photographers and drone enthusiasts across the world submitting their best shots. The winner of National Geographic’s first Dronestagram contest, held in July, was a close shot of an eagle at the Bali Barat National Park in Indonesia. Other photos that placed in the top five captured breathtaking views of cities in France.
The study of drone technology is interdisciplinary and groundbreaking. Students and professors of various disciplines are collaborating to discuss how the technology can be used to solve global problems.
Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone, for example, has attracted experts in computer science, human rights, political science, the arts and the experimental humanities. The center’s mission is to “understand unmanned and autonomous vehicles,” according to the Drone Center website.
“We look at history, law, politics, psychology and a number of other fields to answer interesting and difficult questions and to predict what will happen with drones in the near future,” Michel said.
Academic and practical research in drone technology is bridging gaps across disciplines and creating discourse on the future of this revolutionizing technology. The changes that unmanned aerial vehicles can bring about are currently in development at academic institutions across the globe.