Students get up-close look at unmanned air systems

Published Oct 20, 2015 at 4:00pm

Amid asking students why there is interest in unmanned air systems (UAS)/drones, SUNY Polytechnic Institute assistant professor Timothy Busch mentioned “how about because they’re fun....You can have a lot of fun with them.”

Meanwhile, in reviewing potential uses for the devices, Ulysses Lee of the Air Force Research Laboratory told students “each one of these ideas can revolutionize...fill in the blank...what we do today.”

They were among the speakers this morning at a day-long educational program for students on the opportunities that are emerging and more still to be defined in the rapidly developing UAS field.

“Make no mistake...the jobs are coming,” and can be well-paying, said Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi, D-119, Utica. He later asked, “the question is....do you have the skills and training to get these jobs?” and added “the stuff you learn today” can help to “make decisions about your future.” He also emphasized “we don’t call them drones anymore,” referring to a common reference that he said is often associated with current military uses of the devices, as opposed to the now-developing commercial fields.

About 60 students from Rome Free Academy and Camden and Holland Patent high schools were invited to the program at The Beeches whose theme included “the future and you!” It was hosted by Andro Computational Systems, LLC; other event sponsors also included the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce, Rome school district, RFA and The Beeches.

The session this afternoon was to include a UAS/quadcopter flight competition for students, weather permitting.

A “lot of new and exciting opportunities” were noted by Michele Salisbury, second vice chairman of the chamber’s Board of Directors. She welcomed students to the program as “leaders and innovators of tomorrow.”

One of the keys for local interest in UAS/drones is that Griffiss International Airport is one of the Federal Aviation Administration’s six test sites across the U.S. for the systems. This has prompted local efforts to help the airfield and region benefit from commercial development of the devices.

The selection of Griffiss is “exciting for our future,” Brindisi commented.

Companies will “want to be located near that test site,” he observed. It is “like an arms race,” as companies vie to “test technology...commercialize products,” he added.

Speakers interspersed their remarks with videos showing drones in various potential uses, including some still being developed.

Among the possible applications are for agriculture such as irrigating crops, helping to provide images of terrain, delivering packages, assisting in search and rescue operations.

“As you think about where you want to go to school...engineering is actually an interesting place to go,” said Busch, adding “the study of physics and math is really important...in understanding and controlling these types of devices.”

With the developing technology, “some of the problems come along with it,” Lee observed. For example, with potential package deliveries there can be concerns about how to prevent packages from being stolen. There also can be overall issues with flying the devices safely.

It will be “on you guys...to solve problems and come up with new technology in the future,” Lee said.

Andro President and Chief Scientist Andrew L. Drozd said at the start of today’s program, “we hope to have this every year in one form or another.”