Flight Training Workshop

With support from our Five College Digital Humanities grant, several Five College students, faculty and staff devoted a November Saturday at the MacLeish Field Station in Whately, MA  to learn some nuances of flying remotely piloted model aircraft (or drones).  The workshop fulfilled our need to learn how to program and fly missions required for archaeological surveys and landscape analysis.  We also reviewed different types of sensor systems and image analysis.  Many techniques are transferable to other practices or situations in outdoor environments and we plan to host future workshops to support the Five College community.

Future workshops will adopt a similar framework, but we may invite specific scholars to provide more depth in certain research domains.  For example, a workshop for faculty and students in film studies is now imaginable for spring 2015. Participants will not only learn necessary flight techniques, but how to:

  • plan camera position,
  • orient flight platform,
  • adjust / program gimbal,
  • configure shutter frequency based on time or distance, and
  • use first person view to frame specific shots.
Flying gear at MacLeish

Flying gear at MacLeish

Clearly, drones offer unique opportunities for photographers and film makers.  We look forward to supporting the film community, and others, with the skills we acquired during the workshop.  Please let us know if you are interested in attending a workshop to begin using this emergent technology.



Deconstructing Civilian Drones Workshop

On Thursday, October 30th we hosted our 2nd lunch-time workshop, titled “Deconstructing Civilian Drones”.  Designed as an open forum type of event, we invited participants to ask any questions about UAV or drone technology.  Our conversation began with several civilian drones opened for inspection to allow participants to see first hand the technological bits and bobs that make up this emergent technology.  Jon provided an overview of the technology convergence that drives the popularity and availability of drones in academia (and beyond).  Jeffrey shared our vision of the AIRLab and asked participants to imagine how such a space might function at Smith College.


Discussion was free flowing and generally positive about drone use in academia.  Questions ranged from:

  • controlling drones,
  • autonomous flight,
  • range and flight duration,
  • accuracy of positioning,
  • regulations,
  • reliability, and
  • future directions.

We plan to offer a similar workshop in the spring.  Please let us know if you are interested in attending.



Note: no food was harmed or consumed during this workshop per Five College requirements.

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