Tunkhannock seventh graders got the opportunity to soar into the wild blue yonder on Thursday, without their feet leaving the ground.
The STEM Academy students were treated to a demonstration of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - commonly referred to as a ‘drone’ - by representatives of the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
“We use them in surveying,” explained Nick Puza of Lake Carey, an instructor of surveying and civil engineering at Penn College.
Puza is a 1997 Tunkhannock Area High School alumnus.
Dave Fedor, also an instructor at Penn College, explained how UAVs can make civil engineering and surveying more efficient and safer.
“If a bridge is damaged, an inspector doesn’t have to crawl under it to take a look,” he said. “Instead, a UAV flies under the bridge and takes a picture.”
The students were treated to a video presentation, where they saw a map of the Tunkhannock football field. This map, Puza explained, is used as a guide to program the flight path of the UAV. Using computer software, the operator can determine the exact locations the UAV will travel, eliminating the need for manual operation.
The two men also demonstrate how a UAV can be used to create photograms - multiple pictures used to create a 3D image.
Such images are in turn used to create 3D models, which are used to develop plans for construction and other projects.
Puza said that UAVs are used to conduct various types of surveys - including boundaries, typographical and construction. A Global Positioning System can be hooked up to an UAV, allowing it to record information with high precision.
Following the presentation, Puza and Fedor took a UAV outside to the football field, where they demonstrate it to the students. With Puza at the controls, the UAV silently rises from the ground, and travels high in to the air.
After liftoff, Puza allows the UAV to follow its predetermined course. He is able to track its progress via his smartphone, the video screen reporting its exact location.
“I wish I could share this with the group,” Puza said during the flight.
Many students point excitedly when they spot the UAV, which flies so high it can barely be seen. While traveling about, it’s evident the device is agitating some nearby birds, who move to attack it. Puza explained that this happens occasionally.
The birds aren’t the only ones agitated by the UAV. When Puza announced it is about to land, several students used their arms to cover their heads.
But the UAV ‘lands on a dime’ touching down on the exact spot indicated. As the students are returning to class, Puza explained that the pictures taken by the UAV of the football field will be used to create a 3D model of it.