Class schedule

Session 1: Intro to Drone Journalism (Jan 27)
Session 2: A History of Aerial Reconnaissance & Definition of a Drone (Feb 3)
Session 3: The Law and Politics of The People’s Drones (Feb 10)
Session 4: Preparing for the Field (Feb 24)
Session 5: The Limits of DIY Drones and Journalistic Sensibility (March 3)
Session 6: The Ethics of Drone Journalism (March 10)
Session 7: Presentation of proposed missions (March 24)
Session 8: Building and Flying Personal Drones (March 31)
Session 9: Research frontiers in low-cost aerial robotics (April 7)
Session 10: Big think (April 14)
Session 11: Polish and presentation (April 21)
Session 12: Final presentation (April 28)

Session 1: Intro to Drone Journalism (Jan 27)

In this class… you’ll get a brief tour of drone journalism, $300 and up. Working with the broadest definition of journalism, we’ll explore how different types of unmanned aircraft can serve as citizen “eyes in sky,” contributing to a more informed public. You’ll also get a mental model of small unmanned systems—where the laws of aeronautics meets the internet of things.

Hands-on… we’ll do some free flight with AR Drones, which are small toy quadcopters. You’ll get comfortable with flight control and the idea of tag-teaming with an AI.

Homework… install Node.js and NPM. Install Nodecopter from the command line. Read the Reuters Institute “Report on Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Journalism.” Pen a quick blog post, answering the question: “Is Drone Journalism ‘Pi’ in the Sky?”

Session 2: A History of Aerial Reconnaissance & Definition of a Drone (Feb 3)

In this class… you’ll get a brief history of aerial reconnaissance, the conception & definition of “drone.” We’ll talk about balloons, zip lines and carrier pigeons in reconnaissance, and think about the advantages of networked flying robots: automation, first person video, sensors, and more. Finally, we’ll explore why drones are so politically charged, what they have in common with other disruptive technologies in history, and how they reopen questions about who owns the sky. (Guest TBA)

Hands-on… we’ll experiment with the Nodecopter library, which makes AR Drones scriptable. We’ll go through the Nodecopter API and you’ll cook up some fun and simple programs for your drone.

Homework… Read the excerpt from Stuart Banner’s “Who Owns The Sky?” or watch “A Right to Drones?” Publish a blog post about a fun Javascript program you wrote for your drone, describing what it does—and an idea for where it could go next.

Session 3: The Law and Politics of The People’s Drones (Feb 10)

In this class… We’ll learn about what’s legal and what’s illegal in the United States. We’ll learn about state and federal efforts to safely integrate small unmanned systems into national airspace, and where more democratic access to aerial photography might tip the power balance. (In addition to machines flying immediately overhead, we’ll look at satellites and startups like Skybox. (Chris Wong, executive director of the Engelberg Center for Innovation Law and Policy at NYU Law School, joins in person.)

Hands-on… computer vision and streaming in nice copter library; reporting back to web app

Homework… finish and document your AR Drone project on the blog.

•••President’s Day — no class February 17•••

Session 4: Preparing for the Field (Feb 24)

In this class… Show off AR Drone hacks. Transition to DIY sensing, protocol and prep for weekend. (Guest TBA)

Hands-on… Everyone play with flight simulator in class.

Homework… Read http://www.dronejournalism.org/code-of-ethics and Air Code of Ethics

•••Weekend workshop I ••• (March 2 TBC)

Planned activity, based on weather: Free flight with DJI Phantom, photo mosaic with balloon in NYC parks. Exact location TBD.

Historic weather: http://weatherspark.com/averages/31081/3/2/New-York-United-States. Between 30° and 40º. Roughly 50% chance of precipitation. If so, slight snow or slight rain likely.

http://www.dronejournalism.org/developers-blog/2013/8/aerial-photo-mosiacs-and-spatial-resolution

Session 5: The Limits of DIY Drones and Journalistic Sensibility (March 3)

In this class… Understanding payload, stabilization, weather and other externalities. Enjoying crash porn and fearing fatalities. Basic journalism definitions. A look at the work of the Missouri Drone Journalism Lab and newer drone activism. (Guests TBA)

Hands-on… Share and brainstorm your thinking on the class project: it should be interesting, feasible, ethical and safe.

Homework… propose a drone journalism mission on the blog. Tell us why it’d be cool, and a story better told from the sky.

Session 6: The Ethics of Drone Journalism (March 10)

In this class… Pervasive drone nightmare scenarios & privacy implications. Paparazzi. Operator incentives. (Guests TBA)

Hands-on… finish photo mosaic. Share and brainstorm your thinking on the class project: it should be interesting, feasible, ethical and safe. We’ll probably want to consolidate similar ideas into teams to work on detailed proposals over the break.

Homework… develop your idea with detailed planning—understanding of mission parameters and the story you’re telling. You’ll be giving a presentation two weeks from today during class. Pretend like you’re planning this for the CIA or a newsroom drone journalism operation—we want to see maps, mockups, napkin math, safety protocols, and other prep that would convince somebody to greenlight this mission. You’re flying expensive equipment, and at legal, economic and social risk!

•••Spring break — no class March 17•••

Maybe you’ll fly a drone on your own?

Session 7: Presentation of proposed missions (March 24)

In this class… Show and tell on what you’re proposing for the class project. We’ll deliberate and decide what we’ll collectively do for the class project. We can’t do them all—you should be persuasive so we pick your idea! (Guest TBA)

Homework… write a blog in support of one of the proposals, based on what we learned in class (or subsequent research).

Session 8: Building and Flying Personal Drones (March 31)

In this class… Understanding aerodynamics, affordances of fixed wing v. rotary aircraft. How to go about selecting, ordering, building testing and flying a DIY drone. (Guest instructor TBA)

Hands-on… Waypointing in AR Drones and APM Mission Planner https://code.google.com/p/ardupilot-mega/wiki/Mission

Homework… TBD

Session 9: Research frontiers in low-cost aerial robotics (April 7)

In this class… (Guest TBA)

Hands-on… discussion around mission planning: script, assets, maps.

Homework… write an update on how you’re contributing to the class project.

•••Weekend workshop II••• (April 12: TBC)

Planned activity based on weather: 3D photogrammetry with fixed wing aircraft. Exact location TBD.

Historic weather: Between 45° and 55º. Roughly 50% chance of precipitation. If so, slight rain or moderate rain likely.

Session 10: Big think (April 14)

In this class… (Guest TBA)

Hands-on… Georepresentation of aerial photography with popcorn.js

Homework… Write a post debunking a popular drone myth

Session 11: Polish and presentation (April 21)

In this class… Social media strategy; editing, write up

Session 12: Final presentation (April 28)

In this class… Show and tell. Everyone invited.