Water Testing Drone

Carrick Detweiler has seen drone technology evolve in his lifetime and predicts drones will someday become part of everyday life. 

Detweiler, a Susan J. Rosowski associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will present “Shaping the Future Rise of Drones” on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 5:30 p.m. in the Nebraska Union Auditorium. The presentation is part of the College of Arts and Sciences Inquire lecture series.

Detweiler said he will speak about the history of drones and how their role in society has developed in recent history, from their beginnings in military and armed forces to the transition to commercial and civilian use. He will also speak about the systems that his research lab, Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems, has been creating.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work around how drones can interact with the environment, like helping with battling wildfires,” Detweiler said.

Detweiler said June Griffin, the associate dean for undergraduate education, reached out to him more than a year ago to ask him to speak in the CAS Inquire series.

“The CAS Inquire series is great,” he said. “It has a range of topics that are timely and engaging with faculty on campus who can share their work … students may not realize what’s going on in faculty lives in terms of research topics.”

Detweiler said the NIMBUS Lab works with drone technology in conjunction with environmental research. He said the lab has commercialized a type of drone technology that can start controlled fires from the air to burn off flammable brush and restore ecosystem health, effectively replacing manned helicopters’ role in extinguishing fires. 

He also said they are creating technology to place sensors in rainforests so scientists can more easily monitor remote jungle locations.

“I believe we can solve real problems with these,” he said. “It’s a challenging and interesting platform to work on from a robotics research perspective, and it’s rewarding to see the impact on science.”

Detweiler said he encourages students interested in drones to join robotics clubs on campus, such as the UNL Robotics Club and UNL VEX U Robotics Club. He also said the NIMBUS lab involves undergraduates in its research and provides summer research experiences.

Detweiler said he foresees drones becoming a major part of society in the future, and thinks they will be used for jobs deemed too dangerous for humans. He also said those developing and using drones, as with any technology, need to be careful.

“We need to think about implications as we work,” Detweiler said. “Obviously people are worried about privacy, but I think the bigger privacy concern is the phones we carry around with us every day. We need to manage risks, but, ultimately, I think there is a big upside to drone technology.”