Learning with drones: flying new frontiers in education

By Rebeckah Flowers

How many educational programs can provide students the opportunity to explore disciplines as varied as photography and engineering, computer programming and agriculture, entrepreneurship and GIS? Chris Cruz, GISP, of West Valley College has created just such a program, using Unmanned Aerial Systems to drive home invaluable lessons in each of its academic areas.

Cruz is the Division Chair of Park Management and an instructor for the Geospatial Technology Program at West Valley College, as well as the creator of its innovative UAS program. His presentation, "Learning with Drones — How Educational Environments Are Flying New Frontiers: UAS Education and Program Development" was one of the highlights of Drones Flying Free 2016, a virtual symposium organized by Directions Magazine and aired last month.

In his hour-long presentation, Cruz provided best practices for educators who would like to establish a UAS program within their own institutions. Having successfully navigated the obstacles of finding institutional champions, recruiting community partners and building inter-disciplinary relationships, Cruz's advice is "tried and true", and could save educators weeks of legwork.

Among his many tips:

  • Set up an indoor or netted environment for initial UAV flight lessons; there will be accidents, and you need to be aware they may have legal or regulatory consequences if they occur in an open-air environment.
  • Get flight training for yourself first; www.unmannedexperts.com is a great place to start.
  • Increase funding opportunities by inviting outside educational or professional organizations to participate in the curriculum.
  • Attend the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems expo in New Orleans this May to learn about every aspect of the UAS industry and its opportunities.

Cruz also provided information about applying for grants and other funding, made recommendations for the types of systems and software to purchase, and shared links to a number of free resources for additional information, including how you may contact him for assistance. Watch his presentation and access all his tips and resources on the Drones Flying Free 2016 website.

Published Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Written by Rebeckah Flowers

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