Ohio University Testing Use Of Drones For Non-War Uses


UPDATED: Friday February 15, 2013 10:17 AM

Drones are helping lead the war on terror thousands of miles away.

Now, the unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are taking to the skies in Ohio and around the country.

The drones seen in the air around Ohio are very different than the ones used in missions over Pakistan.

But some groups still have concerns about the FAA approving the use of drones in the United States.

The Medina County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio University in Athens, Sinclair Community College in Springfield are among the organizations that use them.

“You can rotate it, you can tilt it,” said Dr. Wouter Pelgrum of Ohio University, when describing one of his UAVs.

Pelgrum is an assistant professor of electrical engineering. He is studying the use of the UAVs.

He said the drones can be as simple as a toy that can fly up to 10 feet in the air with limited range. Others can accomplish quite a bit more.

“It can carry a computer, and we can put more cameras underneath,” Pelgrum said.

The professor said the drones can be used for crop inspection, power line inspection and search and rescue, among other uses. He currently is researching how to navigate the UAVs when GPS is not available – research that includes using cameras.

“We are not so much interested in what exactly is on the picture,” Pelgrum said. “We only use the pictures to help the robot find its way from A to B.”

While Ohio University is working with technology that can be applied to a variety of uses, some anti-drone groups say they have concerns with objects that might be flying overhead.

“The technology is sort of racing faster than what we are doing as far as really looking into the ramifications of using that technology, and that’s the biggest problem that I see,” said Steve Fryburg, a coordinator for “No Drones Ohio”— a grassroots network to stop drones killing and surveillance.

Pelgrum said he understands how Fryburg and others might be concerned but said that rules and regulations keep university UAVs from doing anything questionable.

“There’s quite some effort going on at this point to ensure that they are used appropriately and not to spy on people,” Pelgrum said.

The ACLU of Ohio is also chiming in on the issue.

A spokesperson tells 10TV  the organization is concerned the growing use of drone technology in the public and private sectors and how it impacts personal privacy.  

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