Harpeth Hall senior Mohini Misra didn’t account for the wind.
As she tried to maneuver the Spark drone through a small obstacle course set up in front of Austin Peay State University’s Dunn Center, the breeze pushed the tiny quadcopter to the side just a bit. Clearing the gate was harder than she thought.
But she corrected the drone, guiding it through the gate and around two flags before returning to the gate and completing the course.
APSU’s GIS Center and the University’s Drone Club brought out the drones on this sweltering June day to give students like Misra and her Governor’s School of Computational Physics classmates a chance for hands-on learning.
“We’re trying to incorporate as many students as we can,” Doug Catellier, GIS Center project manager and Drone Club adviser, said. “We want to show them some of the fun and exciting things we’re doing here at Austin Peay to try to bring in more students.”
Governor’s School students took turns flying the drones through the course. Some of them crashed into the flags. But they all completed the course.
Then Drone Club president Mike Hunter fired up one of the racing drones, machines club members built to fly over 40 mph. As his drone zipped, dipped and dove around the Dunn Bowl, Governor’s School students donned virtual reality goggles to watch through a camera mounted on the machine.
The commercial drones help the GIS Center, and its student workers, accomplish its mission to work with clients in surrounding counties, including Cheatham, Robertson and Montgomery.
A student, for example, recently helped map the new disk golf course at Rotary Park, Catellier said.
“We had the student go out and fly the park several times,” Catellier said. “She stitched all the 1,400 images together into one mosaic. She was able to digitize out where all the disk pads were (for Montgomery County Parks and Recreation).”
The GIS Center received a grant to next month create a virtual reality drone laboratory, or simulation center, to teach anyone who wants to check out a drone how to fly one.
And the Drone Club is trying to qualify to race this fall semester in the Collegiate Drone Racing Association, where teams set up specified courses at their campuses and race remotely. This will be the Drone Club’s first official season.