Montana Tech to Build Drone Obstacle Course

Technological University is set to begin construction on a new drone obstacle course this spring, just west of its campus. The course, reportedly designed by a team of four senior students, aims to provide opportunities for students to improve their piloting skills and serve as a testing field for companies in Montana's growing technology sector.

Drone Obstacle Course Design and Purpose

The drone obstacle course was designed by Bryan Brown (mechanical engineering), Keenan Cassidy (environmental engineering), Kendra Zander (mechanical engineering), and Riley Wirtz (civil engineering) as part of their senior design project. The purpose of the course is to create an area where pilots and students can test their flight capabilities and the capabilities of their drones.

“The purpose of the drone obstacle course is to design an area where pilots and students can test their flight capabilities and test their drone capabilities,” said Kendra Zander, one of the student designers.

Collaboration and Support

The project has received support from various organizations and departments. Northwestern Energy donated power poles, which will be installed by students in the Highlands College pre-apprentice line program. The inclusion of power poles in the course design is a realistic obstacle that drone pilots often encounter.

“That's a very real obstacle,” said Bryan Brown, another student designer. “There are lots of people walking around with drones who will encounter power lines.”

The team also followed Federal Aviation Administration requirements for drone flights and received guidance from National Laboratory drone personnel.

Environmental Considerations

The project will utilize “green” concrete for the construction of the first drone landing pad. By substituting a portion of the cement with mine tailings, the team aims to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions associated with cement production. The students tested various combinations of mine tailings in the concrete mixture, ultimately deciding on dry tailings for their strength and reliability.

Future Potential

The drone obstacle course has the potential to become a valuable resource for Montana Tech and its collaborators. Dr. Angela Lueking, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, envisions the site as a future field testing area that serves the Headwaters Tech Innovation Hub and the region.

“We have been contacted by sensor and drone manufacturers in Montana that are interested in using the site to test new technology, and this has become an integral component of Montana Tech's contribution to the Headwaters Tech Innovation Hub,” said Dr. Lueking.

The construction of the drone obstacle course at Montana Technological University represents a significant step forward in providing hands-on learning opportunities for students and fostering collaboration with the growing technology sector in Montana. With its thoughtful design, environmental considerations, and potential for future growth, the course is poised to become a valuable asset for the university and the region.

Featured photo courtesy of NBC Montana and the Montana Technological University.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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