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Manitoba students learn to pilot drones as part of unique learning experience

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Students from across Winnipeg took to the sky on Thursday for a special learning experience about collecting aerial data.

One hundred and twenty students from Winnipeg and Interlake school divisions had the chance to pilot drones in Kildonan Park as part of the Science Experiential Aerial Research (SEAR) program.

Through this program, students learn about conducting research and collecting aerial data. It also teaches them how to pilot drones indoors and outdoors and allows them to take part in engineering and entrepreneurship-based activities.

“We’re introducing students to drone piloting skills,” said Matthew Johnson, vice president of Volatus Aerospace.

“This is day four of a four-day, so they’ve all already done three days in the classroom where they’ve learned how to use indoor drones, as well as looking at data that we’re collecting from today’s event.”

As part of SEAR, students had the chance to participate in different projects, including Thursday’s project where they used multispectral sensors on the drones to identify Dutch elm disease in the city’s tree canopy.

Once the program is complete, students can receive basic RPSA pilot certification from Transport Canada.

“This project that we’re here working on, it’s a real-world research application,” Johnson said.

“We’ve actually partnered with the University of Winnipeg over the last two years to try and determine if you can use a drone with a multispectral sensor to detect Dutch elm disease."

The SEAR program runs in 15 school divisions in Manitoba, with hundreds of students taking part.

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