The new Unmanned Aerial Systems Laboratory launches Monday, March 22 

Unmanned Aerial Systems will take flight at 3 p.m. Monday, March 22, marking the Drone Lab Opening Ceremony and Blessing at St. Mary’s University. 

Four drones fly simultaneously in the new Drone Lab.

The lab, located behind the Richter-Math Engineering Center, cost more than $600,000 and is funded by the Title V – Building Capacity for Excellence in STEM Education grant as well as support from the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation, and Union Pacific Foundation. 

“The Federal Aviation Administration predicts the U.S. registered commercial drone fleet to climb to between 442,000 and 1.6 million units in the next few years, which will, in turn, create a few hundred thousand jobs,” said Winston Erevelles, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Science, Engineering and Technology, as he highlighted how the new lab will help launch St. Mary’s graduates into a fast-growing industry. 

At 25 feet tall and 1,734 square feet, the Drone Lab — complete with a flight area, an observation area and workstations — will allow professors to incorporate drones into their curriculum and students to take on more drone-related research for industry partners.  

“Drone technology has been around for more than 50 years. However, it was exclusively used by the military and was not available to the private sector until recently,” said Professor of Electrical Engineering Bahman Rezaie, Ph.D., an early proponent of drone research at St. Mary’s. “The more drones become part of everyday business in all aspects of life, the more need for a workforce that is knowledgeable and capable of maintaining and designing a variety of drones.” 

3D rendering of new Drone Lab

The facility will support the new UAS concentration under the B.S. in Engineering Science program, house new summer camps for high school students and also welcome St. Mary’s students of all majors into a Drone Club next fall. 

“We have this amazing facility where students can not only learn, but also apply the knowledge that they are learning in their classroom,” said Assistant Professor of Computer/Software Engineering Dante Tezza, adding that lab space has already become a hot commodity among students working on projects, such as redesigning a quadcopter and developing parachutes for drones. 

Beginning Wednesday, March 24, St. Mary’s will introduce its largest 24-hour fundraising initiative yet, with the St. Mary’s Giving Day. Giving Day contributions to the Drone Endowment Fund will help provide the newly constructed Drone Lab with still needed sensors, future equipment updates and cutting-edge software to interact with practical classroom instruction. 

How to attend the Drone Lab Opening Ceremony and Blessing: 

A livestream of the program will be available at at 3 p.m. Monday, March 22. There will be a short video about the lab, students and professors premiering on the St. Mary’s YouTube channel after the livestream. 

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