Track Meet: Drone Control

Cole Lovejoy, Production Editor and Edited by Jackie Jones


Cole Lovejoy

South Shore High School @ home middle school track meet on April 29th. View from the drone.

Cole Lovejoy, Production Editor

Each year, South Shore engages the students more and more through real world opportunities that contribute to their learning and are fun for the students. This year, the technology department purchased some new technology for the students to use. The purchase required hours of research and a few classes for the tech people, specifically Jamie Glass, Kira Waters, Brian Chamberlain and Logan Livingston. The tech department bought three drones, one as a practice machine for flying and two for filming and recording different school activities. Of the three drones, the practice one is the hardest to fly due to the fact that it gives the operator an idea of what they face when they take off for the first time.  The first official use for a school event was the middle school track meet on April 29, 2016.  For this meet, the drone used was the DJI Phantom 3 Standard.

The drones are controlled by a big controller, one of which sends out its very own wi-fi signal, which, when picked up by a smartphone and through the DJI GO app, it allows the operator to see exactly what is on the camera and to allows them to fly long distances without losing sight. It has four propellers, allowing it to lift up, go down, move left and right, turn in a circle and fly forward.  The drone also connects to Google maps and has a homing beacon to return to the liftoff point  should the controller run dead or lose its signal. The high definition camera attached to the bottom –  capable of tilting and shooting high definition pictures and video – makes it perfect for filming a variety of events. Upon takeoff, the drone lifts off the ground and hovers at 3.9 feet. After that,  the operator assumes full control of the machine and lifts it to a height that they determine to be acceptable and that they are safe to fly around. The drone is capable of about 30 miles an hour allowing it to film several different relays and events that were going on at the same time. Being that it allowed filming of multiple events, most of the track meet was able to be filmed with minimal effort and lost time crossing the field. To land, the drone is brought back within 60 feet of its takeoff spot and is then uses its homing beacon to land within 10 feet of the takeoff point. Once it is on the ground, the operator can then shut off the engines.

At the middle school track meet, it lifted off from the field and flew around before it began to film. First it hovered over and filmed the long jump and after that it saw action filming the high jump, the relays, the shot-put and the discus. About every 20 minutes, the drone needed to land to replace the rechargeable battery and it would then take off again. Each battery took about 20-25 minutes to charge, which meant that it could fly for almost the whole meet. The filming that the drone did gave us a whole new perspective in footage and it is going to be used for several more events.

There was a good response from the crowd, with several excited remarks of “Oh, look! A drone!” Several people took pictures while others remarked on the speed that the drone could reach going through the air. Next time you are at a middle school outdoor event, don’t forget to look up and see if the drones are in the air!