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Drone Aims to Woo Prospies

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Carleton bought a drone.
Yes, you heard that right.

When you hear the word “drone,” you likely envision a threatening piece of technology used by the U.S. military, but the new drone purchased by the office of media and public relations is used not for combat, but rather for capturing campus.

Media relations purchased the small drone, or quadcopter, this September “to help showcase campus” to prospective students and alumni, according to drone pilot Aaron Sala ‘16.

Cully Gallagher, part-time videographer for media relations, noted that the drone’s footage can provide a “fresh and dynamic perspective” that showcases campus “from all angles in every season.”

According to director of media relations, Eric Sieger, in the past, each time the department wanted to capture aerial views of Carleton’s campus, they had to “hire a pilot and a photographer and spend $2000 for just one shot.”

The $2000 drone, purchased from the photo and video equipment company B&H Video, allows media relations to capture images whenever it wants without hired professionals.

“The technology that the military has used has filtered down to us so we can use it in a non-government application, which is really cool,” Sieger said.

He also noted that the drone has already “paid for itself” as it has been used more than three times.

Adam Webster ’00, assistant to the president and senior assistant dean of admissions, discovered the benefits of purchasing a drone when he watched aerial footage from a drone in Bowdoin College’s letter to its accepted students.

Sieger said, “We thought, ‘why shouldn’t we do something like this too?’ Obviously, we’re a very picturesque campus.”

The first project using the drone involved taking “beauty shots of campus in the fall, strategically during evening hours and early morning, which is when the light is best,” according to Sieger.

Sala and Gallagher capture footage working as a two-man team. Sala pilots the drone while Gallagher frames the shots, which are taken by a Go-Pro camera.

The drone uses a gimbal system that “stabilizes the camera and a transmitter to send a live video feed down to a monitor on the ground,” said Gallagher.

Driving the drone has been a learning process for Sala. and how it responds to different things.”

The team has only had one minor incident in which the drone hit a tree. As Sieger said, “Those incidents are bound to happen. We’re not experts.”

Using Sala and Gallagher’s footage, the department created a video for Carleton’s social media websites.

The response has been astounding, according to Sieger. Usually on Facebook, our content gets anywhere from 500 to 2000 engagements, such as viewing, liking and watching,” he said. “This post, on the other hand has blown past 20,000, one of our most engaged pieces of contact on social media.”

Through social media, media relations hopes to give prospective students insight into Carleton, showing them that the campus is “not just beautiful, but big,” according to Sieger.

The footage also appeals to alumni, reminding them of their happy college memories. “We want them to engage with the college as well,” Sieger said.

The success of the first drone project gets media relations excited about pursuing future projects.

Sieger explained, “I can see us incorporating some shots that involve people, especially on those nice days when spring first comes and the Bald Spot is blooming.” He also mentioned filming “at sports and athletic events,” as they are “abuzz with activity.”

Gallagher is looking forward to capturing “striking images on campus and over the Arb. We’ll slowly build up an archive of aerial footage that will be a resource for years to come.”

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