Drones and Directors Class Sets Sail at Academy of Art University in San Francisco

Many of you may remember that back in the spring of 2016, we stood up several Drone classes at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. At the time, the courses were a collaborative effort between the Communications and the Motion Picture & Television departments and with generous support received from DJI and then director of education, Romeo Durscher.       

Academy of Art University President, Elisa Stephens, embraced the potential of the technology for storytelling and greenlit the drone class since it dovetailed nicely with the Academy’s expanding STE(A)M programs. Those early classes focused more on dynamic aerial imaging; they were designed to teach students how to safely and ethically use drones as part of the overall storytelling process. Of course, I wanted the class to take it up a couple of notches to something that had more of a business focus.      

This new 499 Drones and Directors class is the Business of Drones turned up to 11. The Jeremiah O’Brien vessel — https://www.ssjeremiahobrien.org — is going to dry dock, and this class is going to create content to help educate and engage the public to make things shipshape!

Our work will include using drones in the air, on the surface, and as underwater ROV’s. The ship is the class, and the lessons will be conducted on board and around this working part of history.     

The process of educating starts right away. From the time students ascend the gangway, they will be immersed in a project, learning about the ship’s legacy and applying their skills to the goal of telling the Jeremiah O’Brien story to the world. If they can overcome this challenge, students should be able to acquire the confidence needed to undertake, head-on,
any project a dynamic career can present.     

The class’s working environment is located in a place that people from all over the world come to see. From the classroom, students can view the San Francisco Bay’s Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge.     

Finding the right combination of a suitable subject, talented people, the right equipment, and a worthy goal initially presented a challenge.  However, once these components came together, then building off of the recipe of the safe and ethical use of drones was all that was needed to make the Business of Drones class a resounding success.    

It took the assistance of Motion Picture Department director, Kenn Ferro, and some guidance from the executive director of the School of Entertainment, Jana Memel, for The Drones and Directors class to become a reality.  I want to thank the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, CCROV, Lume Cube, and FLIR for their support on this project.

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Patrick Egan
Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).