posted April 04, 2018
When Eric Lobb, a freshman mechanical engineer/GIS student from Spring City, PA, moved to campus, he made sure to pack all of his essentials. In his case, the necessities included a drone.
The remote-controlled flying machine, powered by four propellers and equipped with a camera, is part hobby and part learning experience for Lobb.
“The area around me is a lot of farms and fields so it was the perfect place to start flying my drones,” he said. “I have owned my current one since November, but I have owned around five different drones since about a year ago.”
Drone flying on campus is taking place more frequently, due to classwork for geography courses such as GIS, cartography, and special topics.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to fly their own aerial photography mission, which, in the past, it had to be done with real aircraft, and very expensive machinery and cameras,” said geography instructor Dr. Ahmed Massasati, also a drone pilot.
Students have mapped numerous sites, including the Pitt-Johnstown campus, Greater Johnstown High School area, an acid mine drainage location in Portage, roadwork on Route 56, and Cambria City.
“I do this mainly for fun, but it also applies to my cartography class,” said Lobb. “I am currently getting involved with the RC Racing & Aviation club and hoping to get some more drone related things going there.
He correlates the hobby to his major.
“Mechanical engineering is simply the study of moving parts and machinery so by flying my drones and repairing them I am not only learning about machinery but I am also able to obtain videos and photos of different areas from a whole new level. That enables me to study different terrain and machines in a new way. I am also going for a GIS minor so it directly relates to the program itself and aerial mapping
According to Lobb, the future of drone operation is as wide open as the sky through which the devices are propelled.
“Drones are not only a way to get people outside but they also teach hand eye coordination, reaction timing, and basic aviation skills,” he said.
“I am looking forward to see what more drones can do not only in the recreational field and photography but rather for transport, emergency help, and law enforcement.”
Lobb's work can be seen on Instagram: @lobbstadrones.
Eric Lobb drone photos of campus show shadows cast by the setting sun (above),
and a late-fall snowfall blanketing Laurel Hall (below).