Friday, June 23, 2017

CVTC Camp Covers Ups and Downs of Drone Flying

Teachers, students among attendees

Article Photo - CVTC Camp Covers Ups and Downs of Drone Flying

Durand High School student Jon Koller, right, controls a drone in the Altoona High School gym during Chippewa Valley Technical College’s four-day Drone Camp. Looking on is Durand High School teacher Todd Poeschel.

Eau Claire, WI – The 13 youths and adults attending the Drone Camp at Chippewa Valley Technical College were virtually unanimous in their assessment of the hardest part of learning to fly a drone: Figuring out left and right.

“If the drone is not pointing away from you, the controls are backwards and you have to reprogram your brain,” said Jon Koller, a student at Durand High School who was learning more so he could pilot a new school drone for video and photography projects.

“You cannot teach experience with drones,” said Daniel Wik, a CVTC Nano Engineering Technology student who taught the four-day camp held at the CVTC Energy Education Center and Altoona High School facilities. “You have to learn that right is left and left is right when the drone is pointed toward you. And every drone is different in handling and settings.”

CVTC initiated the Drone Camp partly as an introduction to its nine-credit Drone (Unmanned Aerial Systems) certificate program created last year, but also in response to local interest.

“People are interested in drones for fun, mainly,” Wik said. “But there are a number of applications, from a small child flying that first toy to a movie company flying a $20,000 drone for filming. There are lots of commercial applications from roof inspections to crop condition reports.”

The camp was open to both high school students and middle and high school teachers. Most enrolled just out of general interest, but some, like Koller and Durand teacher Todd Poeschel, had specific reasons for exploring drones in greater detail.

“Jon is an advanced student in video production class and we just purchased a drone to incorporate into the class,” said Poeschel.

Koller came to the camp with more experience than most, since he has his own drone and demonstrated it for the group early in the week. He came to the camp to learn more, especially about the laws, which will be critical to operation of the school drone.

“We’re exploring, looking at the things we can do with the drone, based on the rules and regulations,” Poeschel said. “A lot of what we are able to do will be dictated by that.”

“And everyone who wants to fly the drone is going to have to know the regulations,” Koller said.

“Even the hobbyists have to adhere to the FAA regulations,” Wik said. “We went through all the rules that apply, from hobbyists to commercial regulations.”

Also covered were different controls for drones. Although most drones are controlled by a dedicated control box with a joystick, many drones can be controlled through wi-fi connections with a tablet or smartphone.

“We did all of our practices on the simulator with toggle controls, then we used an i-pad,” said Charles Milliren, a teacher from Owen-Withee. “The joy sticks are the easiest.”

“I just wanted to learn how to fly drones better,” said Nolan Dimmitt, a student from Fall Creek. “I’m not really good at it. If you have the drone tilted the wrong way, it can be hard to maneuver.”

The members of the group were better after a few days of practice, but they hadn’t had to fly in conditions where wind can be a big factor. Wik urged people to find a safe place outside when learning to fly a drone.

“In an open field without a lot of people around is the best place to try it out,” Wik said.