Katja Liebing/Courier - A drone flown by students from the introduction class for geographic information systems and techniques kicks up dust on take off in Eaton Canyon on Monday.
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Last year, when two professors were awarded with the large grant of $7,500 by the PCC Foundation for the purchasing of drones, there was an expectation that more drones would be seen flying around campus, but the process has been slower than expected.

Since the approval, the drones have been grounded and officially kept away from usage, until just recently. There wasn’t a  reason given as to why the drones couldn’t be used immediately, but it is expected that the The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) held back due to insurance purposes.

“That’s all been sorted out. I know they are concerned about legal rights to fly the drone,” said one recipient of the grant, Brennan Wallace. “Another concern that they had was legal rights to fly the drone. When we first got the drone we got the FAA license, so we’ve been fully licensed.”

The project was first introduced by Brennan Wallace and Christopher O’Leary to study water resources in California. Wallace, of PCC’s geography department, and O’Leary, of the photography department, both gain different outcomes with the usage of drones.

The intertwining of departments is something that got the approval of the grant in the first place. When more departments are able to come together for a single project that benefits all, it leads to a better learning environment overall.

I believe they could be an incredible learning resource,” wrote Executive Director of Business Services, Joseph Simoneschi-Sloan in an email.

Other departments are welcomed to use the drones once everything is sorted by Wallace and O’Leary.

“Just [have to figure] out, do they have a license? Do they need us to come fly it? Are they gonna fly it themselves are they gonna do things correctly?” said Wallace. “It definitely should be open for collaboration, we just wanna make sure that people aren’t breaking it.”  

Wallace was able to use the drones for a mapping project during an outing at Eaton Canyon with his geography class. It was the first time Wallace had used the drones at a different area than PCC’s campus.

The project at Eaton Canyon was essentially a trial run to see how well the drone works with what students mark on the ground. They were given specific areas to mark different tree types, how wide the arroyo should be filled with water, identifying specific trees, and more.

“So they mark those locations, then we photograph them with the drone, and then the final product here is they’re gonna upload the waypoints and images into our mapping program (GIS) and produce maps of that,” said Wallace.

The drones have never been used for this method before, and if the photos can identify what students mark on the ground, then it can be used for further research.

“Before we do any major studies, we want to make sure that this is a workable method,” said Wallace.

For Wallace, being able to use the drones to map out certain areas around different terrain is an amazing way to achieve the eventual goal of helping the environment.

As far as being used on campus, the drones are still undergoing policy regimes and regulations, and are sometimes able to be used during times in which there aren’t many students around, but that may change soon.

The District currently doesn’t have a policy on drones. It’s being developed. We hope to have something in place by the end of November,” said Simoneschi.  

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