When Susan Cohen came to the University in 2018 as the new associate director of the UNC Institute for the Environment, she was surprised to find no central hub for drone duties on campus.
Since then, Cohen has filled the gap with the creation of the Carolina Drone Lab, or CARDNL.
CARDNL — the first of its kind at the University — facilitates drone and sensor use for solving societal and environmental challenges, according to its website. The lab is located within the UNC Institute for the Environment.
“The idea was to have a central place where people can come together to get help or collaborate, or just fly drones together, whatever the case may be," Cohen said.
In 2019, Cohen was in a meeting with other faculty members, talking about their interest in drones. One of them was Geoffrey Bell, teaching associate professor and honors program faculty adviser for UNC’s Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program.
"And from that meeting, Cohen and I just looked at each other and thought, ‘Wow, we’re really on the same page here,'" Bell said.
The Lenovo Instructional Innovation Grant through the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence then came up, prompting Bell and Cohen to propose the creation of a drone workshop.
"The idea was we bring someone in who teaches all the rules and regulations on how to fly drones," Bell said.
Upon completing the drone workshop, eight participants — six faculty, one undergraduate and one graduate student — were ready to take the Federal Aviation Administration drone-license exam.