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William Penn University Investigating Incorporating Drone Technology in Education


New technologies sometimes explode and when they become useful in the real world, spur new learning and teaching opportunities. Dr. Jim Hoeksema, professor in the Applied Technology Division at William Penn University (WPU) attended a four-day conference this past summer at Utah State University to help educators incorporate drones into their programs.

“Part of the conference included getting my commercial drone pilot’s license,” said Hoeksema. “We are investigating starting a drone club at Penn.”

WPU’s DigiComm Division, headed by Steve Jackson, is reimagining its majors, and opportunities to use drone imagery for videos and photography are developing. In addition to this WPU has identified other possible avenues for drone use at WPU. The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) students could use drones to record image for use on area maps. Environmental Science students might use drones for conservation, wildlife, and botany surveys. Business students could use the imagery from drones in location analytics for industrial, commercial, and retail building projects or insurance assessments.

In Hoeksema’s Industrial Tech programs, students could learn to build and test working drones. Computer Science students might program drones for autonomous flight. Math students might calculate battery life vs. flight, distance, velocities and triangulation of positions; and Sociology/Criminology students might study how drones are currently used in law enforcement.

Finally, drone imagery can even be valuable in facility management – inspecting roof tops, buildings, and other campus features. But as students learn more about the technology, these options will likely expand.

WPU also recently submitted a proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for WPU to become a testing designee to provide the knowledge training and test content on drone use for the recreational flyer. Commercial uses of drones require FAA training, including the drone pilot’s license. Because of safety concerns, the FAA is developing new conditions for recreational drone users, as well.

Even though flying drones can be fun, there are safety and legal concerns to consider. A few of the rules include flight limited to 400 feet altitude, keeping accurate logbooks, line-of-sight responsibility, no flight above crowds of people, appropriate training, and registration of drones from 0.55 to 55 pounds with the FAA.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) were used during World War II, and the name drones was first used in 1946. With the advances in drone technology in the past years, the term has become much more common.

Commonly used in defense, military, tactical and modern warfare, there are so many new applications for drones that there is an increasing need for people who can use them safely and within the guidelines of the FAA – in a growing number of career fields.

Drones are used in hundreds of different ways, and can be as small as a child’s hand, or big enough to carry multiple high resolution cameras, including thermal imaging cameras. Industries benefitting from recent upsurges in drone usage include logistics and transportation, photography and filmmaking, security, mapping, entertainment, recreation, agriculture, architecture, law enforcement, and search and rescue.

For more information about the developing Drone Program at WPU, contact Dr. Hoeksema at

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