The Takeover
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The Takeover

Groundbreaking technology comes to campus

By Gracie Fairfax | Echo

seniors holding drone

Five seniors worked together on the drone project (photo by Shannon Smagala)

Taylor’s own Eye of Sauron towers over the heart of campus. We’re used to it. But drones?

It’s true.

These are the drones you’re looking for. Or at least, these are the drones our very own computer science students are programming here in the cornfields of Upland.

The group responsible for the project consists of seniors Sam Bolds, Scott King, Tyler Garcia, Devin Moore and Caleb Stevenson.

Delivered in October, the drones—flying vehicles carrying sensors and cameras—were originally intended for use in classes. The research team saw potential in programming the drones and developed them into a project for their directed research course.

One goal of the project is to enable computer science students to simplify complex commands in order to create a more efficient flight program. For instance, they hope to decrease the number of steps required for a simple command such as “fly upward 10 meters” from 100 to one.

The students also hope to add graphic processing capability, which would allow the drone to fly through a room and map it in real-time—ultimately enabling the drone to fly and avoid hitting walls. To accomplish this, they equipped one of their machines with sonar and hope to later add a camera.

One issue the team has run into while testing has been walls—whether that is physically running into them or dealing with mental limitations. However, the obstacles the students have faced have taught them the importance of improvising when testing in the real world.

“Our flights never go as planned, and we are constantly rewriting our program during field testing because minorly rough landings can result in damage to the copter,” Bolds said. “One benefit to this is we have learned inside and out how the copter is put together, and I could take it apart and put it back together in under 20 minutes if I had to.”

Drones could potentially be integrated into many different industries. One recent idea is a same-day delivery service for Amazon. Other discussions include the usage of drones in the pizza delivery service.

While Bolds does not believe these uses for drones will become a reality, there are areas in which the usage of drones may be more practical, such as mapping in agricultural and industrial construction applications. Drones, along with a single human operator, could be used to map a building site to check the integrity of blueprints before they even arrive.

“I could also see drones being used for government surveillance, perhaps even traffic stops,” Bolds said.

Always eager to merge technology and creative design, Bolds dreams of one day putting his skills to work for Disney’s Imagineering, which has experimented with the idea of drones in some of their theme park attractions.

While the idea of drones is essentially basic, the reality of the technology provides a tool that could revolutionize the world we live in. But don’t hold your breath for any flying pizza. That may still be left to the delivery boy.


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