Eyes in the Skies

Engineers are using robots in the sky to answer questions like never before. As the debate over drone aircraft continues, researchers at Wake Forest University are testing new ways to use the technology, from observations of the Duke Energy coal ash spill on the Dan River to measuring the amount of moisture in a tree canopy in Peru. Drones are just part of the new toolkit to understand the world around us.

NGSS Performance Expectation: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal and social needs and wants.

Discussion Questions

Use the web and links below to answer these questions before you watch the video:

  1. What is an example of a technology that has impacted society and/or the natural world?
  2. What are some of the problems to be solved in getting drones to obey remote control signals?
  3. What branches of mathematics are needed to get a drone to fly properly?
  4. Define these aeronautic terms: gimbals, pitch, yaw, and roll.
  5. What might be the advantage of drones over satellites?
  6. Why are drones controversial?

Watch the video to answer these questions:

  1. What are the critical innovations that have allowed drone technology to advance?
  2. What is the one variable that the central controller computer in the middle of the drone uses to dictate the altitude, direction, and speed of the drone?
  3. What are the two variables that control the flight path?
  4. What was the drone able to discover about the coal ash spill on the Dan River that other technologies could not?
  5. What will the drone be able to discover about the rain forests of Peru?
  6. Speculate on how data about water vapor and carbon sequestration by trees in Peru or the amount of coal ash in a waste pond might provide criteria for solutions about how we meet our needs and wants in the US?


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