Drones are constantly being used in new and exiting ways. From capturing stunning films and photographs, collecting scientific data, accessing hard to reach places, providing inspections, and much more. The possibilities are endless. Perhaps one of the most exciting way drones are beginning to be used now is as delivery vehicles. It has certainly been a long process to get to the point where drones can be used to make deliveries. There are still plenty of restrictions in place that is prohibiting a broad drone delivery program, but there are some exceptions. One of these exceptions took place a few years ago bringing together the worlds of drones and education.
In the fall of 2017, Lewis University in Romeoville, IL made a first of it’s kind drone delivery to some students. Established in 1932, the school only has an enrollment of 6,800 students and 80 undergraduate areas of study. With such a small population, the school is able to intensely focus on the best possible course of study for anyone who attends. Being so close to Chicago and the second busiest airport in the world, O’Hare International, Lewis University has become particularly known for their programs of excellence in the fields of aviation. The school has its own private on campus airport and recently was awarded the Loening Trophy in acknowledgment for their outstanding FAA approved aviation programs. One of the areas of study that falls under the field of aviation is the school’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems program. It came as no surprise that a school with such a respected drone program used their drones to inform local high school students of some good news.
On November 13, 2017 eight seniors from Romeoville High School, along with their families, teachers, and even the mayor, gathered on the high school football field for a special presentation from Lewis University. A six rotor drone flew over then landed on the field. The drone was carrying a very special package, the student’s admissions letter to Lewis University. “We are excited to be taking part in this unique way of notifying Romeoville High School students of their acceptance to Lewis University,” Derek Kinder, principal of Romeoville high School, said. As Dr. David Livingston, Lewis University President pointed out, this delivery was more than just unique. “Being the first delivery of this kind in the nation demonstrates how Lewis University is a leader in aviation education from the first moments of your Lewis University experience,” he said.
Since that landmark drone delivery, similar situations have been on the rise. Now, in the wake of the coronavirus, drone deliveries are becoming an almost normal experience. Ainsley Pena is a senior from Boston High School. If drone deliveries were a normal everyday occurrence, she would most likely say her experience was anything but ordinary. In May of 2020, Ainsley was doing an online video interview with Scholar Athletes. As explained on their website, “Scholar Athletes partners with public high schools to help close the opportunity gap for thousands of young people in grades 9-12 across the Commonwealth. Scholar Athletes’ programs leverage the power of athletics and wellness to cultivate the discipline, confidence and social-emotional skills needed to support success in school, as well as success in life.” As an excellent student and athlete, the organization felt honored to assist Ainsley with her post high school education, but they felt just telling her the good news over a video conference was not enough.
The interviewers told her to leave the video call on and go outside to get a surprise they had for her. With a clearly confused look on her face, Ainsley stood up carrying her phone with her as she walked outside to be greeted by her family. If that wasn’t a quarantine surprise enough, moments later she heard and saw a drone heading towards her. Hanging from the drone was a bag with Curry College written on it. Curry College is a small school in Milton, MA that excellently blends the worlds of academia and athletics, making it an ideal school for Ainsley. After looking on in shock, Ainsley retrieved the package from the drone. Upon opening it she learned that she was the recipient of a full tuition scholarship to her dream school. “I was just very speechless, I didn’t know what to say,” Ainsley said. “It felt like a dream come true.”
Step by step, altering regulation after regulation, drones are becoming more immersed in our day to day lives. They are assisting us with countless job situation, allowing us to see the world from a different point of view, providing us with protection and unparalleled data collection. Now they are bridging the gap we face in a world going through quarantine. They brings us medications, food, and wonderful news. Or, for one grandfather who missed his grandchildren, some joy. Kevin Procopio of Saugus, MA decided to cheer up his three young and bored grandsons with a special gift from “Papa Kevin”. He called with directions for the whole family to go wait outside. Staying on his deck, a 1/3 of a mile up the street, Kevin used his drone to deliver a box of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins to his grandsons. The look of sheer joy on 5 year old Oren’s face as he hugged the box of treats to his chest and waved to the camera on his Papa’s drone speaks volumes of just how useful a drone can now be.