“We build them, we fly them and then we repair them when they inevitably break,” said Tony Quartarone the secretary-treasurer of the Drone Club.
The UMass Lowell Drone Club was formally recognized last April by the SGA but has been hard at work since last February. The group, advised by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Jean-Francois Millithaler, meets every Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Lawrence Lin Makerspace on the first floor of Falmouth Hall.
The group’s focus is on learning about the drones, but more importantly on having fun with the technology. In their first meeting of the year the group showed their attendees the controls, explaining what each component did, how it works and the safety measures of using drones. They even took apart a large drone to explain in detail the mechanics of the machinery.
A big part of the club is helping professors to build drones that will be used to conduct their research. In exchange for their help the club receives some composition as well as dibs on any “forgotten” or scrap parts from the project.
Most recently the group helped Professor Jay Weitzen, the associate chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to create a drone for his research. This particular drone’s job is to hold a phone, running an app that will count the people in a crowded space just by flying overhead. In less than a few minutes the system could fly over a busy game in the Tsongas Center and have an exact number of people in the arena.
“It’s a good way to drum up interest in a field that’s becoming more and more impactful. There are more and more jobs and uses of drones,” said sophomore Derek Houle, the club’s Vice President, who first learned about drones when he saw Edwin Meriaux, the club’s President and Houle’s freshman year neighbor, leave his dorm holding a drone.
Meriaux made a point of saying that the drones are more than a tool to be used by the military. The group spoke excitedly about all the new applications for the drones and the ways researchers are using them to change how we learn about the world.
“I don’t know much about drones. I’m just like everybody else,” said Quartertone, explaining that students don’t have to be familiar with the machinery to enjoy the club. The group was insistent that members do not even have to be a computer or electrical engineer major to contribute and enjoy the club.
Membership is currently made up of mostly mechanical and electrical engineers majors with a business major or a chemical engineer sprinkled in. However, the group hopes that as the club grows, they will attract students from all backgrounds, including South Campus majors.
“If you just do engineers, that’s very sad how limited that is because everybody can contribute something,” said Meriaux, the club’s founder whose passion for drones stemmed from growing up and watching his father work on drones.
“And if they can’t [contribute], they’ll learn something,” said Houle, summing up his and Quartarone’s feelings on the topic. Both just discovered their passion for the hobby in this last year.