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Majors & Degrees

Student stays on top of technology with drone certification

June 16, 2017

Dakota State University’s theme “Embrace Innovation” is something Dacey Black is taking seriously. A double major in cyber operations and English for new media at DSU, Black just received his remote pilot certification through Riggin Flight Services at the Madison Municipal Airport.

He predicts drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), will be “the next big thing,” and industry projections indicate that he is right. A 2016 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) report says that by 2020 there could be 2.7 million commercial drones in the U.S., and hobbyist use could increase from 1.9 million to 4.3 million. 

Black grew up with traditional photography working at Black Studios with his father, Mike, but drone photography gives him a new perspective. “Everything from the sky is just gorgeous,” he said. He likes the aerial views of his hometown of Rutland, S.D., but the silver water tower in Madison is also a favorite.

To photograph sights such as these, he recently purchased a DJI brand drone, which can shoot 4K resolution at 60 frames/second. Slow motion, photo stitching and 3-D modeling are also options.

“There are all kinds of opportunities with the drone,” Black said, from hobby flights to professional uses. Drone photography will be “a cool way to do more artistic photography, and hopefully make a little money,” he added. While his main interest is artistic use resulting in photo prints, he is also looking at professional applications. “I’m trying to find the people who would get the most use of a service like this,” he said, such as taking aerial footage of football practices to help local teams, or giving farmers an aerial view of the drainage and tiling on their fields.

DSU does not offer courses in drone operation, but several of Black’s classes provided him with relevant information. He learned about cellular networking and wireless communication, which play a role in how the drone transmits its video feed, and video editing in DSU courses.

“Our Offensive Security Club had a meeting last year about ham radios,” he said, and discussed the rules which apply to communicating with air traffic control and monitoring air space. Knowledge of the Federal Communication Commission laws is also important, Black said, pointing out that for drone pilots, “the FAA is not the only [government agency] to be concerned about.”

His personal experience with drones and knowledge of the FAA’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107) will build on his coursework and benefit his career, particularly on the cyber security side. Black said there are many apps for drones which provide technology features “to keep everyone as safe as they can without impeding the use of the actual product,” he said. As with any technology, these can be circumvented, creating cyber security issues which produce concerns for safety. “Pushing to the safety side of things should be the number one priority,” he stated.