High-Tech Hummingbirds

Drones: disruptive and versatile teaching tools

Tim Vanderpool, Chris Richards photo
Michael McKisson, an assistant professor of practice in the School of Journalism, provides instruction on drone journalism and 360-degree video production to a group of journalism students.
They flit across the sky — small, hushed, seemingly innocuous. And they are changing the world.
From gathering data on huge cracks in the earth called fissures to helping pollinate trees and monitor the U.S.-Mexico border, the unmanned aircraft called drones have already become indispensable.
The University of Arizona is at the forefront of their development.
The rush to remotely controlled flight is not without controversy. In his book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab argues that emerging technology — such as drones — can potentially upend societies. For instance, artificial intelligence might blur the line between digital and biological reality. And drones will greatly test our concepts of personal privacy. 
Yet technology also improves lives. It’s in that latter arena — enhancing the planet and benefiting mankind — that UA scientists are hard at work.  
UA drone research has helped identify huge, potentially dangerous fissures, gauge the lasting impacts of wildfires and monitor landslide-prone areas. Drones could boost agricultural sustainability by pollinating Medjool date palm trees even better than bees do and provide journalism students a unique view of the dynamic U.S.-Mexico border. University scientists are also helping secure that border with drone technology.  
Klaus Schwab was right: Technology is changing us. And the UA is leading that change.

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