Posted: 2018-12-03 19:48:54

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Shepherd University has expanded its drone fleet and has been using the newest drone to inspect the roofs of buildings on campus.

The Institute of Environmental and Physical Sciences purchased a DJI Mavic Pro 2 for about $1,300 and a pair of DJI high-definition digital-video goggles for about $500 with a grant from the Shepherd University Foundation’s Women Investing in Shepherd.

Shepherd now has three drones — the new Mavic Pro 2, a Phantom 3 and a DJI Matrice 100 unmanned aerial vehicle that was purchased with a $20,000 West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Division of Science and Research grant.

The two older drones are used for science mapping and to collect data that students can analyze. The new drone can be used in areas such as producing aerial-marketing videos or doing insurance inspections.

“This is a cinematography drone, so it allows you to do movie-style cinematics with the drone in the air,” Steven Shaffer, Shepherd lecturer of environmental studies, said in a news release. “The really special thing is the virtual-reality goggles can be used with the drone, so you can look through the drone’s camera.”

“One person is at the controls flying the drone, and the other person can look all around, and the camera follows the person wearing the goggles,” said Sytil Murphy, associate professor of physics at Shepherd.

Shaffer said there is demand for drone courses, and the new drone will help the geomatics program expand its offerings so students can learn how to use drones for a variety of jobs.

“We’re moving from a hobby to a professional business,” he said. “The (Federal Aviation Administration) is changing the relationship that the national air-traffic system has with drones and making it a much more formal relationship, so the demand for pilots is going to grow as those responsibilities grow. That requires a disciplined approach to learning how to fly it, learning how to control it and being able to interact with other aircraft.”

Starting in the spring, Shepherd will offer a new class, Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, that will teach everything students need to prepare for the FAA’s Part 107 aeronautical-knowledge exam that drone pilots are required to pass.

Shepherd also is offering contracts to businesses and residents who have a need for drone services.

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