Mount Vernon High School students use drone to promote robotics, provide public service

When hearing the word ‘drone’ many are reminded of the unmanned aircraft systems used by the military overseas or domestic surveillance concerns.

But the Mount Vernon High School’s award-winning Robotics Club, which has 21 members, is hoping to use the unmanned aircraft technology in a positive way for promoting robotics, education and community outreach.

Richard Scearce, the robotics club’s coach and mentor, said the project came to fruition when he and other students discussed their interests in aviation and airplanes. Though the group initially intended to build a drone over the summer, the venture proved expensive and Scearce purchased a drone instead.

Since then, the students have made modifications to the 1 pound, 14-by-16-inch UAV — like adding a GoPro camera and longer-lasting battery — and have been learning how to fly it.

“These kids can now fly it pretty good and boy, they sure took to it just like a duck to water because of their video game skills,” Scearce said, adding the UAS — unmanned aircraft system — can also be controlled with a smartphone or tablet.

Scearce said he’s working on some kind of system to train interested students to fly the drone, where they will have to log their flying time to become a ‘certified’ pilot for the club.

Outside their robotics lab, the group hopes to use the drone to take aerial footage of their high school football team’s scrimmages so the coach can analyze the video and help the team improve line-blocking and pass coverage. The club has already done a few test-flights at a nearby playground, as well as over the high school’s scrimmage field.

Scearce said he has also reached out to area-farmers about using the drone to help with crop inspection and Mount Vernon Police Chief Mark Winder about using the drone to take footage of traffic driving through the town’s roundabouts on Highway 30 so they could be displayed on the city’s website for the public to view.

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