Drone program helping Elizabeth City students during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 9:21 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 23:25:23-04

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting how students are learning.

In Elizabeth City, a drone program is providing new opportunities for students at the Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies (NEAAT).

“I would say that it opened up a lot of new interests for me,” Ahmya Rivera said. “I've never worked with drones before. I've mostly thought of them in more of just a play sense, and not the impact the drone could have on a community.”

The program is taking their remote learning to new heights.

“It's really interesting to see how we don't have to be near something to control it or code it,” NEAAT student Jackson Holler said.

The academy is partnering with Jeffries Epps of Stemerald City in Fayetteville, North Carolina, providing a remote pilot program.

“Now they see drones as things that can be useful in our community,” NEAAT teacher Tamika Keys-McPherson said.

With help from Paul Rossi of Nine Ten Drones, Epps told News 3 it's about re-creating the classroom experience.

“Zoom has that capability,” Epps said. “I can log in from multiple devices, allowing me to connect multiple cameras to the room. The students can actually see the drone from multiple angles. They can still connect to the drone, write the code and actually watch the drone fly as if they were still in the classroom.”

“Being able to create something that is remote, and still help the schools reach their students, that was important,” Rossi said.

“It was also really cool to see that I could be home, so far away, and still be able to complete a mission with a drone,” Holler said.

Epps said it's also about being prepared.

Related: Virginia Beach-based company tests drone delivery of critical care items

“Students at NEAAT will have access to drones that if they need to deliver packages, or deliver objects to different parts of the city, they'll have actually students who are trained in that regard to do so,” he said.

Epps and others believe the program will continue to provide more opportunities to students.

“You listen to the excitement when they successfully fly a mission. That in itself lets us know that we're doing the right thing,” Epps said.

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