Rover drone

Rover 1 hovers in front of the Brockway Elementary sign.

BROCKWAY — Brockway Area Elementary School has opened up a new avenue of learning for its students: the sky.

The school board recently approved the purchase of a DJI Mavic AIR drone. Designated Rover 1, the drone boasts a high-definition camera mounted on a steady gimbal system to stabilize the image during flight.

“It can record video or take digital photographs from a perspective once reserved for pilots and Hollywood film makers,” said teacher Curtis “Shay” French who introduced the students to Rover 1.

An artificial intelligence system uses sensors and programs for target tracking and avoiding accidents. It will also talk to the pilot about critical conditions like altitude, landing conditions, battery life, and accident avoidance. It has a one-mile range and downloads GPS information to navigate during flight. It can even come home on its own if it gets disconnected from its pilot.

“Speaking of flight,” French added, “Rover 1 gets there in a hurry! It reaches speeds of 42 miles per hour while the three batteries give it 22 minutes of flight time each.”

French said the drone is used to help Brockway keep on the cutting edge of technological education.

“Technology education success in schools used to be measured by the number of computers per student,” he said. “Today, in order for schools to remain relevant, we must think outside the box and introduce students to innovative technologies that are changing the world. Drone technology is one that is rapidly evolving, merging multiple new products into a single device making it perfect for discussions about the latest innovations.”

The drone is used to introduce students to the topic of technology and explore possible careers. Drones can be used for law enforcement, geological studies, military operations, maintenance inspections, and more.

“Responsible students are being trained to fly Rover 1 and take pictures,” French said. “Rover 1 was recently used to film the school’s tailgate party and there are plans to use it to record Field Day, the School Fair and possibly Homecoming.”

The drone cannot be used during games during PIAA Rules.

Rover 1 can fit in a box the size of a lunch box, so it is easy to transport. It can also be unfolded and launched in two minutes. French said that this drone is just the beginning.

“The drone is so impressive it’s difficult to imagine how the technology will evolve from here,” he said. “Brockway has always been at the forefront in the latest advances.”

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