Creative Flight Plans

Apr 06, 2020

Video software allows Professor Jeff Sumey's students to proceed with drone technology education.


The unmanned aircraft system/drone technology program continues to soar as classes shift to online education.

“My courses focus on the application of drones in technology and in society in general,” said Professor Jeff Sumey. “My vision was to design and plan missions like mapping the dimensions of the soccer field, things like that. It’s a very hands-on program, and we would normally all be out in the field together.”

Students had already learned how to manually pilot a drone in the fall semester and were ready to learn autonomous, or pre-programmed, flight concepts.

When the University shifted all classes to online/distance education beginning March 30 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the associate professor got to work on a creative alternative.

Sumey used Camtasia video recording software to demonstrate the first assignment – position hold. He uploaded the video to Cal U’s online learning platform, D2L. Students were instructed to design and upload their own flight plans. Sumey installed each plan onto his drone, headed out to a nearby farm, and the flight. The class reviewed each video and assessed it online.

“We are pushing the envelope and stepping out of our comfort zones,” Sumey said. “But it has gone well, and we’ve gotten a lot of support from the Teaching and Learning Center. I told C.J. DeJuliis that I didn’t have four weeks to learn Adobe Premiere to edit videos, and it was his idea to use Camtasia. We got approval and licenses pretty quickly, and I was able to plug it into this course.”

Sumey said the new teaching innovations won’t be discarded once face-to-face classes can safely resume.

“I think the video idea is a really good one,” he said. “I intentionally did not add a date to these videos, thinking perhaps we could create a library of short demonstration points even when we return to business as usual. My sense is that this a very effective way to convey information.”