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Furman’s drone wins top prize in national competition

Furman researchers used drone technology to assess street lighting in an effort to help stem crime in Greenville neighborhoods.
Furman researchers used drone technology to assess street lighting in an effort to help stem crime in Greenville neighborhoods.

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A Furman University team led by physics professor John Conrad won first place in the Drone Prize 2014 competition which was held Aug. 22-24 in Oregon.

Carried out by three finalists, the competition consisted of five-parts—an oral presentation and four rigorous piloting exercises.

The subject of Furman’s oral presentation was the university’s drone overflights in underserved Greenville County communities, Poe Mill and New Washington Heights. The investigators for the project used drone technology to assess street lighting in an effort to help stem crime in the neighborhoods.

The drone project at Furman started as a collaboration among the university’s Physics Department and students in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class taught by Mike Winiski, Associate Director of Furman’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

Drone Prize 2014 was sponsored by Arlington, Va.-based Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a non-profit organization devoted to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community.

The competition also required participants to demonstrate drone piloting skills by executing a precision landing maneuver; simulating an invasive species survey; performing a mock search and rescue challenge; and completing an obstacle collision avoidance course—a test that only team Furman was able to successfully accomplish.

Participants in the competition were Dr. Conrad and, piloting the drone, Furman juniors Chase Fiedler (Hilton Head) and William Lewis (Greer).  Others involved in the competition were Furman’s Winiski, Taylor de Lench (Furman Marketing and PR), Furman senior Steve Nelson (Cincinnati, Ohio), former student Connor Chatterton (Staten Island, N.Y.) and Dante Durrman (Charlotte, N.C.), and New Washington Heights residents Mercia Calvin and Jean Phelps.

Furman was awarded first place in a ceremony at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. The prize, valued at more than $8,000, was a fully-outfitted DJI heavy lifter S-800 hexacopter system donated by Aerial Technology International.

More information about Drone Prize 2014 may be found here, or by contacting Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.

Furman celebrated the success of the drone team with a party on campus this week. From left to right are Steven Nelson, Chase Fiedler, William Lewis, John Conrad and Furman president Elizabeth Davis.
Furman president Elizabeth Davis helped celebrate the success of the drone team this week. The others pictured are (from left to right) Steven Nelson, Chase Fiedler, William Lewis and John Conrad.
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