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Perry Burdick, left, navigates one of McCann Tech's new drone to School Committee member Rachel Branch during a demonstration on Thursday.
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McCann Tech Drone Program Taking Off

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — McCann Technical School unveiled its new drone after-school program last week.
Principal Justin Kratz and teacher Perry Burdick gave the School Committee a drone presentation Thursday night and demonstrated what the little aircraft could do even in the confines of the meeting room.
"It's going to be one more great avenue for our kids to get involved in the school and I think you will see a large number of kids interested in it," Kratz said. "I think they are really going to get into it."
The idea was brought forth late last year by School Committee member Robert Reilly who saw a presentation of a similar program at the Massachusetts Associations of School Committees and of Schools Superintendents.
Superintendent James Brosnan said the initial startup cost was nearly $4,000 given to the school by Riley's professional group IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Kratz said before purchasing the drones they visited Bristol County Agricultural School in Dighton, which has a more substantial program.  
"They really have gone whole hog on this drone thing ... they have a whole fleet of drones," he said. "They took us out and let us fly some. As an agricultural school, they have a ton of fields they look at agricultural, environmental, and also law enforcement applications."
Burdick said they recommended purchasing DJI brand drones.
Kratz said the school purchased three Spark drones that are equipped with GPS and a gimbal camera to provide stable video recording. He said they are smaller and more suitable for training. 
These cost $450 a piece.
The school also purchased a Mavic model that is larger and faster able to reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour and heights of 16,400 feet above sea level (legally drones are not supposed to go this high).
This drone costs $850.
It also is equipped with a 4K camera and GPS that Burdick said really comes in handy.
"They are really user-friendly and the software makes it so at any time if you want to do something you push a button," he said. "At one point I was flying it out here in front and I was getting a little close to Drury ... I turned my head for a second and I lost it so I pushed a button and it landed at my feet."
Kratz outlined what the after-school program may do once it officially meets.
"I think we only scratched the very surface but we will certainly rely on the kids and their creativity," Kratz said. 
Kratz said they want to explore recreational flying, drone avocation and exploration, aeronautics and engineering, Federal Aviation Administration regulations, public relations work, drone racing, and, hopefully, some community service. 
"The unfortunate house fire in North Adams, a local guy brought his drone and flew it over the top of the fire," he said. "He was able to help direct the firefighters. If word gets out that we have this drone club  maybe we can provide some service."
Kratz added that the Bristol County Agricultural School drone program said they were interested in meeting up with the McCann students and he also heard a drone club was popping up in south county.
"Maybe we can get a couple schools together and fill the field with drones," Kratz said.
He said both he and Burdick are undergoing training and will receive their commercial drone license. 
"If we are going to be responsible for these young people flying we have to be licensed," he said. "We are both enrolled in a prep course ... the 'Top Gun' references have been nonstop. I'm Maverick and he is Goose."
Burdick added that they cannot take the course now because of the government shutdown.
Kratz said students are already excited about the program and some of the robotics students have already purchased loops for a forthcoming obstacle course. 
"We haven't even officially published the first meeting yet and kids are already lining up and trying them out," Kratz said. "So even though it has been under the radar the response has been really good." 

Tags: drones,   

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