San Diego State University launches Drone Lab



San Diego State University (SDSU) has launched its new Center for Unmanned Systems Technologies—also known as the Drone Lab—which will be used to “capitalize on its potential for crowd protection, surveillance and research while heading off potential dangers.”

Right now, SDSU students can fly their UAS on campus at two designated “fly zones,” but the school notes that it is a safety hazard to have too many UAS flying around campus, especially by pilots that are inexperienced.

That is one of the primary reasons that the lab was established, to “provide a centralized hub to connect drone users and ensure that they are using the devices safely.” The lab is also working on developing an app that students can use to register their UAS, being that all UAS flown on campus must be registered through Emergency Services or the SDSU Police Department.

“We want to make SDSU a drone-friendly campus, but we want to do so safely,” says Lamine Secka, director of emergency services and Drone Lab program manager.

“The goal of the Drone Lab is to get people thinking about ways to use drones that they may have never imagined before.”

UAS on campus can be used for a variety of tasks, such as enhancing campus safety. They can be used to hover over outdoor concerts or other large gatherings, and look out for signs of violence or people in distress. This would be extremely beneficial to security personnel, but the UAS can also be used in these situations to shine spotlights or deliver directions or warnings through mounted loudspeakers.

​Besides enhancing campus safety, UAS can also be used to help provide researchers with answers to scholarly questions, as they can provide a bird’s-eye view of field sites, ocean patterns, environmental degradation, traffic, crowd size and other things.

Secka is hopeful that researchers interested in learning about how this technology can benefit their work—even if they’ve never used it before—will use the lab as a resource.

Currently, the lab has access to nine UAS of different sizes, configurations and specializations, but interested parties are welcome to bring their own UAS to collaborate on projects.

An establishing gift from the Aztec Parents Advisory Board made the Drone Lab a reality.

Board member Terry Parisher led efforts to secure funding for the lab. Parisher, who has a plethora of experience in the unmanned systems industry, is nothing short of excited about the current state of the UAS industry in San Diego.

“San Diego has a national reputation as a hub for drone development so it makes sense for SDSU to have a center dedicated to drone use and research,” Parisher says. “We have dozens of companies that offer services, engineering and research with drones.”

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