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DroneTECH meets BaseCamp


C.M. Swanson

Associate Dean of Aerospace at Northern Community & Technical College Curtis Zoller, and UAS Instructor/Program Manager Jon Beck from Northland Aerospace spent the day with a line up of children waiting their turn at flying drones in a netted area in the BaseCamp concourse.

"Keep it nice and low to the ground. We're going to try it one more time. Ready? All right. You have control."

These words spoken by Associate Dean of Aerospace at Northern Community and Technical College, Curtis Zoller sharpened the focus of Northern Star Council Boy Scouts as they stood in line in the BaseCamp concourse waiting their turn to pilot the unmanned aircraft.

Prior to flying drones, attendees get a feel for the soft touch controls by practicing on a bank of computers simulating drone flight. Though the room is charged with the energy of over 80 Boy Scouts wanting to fly, Northland Aerospace employees remain calm and confident.

"You'd be surprised," said Zoller, "Technology, being properly handled is actually very robust. The equipment we have here is designed to work with K-12 education. We can program these UAVs to be as nimble or as stable as we want in order to make sure kids have the best experience flying them.

"Basically, DroneTECH is an activity to show kids STEM technologies and get them involved in STEM education and teach them all about drones. Today is going great. We're having a good time. Everybody's smiling so that's usually a pretty good indicator, right?"

Not only were kids flying drones, they were building them as well. Northland Aerospace provided ELEV-8 V3 Quadcopter kits for attendees to assemble.

"They basically spent all morning building these from scratch out of the box," said Northland Aerospace Avionics Instructor, Tom Biller. "I thought it went really well because in three hours, they were able to take the kit out of the box in a million pieces and fully assemble it. Pretty impressive."

Geospatial Instructor, Steve Sorenson used a PowerPoint presentation to give an overview of imagery and geospatial analysis, explaining those terms and how they apply to flying drones.

"If they get through the whole 10 scavenger hunt questions or locations, I tell them to find Godzilla," said Sorenson. "At first they ask, how do you find Godzilla? I tell them, type it into the search. There is actually, on one of the buildings in Tokyo, Japan, the top portion of Godzilla. So, if they search Godzilla, they will find it. It's just something a little fun to do."

Included in the DroneTECH experience for attendees, Northland Aerosapce UAS Instructor, Zackary Nicklin assisted the boys with an advanced composite construction project with carbon fiber and a honeycomb core.

In addition to assisting with drone flying in the concourse, UAS Instructor/Program Manager Jon Beck fielded questions from attendees regarding rules, regulations, and uses of drones.

"Yes," said Beck. "A license is required if you're going to go out there and make money using this technology...there are certain restrictions in different types of air space around airports or where there are a lot of people...daytime is the standard flying time, however there are exceptions to that...you have to maintain a visual on the aircraft; you can't be flying it if you can't see it...agriculture is one of the main applications for use in rural areas...."

C.M. Swanson

BaseCamp employee Gayle Petersen Ozonot works with the robotics program teaching children as young as kindergarten students how to create a program to direct the movements of simple robots. Ozonot said computer programing is becoming more commonplace in schools offering technical education programs.

Northland Aerospace Grant Officer, Anton Bergee knows the importance of training future drone pilots.

"Supporting events like this is always good," said Bergee. "It allows us to introduce UAS to the younger generation that, in five or 10 years, for some of these kids, this will be a career path for them."

Northern Star Council, Boy Scouts of America Activities/STEM Director, Ryan McDonald said the DroneTECH event is done in an effort to provide more STEM opportunities for members.

"It didn't earn them a particular badge or advancement, though some activities could be used for parts of awards," said McDonald. "The event was more about just having fun and getting some hands on experiences in the drone field. Feedback from the event was good. Kids really enjoy the drone flying, and that is probably the highlight for most participants."

DroneTECH was funded by the National Science Foundation to help create awareness of UAS for the next generation of aerospace professionals.northlandaerospace.com


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