Up In The Air: ICT SHSM Drone Workshop

Up in the Air: SHSM Certification

ICT SHSM students were able to complete an introductory certification on understanding drones. Thanks to our guest speakers, students were able to learn how drones are being used in media, wildlife conservation, as well as how they are being used to support humanitarian aid efforts. Every year, students in the ICT SHSM program complete several certifications or workshops. This year, drones were selected as an advanced technology to become the focus of a SHSM certification.

The use of drones has exploded across many industries over the past several years. Driven by decreased costs, improved cameras, and machine learning, many organizations are able to now use drones for tasks where they were not previously applicable.

drone flying

During the virtual guest speaker portion, STA graduate Brie O'Sullivan discussed her works and research while completing her Master's degree, along with her involvement with WeRobotics.  Brie had plenty to share about how drones are being used globally to support victims of natural disasters, protect wildlife, deliver medical aid, and support nature conservation efforts.  Students heard about a range of projects from tree seed planting with drones, to scouting areas of rainforest clear-cutting, to releasing genetically modified mosquitos to fight against the spread of Zika, Dengue, and Malaria.

What was especially beneficial was hearing about organizations like WeRobotics that work to build and support local talent and infrastructure to manage and implement these projects.  Brie's work also focuses on the ethics of these projects, and that includes who is impacted by the project, but also who benefits and manages these projects.  It was great to hear about how local communities are being supported to develop solutions within their region or country.

Aliyah Pandolfi is the founder of Kashmir World Foundation (KwF).  Within KwF, Kashmir Robotics develops and integrates custom, mission-focused unmanned aerial systems (UASs) which are equipped with artificial intelligence, allowing them to process data on board, making them an extraordinarily beneficial tool used for the conservation and counter-poaching of endangered species.  Aliyah spoke with students about the founding of KwF and following her passion for nature conservation.  KwF has worked with drones using machine learning to identify sea turtles hatching by identifying their paths from the beach towards the ocean.  KwF is currently working to protect Snow Leopards in high mountain regions and working to solve the challenges of flying drones at high altitudes.   This includes the development of a blended-wing drone named Eagle Ray.

Much of Aliyah's work is connecting local talent with experts in drones, machine learning, and conservation.  KwF also has experience with providing drone education programs, along with taking on interns to gain experience across disciplines including computer science and marketing.

Aliyah's daughter Kashmir also joined students virtually to give an introduction of the core systems within a drone using the comparison of a bee.  Kashmir has her own involvement at KwF and it was fantastic for students to see a younger student sharing their own passions in this way.

As part of the certification, students were also introduced to drones used by SkyX to monitor remote areas such as along gas and oil pipelines.  Students were also introduced to the challenges of keeping drones and the information the collect safe from hackers.  This includes wifi attacks, GPS spoofing, cellular or radio-frequency (RF) jamming, as well as protecting against eavesdropping to steal drone data.  As drones are built on several other technologies, there is a great deal of work needed to be done to protect the drones themselves as well as the data they are obtaining.  The issue of security also related back to Brie's work on conservation.  An example she provided was that data collected to monitor the health of a hippo population could be used by poachers if they were able to obtain the data.

SkyX Drones

SHSM students finished their guest speaker series hearing from Scott Hurren, founder of Outside the Box Air (OTBxAir).  OTBxAir is based locally in Oakville Ontario.  They strive to provide simple solutions for providing photography and video services to clients.  OTBxAir started primarily as a drone-based videography company, but quickly expanded in the services they provide, as well as the regions they service.  Scott shared his story and passion for entrepreneurship with students.  Using drones to shoot a video for real estate, advertising, or television and movies is the use case most students were familiar with when it comes to drones.  Scott was able to provide valuable insight into not only his business and ones in the same market, but also the growth of a company starting from a single drone to reaching across Canada with plans to branch out internationally.  Like all our guests, Scott's passion for what he does was certainly evident as he connected with students.

ICT SHSM students will now move on to a practical portion of the certification.  They will be using Tello drones in order to work with a drone hands-on including programming one for autonomous flight,

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