Last week I got to watch a drone journalism demonstration. Okay, so we’re a little leery of drones. Without question, they deserve it–especially with the uses we conjure up for them, us humans. But Bill Allen and his students at the MU Science and Agricultural Journalism program where I teach are messing around with drones for science.
I stood on terra firma on Sandborn Field among wispy weeds and plotted ag projects and watched as one of the students, Brendon Gibbons, demonstrated the up, down, sideways, and circular motions he could put the class drone through while the camera stayed steady. Looking over his shoulder, I saw the nearly soundless drone rise to shoulder height and then rise smoothly again to 20 feet and swing out over the field. When it moved speedily forward it tilted slightly in the direction it was headed, but the video and still shots it is capable of stayed focused. The equipment is small and unmanned. The battery, its heaviest component, lasts about 15 minutes.
The class has documented prairie fire (see http://kbia.org/post/field-notes-using-drones-capture-prairie-burn-missouri) during a controlled burn at Tucker Prairie near Kingdom City, Missouri, all that’s left of Missouri’s “Grand Prairie.” Earlier they captured footage of 50,000 snow geese in Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area (see http://www.kbia.org/post/why-are-there-50000-snow-geese-mid-missouri) due to weird weather conditions. Going where no man could actually go during a fire, being at bird’s eye level for stories on public lands about the environment, floods, drought, and agriculture…drones are not all bad.