The end of summer always sees students lined up outside of college bookstores, preparing for the fall semester. But at the top of this year’s class supply list might appear a new item: a Solo drone by 3D Robotics.
3DR, North America’s largest consumer drone manufacturer, has launched their new academic program for drones in education—called “3DU”—to support the numerous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) programs taking flight at schools across the country. The 3DU program offers hardware discounts and sponsorships to help prepare a new generation for the emerging UAV industry. 3DU is open to students, clubs, courses and schools at the K-12, university, graduate and postgraduate levels.
“In the past, drone research and teaching tended to be restricted to aerospace or engineering departments,” says Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics. “But this is quickly changing.” While 3DR will continue to sponsor UAV projects and team competitions with their open-source autopilot, the Pixhawk, they expect the demand for ready-to-fly vehicles to rise quickly, and across many disciplines and grade levels. To enable these new initiatives, the 3DU program will also offer academic discounts on ready-to-fly vehicles, including their flagship product, Solo, the world’s first smart drone.
“These schools realize that UAVs will become a multi-billion dollar commercial industry,” says Anderson. “Consequently we’re seeing massive adoption of our drone platforms in education. The diversity and creativity of these programs is astonishing, from archaeology to cinematography to precision farming. We’re seeing the shape of next-generation industry taking form in these labs, and we want to empower them.”
The 3DU program provides discounts for both students and faculty on 3DR’s groundbreaking smart drone, Solo, as well as discounts on the rest of the hardware on their online store, including all other Solo accessories. Solo is the ideal drone for academia as it’s pedagogically intuitive—easy to fly with built-in safety features—and as an open platform that runs on dual 1 GHz Linux computers, it enables hands-on development; students can experiment on the software side as well as the hardware side, tapping Solo’s open accessory and gimbal bays to support different cameras and sensors. Because Solo is so open to innovation, schools will have the confidence that they can invest in the right technology for a variety of needs and won’t have to completely retool every time they offer a new course.
The real future of UAV education, however, lies in software applications, and to that end 3DR has an open app development platform called DroneKit that students can use to learn about, experiment with and create drone apps. “We want Solo to be the number one developer platform for academia,” says Brandon Basso, 3DR’s vice president of software engineering. “We enable development on Solo, for Solo and for the cloud.”
The 3DU program isn’t alone in supporting schools; it is partnering with a growing number of companies to provide educational discounts on additional products. These companies Panoptes, who makes a quadcopter eBumper sonar system for sense-and-avoid courses.
In addition to classroom and curriculum support, 3DR also sponsors select schools, programs and clubs. The company has already sponsored several university UAV programs, including Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
“Recently 3D Robotics donated hardware to SUAVE, Stanford’s UAV Club,” said Trent Lukaczyk of Stanford’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (uav.stanford.edu). “The donation included DIY quadcopter kits, batteries, and much needed spare parts. We used the equipment to grow and upgrade the SUAVE 101 Course: an intro course that mentors students with zero drone experience into autonomous flying heroes.”
“Even for college seniors, the task of designing and assembling a functional system in a three-month period is challenging,” said Tom Clark, Development Engineer, Mechanical Engineering Department, Cal Berkeley. “With 3DR’s donation of a set of drones, as well as continued support from their engineers, our students can spend less time learning about drone technology currently on the market, and instead focus on developing their own applications or hardware that builds on that technology. We are grateful for 3DR’s support!”
To highlight the revolution occurring in the academic drone space, the 3DU program will publish a regular academic newsletter. “Every day we’re discovering so many new uses for drones popping up across so many new fields,” says Dr. Greg Crutsinger, director of the 3DU program. “We want to make sure the world knows education is being transformed from the sky down.”
You can learn more about the 3DU program and fill out an application by visiting 3drobotics.com/3DU