Shepherd University Using Drone Fleet for Education, Facilities Management


Shepherd University in West Virginia is expanding its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fleet and using its newest drone to inspect the roofs of campus buildings.

The school’s Institute of Environmental and Physical Sciences recently purchased a DJI Mavic Pro 2 for about $1,300, as well as a pair of DJI Goggles for $500, with a grant from the Shepherd University Foundation’s Women Investing in Shepherd.

Shepherd now has three UAVs: the new Mavic Pro 2, a DJI Phantom 3 and a DJI Matrice 100. The Matrice was purchased with a $20,000 grant from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Division of Science and Research.

The two older drones are being used for scientific mapping for student analysis, and the new Mavic Pro 2 is being used in areas such as producing marketing videos or doing rooftop inspections.

Shepherd’s Facilities Management department recently used the new drone to inspect the roofs of several buildings on campus. Jim King, director of facilities, and Dustin Robbins, environmental health and safety coordinator, used the virtual reality goggles as Shaffer and Murphy guided the drone over the roofs of Knutti, Turner and Kenamond halls. King and Robbins were able to visually inspect the condition of the roof and gutters on the three buildings while the camera on the drone shot video.

King says his department is preparing documents to support renovations and upgrades to Knutti’s roof and drainage system. The inspection job would previously have required renting a lift and having a person go up on the roof to inspect it.

“It’s a lot more efficient process,” Robbins says. “We’re looking at three roofs today in about an hour. It might take half a day for a contractor or in-house employee to get on those roofs and walk around.”

Starting in the spring, Shepherd will also offer a new class, Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, that will teach how to prepare for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 aeronautical knowledge exam.

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