No, it wasn’t a UFO, Grandma!

A video showing spectacular aerial views of Chattanooga’s North Shore and the campus of Girls Preparatory School was uploaded to the GPS YouTube pageMonday.

The video was recorded by a drone helicopter equipped with a camera. It was purchased as a part of the Girls in Gig City initiative, designed to “enrich student experiences, broaden teacher perspectives on 21st-century learning, and help promote community building locally and globally through engagement,” according to a 2013 release.


This GPS Bruiser Drone-actually a DJI Phantom II Vision– is similar to the drones hopes to begin incorporating into package delivery.

Daniel Millbank is director of educational technology and information services at GPS. He’s been experimenting with the drone for the past few days. He said they’ve toyed with the idea of purchasing one for years.

“[We will use it] just for aerial photography, big events, GPS May Day, sporting events, etc.,” he said. “But anything I can do to get the kids excited about learning, I’m going to go for it.”

The drone (sometimes referred to as a “quadcopter”) has a built-in camera that connects with a smartphone for navigational purposes. It is flown much like a model airplane with directional toggle switches, but that’s where the similarities stop, Millbank said.

“It actually connects to a bunch of satellites,” he said. “It’s almost as if it’s hanging from the sky. Imagine it as a sort of marionette.”

The intelligence, too, is far more advanced than a hobby plane.

“It will fly home by itself,” Millbank said. “We turned off the controller, and when it doesn’t have any connection or power, it will connect to the satellites, remember where it was launched and fly there on its own.”

After a few flights, the need for propeller guards was evident in case of a sudden crash. Millbank and students decided to utilize the new 3-D printer on campus to print the plastic guards.

Millbank is aware of the controversy surrounding drones and privacy concerns.

“We wanted to be really careful with that,” he said. “We only fly on our own property, and the only rule is that you have to stay within 400 feet. I can tell you, though, it will go a lot farther than that.”

GPS plans to begin experimenting more with the drone and with Google Glass, a wearable computer.

“The key element is to involve as many girls as possible in the Girls in the Gig City program,” he said. “That’s the big challenge. That’s our goal.”