Innovation Council grant to support Elon Drone Day 2022

The strategic grant from Elon’s Innovation Council will support organizers as they seek to expose a broader audience to the technological and professional potential of the growing drone industry.

A new grant from the Elon Innovation Council will allow Elon Drone Day to soar even higher in 2022 by introducing a broader audience to the potential the growing drone industry offers both technologically and professionally.

The $4,500 grant for Elon Drone Day 2022 follows a successful inaugural event in 2021 that drew more than 120 attendees to Elon to view the latest drone technology, learn about the training and regulatory requirements of drone operation and experience a drone demonstration showcasing the potential these unmanned aerial vehicles have in a broad range of industries.

Vendors at the first Elon Drone Day in November 2021 shared about how these technologies can benefit a broad range of industries.

Organizer Randy Piland, senior lecturer in communication design, said the Innovation Council grant will allow for additional academic departments from across campus to be integrated into the Drone Day event, which was supported last year by the School of Communications and hosted in partnership with the N.C. Department of Transportation, the FAA Safety Team and others.

This year’s event, which will be held Friday, Nov. 18, will include representatives from the fields of cinema and media, engineering, computer science, and international and global studies. With an expanded focus that will appeal to a broader range of people, this year’s Elon Drone Day will continue to establish the university as a leading advocate for drone education and training.

“We’re really looking at ways to incorporate other disciplines from across campus, particularly engineering and computer science, whose fields are making an impact in the drone industry and whose students can see how they can fit into the drone field,” Piland said.

Elon has recently been accepted as an associate member of the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle System International (AUVSI) and the Elon Drone Day is partnering with the AUVSI NC chapter in co-hosting the event.

The Elon Innovation Council annually offers grants of up to $5,000 to Elon students, faculty and staff for innovative project proposals that support the objectives and themes within Boldly Elon, the university’s 10-year strategic plan. Proposals can be centered around objectives such as building interdisciplinary work on campus, enhancing inclusivity and belonging, supporting the internationalization of Elon’s campus, building local partnerships and connections with alumni and other areas.

The inaugural Elon Drone Day on Nov. 8, 2021, drew recreational and commercial pilots, transportation and safety officials, educators, students and community members to Elon’s campus. The daylong program included panel discussions, keynote talks and an afternoon flight demonstration. Pilots, educators and officials answered questions regarding regulations, safety and trends in the drone industry.

The 2021 Elon Drone Day covered a wide spectrum of commercial and public safety applications and topics, including remote ID, night operations, flight over people, FAASTeam Ops and Maintenance, the TRUST program, Part 107 certification, drone-based delivery, educational implementation of UAS tech, public safety utility, and legal considerations.

Elon Drone Day in November 2021 included demonstrations of various drone technologies.

The format of this year’s Elon Drone Day will be similar but is designed to broaden the scope of participants and to draw in more Elon students who may be interested in drones from both recreational and professional perspectives.
Additionally, Piland is working to incorporate representatives from Global Air Drone Academy, a Baltimore-based drone training, education and consultation organization that has a focus on training young people to be drone pilots. Among its programs are training initiatives in Nigeria and other African countries where drone technologies are being deployed in a number of industries.

“We want to bring them in to show that this is a global opportunity,” Piland said. “It’s feeding a career path and jobs for young people who can look ahead and say, ‘I have a future in those fields.’”

Piland views last year’s event as “a very good start,” and says the support of the Innovation Council grant will allow the event to expand its focus, serve a larger audience of attendees and incorporate additional areas of the far-reaching drone industry.

“We reached a large variety of people in the public last year who are interested in the drone industry and who have aspirations to use drones in their industries,” Piland said. “This year I think we will draw a lot more interest on campus from faculty and staff who want to understand what the opportunities are within their areas and programs.”