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Thursday, 06 November 2014 05:54

College not just droning on about innovation

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College not just droning on about innovation Web capture from Medicine Hat College's twitter account.

Those who attended some of the Canadian College Athletic Association Women's Soccer National Championship held at the Methanex Bowl in Medicine Hat were not seeing things.


Spectators probably thought there were unidentified flying objects near the tournament site.
In reality, the remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) are helping move along what Mark Keller, the Director of Advancement for the Medicine Hat College, is calling an "interesting" learning curve for the learning institution.
The soccer championships provides a field for which the RPAS, commonly referred to as “drones,” could be experimented with and learned from — and not just a fun toy.
Mark Keller, the Director of Advancement for the College, says the idea initially came from Martyn O’Donnell Rattlers Athletics Event Coordinator and one of the assistant coaches of the men's soccer team. O'Donnell thought the college should try something unique for the tournament.
An idea suggested was strapping a video/stills camera to one of the RPAS. This would be a dynamic way to record and preserve the proceedings of the women’s soccer championship being held in Medicine Hat.
However, it wasn't as easy as finding a supplier of a drone and just proceeding. According to Keller, in an interview Nov. 5 prior to the Rattlers’ first game in the championship tournament, there were a lot of legalities which needed to be addressed. This has helped build communication between the college and the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, which is based in Foremost, but has an office in Medicine Hat as well.
"In order to fly it legally and safely you have to take a course," explains Keller of the Transport Canada’s Special Flight Operations Certificate. Those who took the course included Keller, O'Donnell, as well as dean of business and enterprise Stephen Finnagan. "So in getting the small drone, we get the video for it, but the hope we have is that we're doing something in a market that is growing, it's intriguing... it’s one of those growth industries and as a college's our next steps — we're building our own opportunities which is good."
 The college’s RPAS is described as an "affordable 'micro RPAS', a DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus. It is a quad copter that weighs 1.16 kg." The drones being flown at the tournament did not go over the field. In fact they were kept outside the perimeter for safety's sake.
"We were just making sure people are using things in the proper manner," adds Keller including how high the drones could go.
Keller says there are new areas which the college's Continuing Studies are looking into with CCUVS, but there are other areas of development and research for the college including surveying and crop studies.
The director of advancement added he has been doing Google alert searches and is studying the basis of the RPAS and says currently it's at a base level. He says they are looking at various partnerships, but at this early stage it’s all exploratory.
"But for the College, it's a good time to help share what we learn, but this is all in the formative stages," explains Keller who actually has an aviation background and an interest in the unmanned aircraft.
For those wanting more information on the college's involvement can contact Walter Garrison Manager, Innovation & Scholarship at 403-502-8996 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or can follow the special college twitter account at @MHC_RPAS
Those interested in learning to operate one of the drones can find out more about the actual course by contacting the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems directly at phone: 403-488-7208 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor