Using drones in design is a relatively new technology that is opening up a wide range of applications. Drones are being used more and more in the design and building disciplines to assist with aerial photography for site analysis, checking site progress during the construction phase, and surveying building structures, to name a few. Seeing the importance of this technology in the college’s disciplines, Natalie Yates, assistant professor in landscape architecture offered an elective course Exploring the Use of UAS Technology teaching students how to use editing, photogrammetry and video production tools with drone footage.

The course aims to introduce students to the possibilities of using drones in their design process, getting them comfortable with operating small drones in a safe and fun environment, and to gain knowledge in preparation for remote pilot certification. Students from across CAP, both undergraduate and graduate students in various stages of their design education, participated in the course.

“Drone technology has created so many new possibilities for our disciplines,” said Yates. “I’ve been using drones in my design research since 2016 and have been a certified remote pilot since 2018.”

Among one of the greatest advantages is the ability to obtain up-to-date site imagery which can then be processed into various forms of site analysis including elevation information, vegetation health, and other site data. Students practice safe operations; they learn best practices for obtaining site imagery and how to use software to process the imagery into other useable forms. Yates also encourages students to explore creative ways of operating a drone to enhance their design projects such as developing experiential video, incorporating drone footage with augmented reality, and using automated processes for post-project monitoring and evaluation.


Projects Created by Students

Students use their drone skills to complete a project or part of a project. Some students use this as an opportunity to build on their capstone/creative projects, some have a personal project they want to complete, and others work in a team with a given project. This allows them to develop a plan for obtaining imagery and applying what they learn in the field. To demonstrate the variety of projects, fifth year landscape architecture students Joe Howe and Dacia Case worked on their own capstone projects. Joe used a drone to develop riverbank analysis along the Wabash River and Dacia collected and edited in-progress project imagery for a 3D Company. Team projects included gathering and processing site analysis for the non-profit Farmished site in south Muncie or collaborating with John Taylor, land manager for the Field Station and Environmental Education Center at Ball State to develop a strategy for obtaining site imagery and analysis for Ball State’s Cooper Farm on Bethel Avenue.

CAP students have access to a variety of digital design and presentation tools, including 3-D modeling and animation software, video filming and editing equipment, and live interactive media that gives students experience on current technology that will prepare them for their professional careers.