Photo courtesy of John Kilpatrick.
Professors Jacob Reed and Dr. Ryan Phillips prepare the drone to deliver students’ acceptance letters.
Lewis’ Unmanned Aircraft Systems program and the Aviation department teamed with Romeoville High School on Nov. 13 to deliver acceptance letters via an unmanned aircraft to eight students.
After weeks of careful planning, the university officially made the first successful attempt at delivering the acceptance letters directly to the students at the high school.
In order for this project to work, it required the city to shut down travel on Rt. 53. Working together with Romeoville Mayor John Novak and Romeoville High School Principal Derek Kinder, as well as both the Lewis Police Department and Illinois State Police, the flight was completed in just five minutes, preventing the road from being closed any longer.
“Being the first delivery of this kind in the nation demonstrates how Lewis University is a leader in aviation education from the first moments of your Lewis University experience,” said Lewis President Dr. David Livingston in a press release.
Planning for this event started in September with an original goal of Oct. 26, but had to be pushed back until November due to complications. Senior Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management Raymond Kennelly donated all the equipment needed to make the drone delivery possible.
Assistant Professor of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Jacob Reed, along with Assistant Chair of Aviation and Transportation and Director of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Dr. Ryan Phillips, both oversaw the creation of this drone, which was entirely built by students in the major.
“The students built the entire delivery platform and the ideas of operational planning was originally brainstormed with all of the UAS classes to get their input and teach them,” said Professor Reed. “They had some really good ideas that were incorporated into our project.”
For both Professor Reed and Dr. Phillips, their main worry in completing the flight was ensuring safety. “The biggest concern was the safety of the public, other aircrafts, students at the event and those on the field at the high school,” said Professor Reed. “There are regulations that must be followed, as well as our own safety protocols.”
Principal Kinder expressed his excitement in being a part of this achievement, stating in a press release that this event helps reinforce college and career preparation and the opportunities that can be achieved after high school.
Although unsure if this method will be utilized again in the future, Dr. Phillips said the most important concept is knowing that this can be done successfully.
“We want to entertain the next mission, but we proved that this can be done,” said Dr. Phillips. “We are always asking, ‘What’s the next challenge? How can we benefit our students the most?’ That’s our primary concern of what we’re teaching them.”