Be prepared in the near future when you gaze into the blue skies to perceive a whole series of strange-looking things – no, they will not be birds, nor planes, or even superman. They may be temporarily, and in some cases startlingly mistaken as UFOs, given their bizarre and ominous appearance. But, in due course, they will become recognized as valuable objects of a new era of human-made flying machines, intended to serve a broad range of missions and objectives. Many such applications are already incorporated and well entrenched in serving essential functions for extending capabilities in our vital infrastructures such as transportation, utilities, the electric grid, agriculture, emergency services, and many others. Rapidly advancing technologies have made possible the dramatic capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV/drones) to uniquely perform various functions that were inconceivable a mere few years ago.
The University of Albany in Upstate New York recently unveiled a two-story, 1,700-square-foot drone lab. The College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) hosted an open house last month to launch the lab, located in the basement of Page Hall at the university's downtown campus. The space, enclosed with netting and rubber flooring, offers a controlled indoor environment for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flight training, along with land-based robotics research and educational opportunities. According to a press release from UAlbany, last summer, Brandon Behlendorf, an assistant professor at CEHC, was leaving his office in Richardson Hall when he stumbled upon an aging stairwell on the north corner of the second floor. Wondering where it led, he made his way down five stories to a locked door in the basement.