Drone-focused study abroad trip is a mountaintop experience

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Group of 15 people pose with a Wingtra drone
A highlight of the stop in Zurich was a visit to Wingtra, developer of advanced survey drones. | photo submitted

A group of aviation students recently reached a mountaintop in their academic career – literally. Traveling with lecturers from the Center for Aviation Studies, 12 students visited Switzerland—a world leader in advanced drone technology—to explore many facets of the drone ecosystem.

Lecturer and Resident Director Chris Strasbaugh commented on the immersive experience. “Having the opportunity to take these students abroad was one of the highlights of my career,” he said. “Taking the concepts and technology out of the classroom and infusing it with a culture and environment outside of their normal experiences engages students on a much more personal level.”

The 10-day trip was the culmination of ENGR 5797: Drones in Switzerland, a four-week course focused on the regulatory, cultural and economic factors that have led to the current state of the drone industry in Switzerland, the broader European Union and the United States. It was co-taught by Strasbaugh and Lecturer Matt Dreher.

In Switzerland the group engaged with representatives from all aspects of the industry, including manufacturing, research and design, payload developers, academia, regulators, media producers and industry organizations.

Group of 14 people pose in front of the FlyAbility office entrance
At FlyAbility, located in Paudex, the group learned how the company is creating safe, collision-tolerant robotics to access places dangerous for humans to reach. | photo submitted

“Seeing the students get the ‘ah-hah’ moment when talking with different experts in the drone field and how they fit into the larger global community made this trip one that I can’t wait to do again,” Strasbaugh continued.

Site visits to examine the state of the drone industry were located in Zurich, Luzern, Bern, Lausanne and Geneva. Additionally, a variety of cultural experiences were built into the itinerary.

“You may think you have an idea of what you’ll see and do in your 10 days away from home,” said Grant Hoyt, air transportation student, “but, believe me when I say that the sights, encounters and knowledge you bring back from such a point of cultural crossroads abroad will be a gift that sticks with you for the rest of your days.”

Students from a range of majors can benefit from the program. Drones are used widely across industries and are currently experiencing rapid innovation. Those seeking to explore opportunities and solutions for drone usage are encouraged to join next year’s adventure to Switzerland. Visit the Office of International Affairs' study abroad website to learn more.

O-H-I-O pose with a mountaintop view in Switzerland
An O-H-I-O in the Swiss Alps. | photo submitted

by Holly Henley, communications specialist