Norwich will offer summer course on using and flying drones

Drones have become the plaything of techies, an airborne video tool and a vital military component in combat and the war on terrorism.

So a Norwich professor has come up with the idea of bringing a summer course to campus help students learn about drones. This coming June, Norwich University will be offering a course on how to operate and learn the regulations to fly a commercial drone, according to Prof. Rosemarie Pelletier.

“The idea came about while I was talking to a colleague of mine, trying to combine public relations with technology. We concluded with starting this course,” said Pelletier. The three-day course will be held from June 13-15 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. “If you want to stay on campus while taking this course the cost will be $1,500 dollars, but if you live close by the course will be offered for $1,250 dollars. All meals will be covered for the three days,” Pelletier said. The best part? You get to keep the drone you practiced with.

The course is both for current students at Norwich University and for the general public, due to the wide demand and interest in the use of drones. “The course will be offered to 20 students who are current students or just the regular public,” Pelletier said, “All participants in this course must be eighteen-years-old or older.”

The course will follow all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for flying a commercial drone, which state.  “You cannot fly within five miles of an airport without notifying the airport itself … The aircraft itself must weigh less than 55 pounds including any attachments such a camera.” The FAA also states that if you are using your drone for business, you will need to have a Class G license and cannot fly within 400 feet of an airport and cannot fly over people or other moving vehicles.

The course will prepare participants to take the Commercial Drone License exam. The course does not guarantee you a license to fly a drone but will however prepare you for the exam to receive your license, according to Pelletier.

 Pelletier said students can take the exam for their drone license at the Burlington airport after they take the course. “All you have to do is sign up for the exam when it is offered and go up and take it.”

 “The big cause for this course and why we are offering it is because drones are becoming a big part of the world,” Pelletier said. There have been many issues with people using drones and invading people’s personal space and also many court cases involving drones. “Another reason for the course was because recently there was a case study done on drones, and also this case study will be part of residency week so why not do a course as well during that time frame,” Pelletier explained.

“This would be a great course for emergency response teams to come in and learn how to operate a drone,” Pelletier said. If we had a drone launched when the(Amtrak) train crashed last year we could have had eyes on the situation faster than the actual response team could be there.

Pelletier said the restrictions and rules on drones are varied: “If you are a drone hobbyist you would not fly into the restricted airspace, but if you want to fly them commercially for business and say get an aerial view of a property you would fly in the restricted airspace, so a license is required … In order to operate drones it is always a great idea to be licensed.”

The course will start from scratch: “We assume you never touched a drone and are looking for more information,” Pelletier said.  The course includes a drone equipped with a camera, and each student will use their laptop to control the drone. According to Pelletier, they are looking at using one course room for the teaching portion; then they will go down to the ballfields by the Dog River and practice flying the drones.

The drones that will be used during the course will be strictly commercial drones equipped with cameras. At the end of the three-day course, individuals will not only leave with knowledge, but also the drone used during the course.

For information on the Drone Course:



‘Hell on Wheels’

If the story of a man conquering the wild and unpredictable west in 1869 while building the Transcontinental Railroad sounds like the plot of the AMC television series “Hell on Wheels,” there’s a reason why.

The main character in the AMC series, Cullen Bohannon, served as the Chief Engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad, discovered a pass through the Black Hills of Wyoming, and was present for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, that joined the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads.

While Cullen Bohannon is the fictionalized creation of AMC, these were the real-life adventures of Norwich University alumnus Grenville Mellen Dodge. The 57 episodes of “Hell on Wheels,” which originally aired from 2011 to 2016, provided a down and dirty glimpse of the rugged, dangerous, and often deadly conditions faced by the men that worked the 1,912 mile Transcontinental Railroad.

Dodge’s incredible life, which brought him from his birthplace in Danvers, Mass., in 1831 and later to the halls of Norwich in 1848, also feature heroic achievements during America’s Civil War.

The creators of “Hell on Wheels,” Joe and Tony Gayton, chose not to make a docu-drama about the building of the railroad but were inspired while developing their fictionalized story by the 2006 documentary entitled American Experience. ( [Read more…]

Podcast project gets access to top military brass

Top, Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Farnsworth, and bottom, Air Force Brig. Gen. Peter J. Lambert

A few weeks ago, Norwich hosted a panel of military officials and top federal employees as part of the Todd Lecture series. For a handful of students, their visit offered a chance to meet and interview some high level federal officials while they were on campus.

“This was a very cool opportunity, I got to talk with a RADM  (Navy rear admiral) who was a student here,” said Liam Wilber, a senior in the corps.

Having over a dozen Norwich alumni General and Staff Officers (GOFO) on campus was a rare event, and an opportunity for students to talk to and learn from alums who began their careers at Norwich. These alumni are now at the pinnacle of their career, according to Professor Sarwar Kashmeri, an adjunct professor of Political Science & Applied Research Fellow with the Peace & War Center, and the Norwich University Board of Fellows and Foreign Policy Association.

Kashmeri’s involvement was to be the faculty advisor to this student-led project. He helped the students meet with Norwich administrators and faculty to help frame their interview questions, and to work out how the students were to use Norwich’s own radio station, WNUB, to record the interviews. [Read more…]

Pegasus Players hit 90 and future is bright

The Dole auditorium at Norwich has been home to many performances, announcements, and school events, but it is always a special moment when students take the stage.

Since 1927 Norwich University has had a campus theatrical troupe called the Pegasus Players, and they traditionally perform twice a year at Dole Auditorium which just recently held a performance of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”.

Under the guidance of playwright Jeanne Beckwith, the theater director of the Pegasus Players originally from Lynn, Mass., the theater troupe at Norwich has now marked the 90th year of hosting performances at Norwich. It is an accomplishment Beckwith is proud of. [Read more…]

Major campus overhaul looming

Norwich University will begin bicentennial renovations and construction in the next few weeks, bringing noticeable changes to the campus, upgrades to dorm and classroom buildings, and some upheaval to classroom schedules.

The renovations, which are expected to be finished by fall 2019, will affect both faculty and students, who will have to adapt to temporary classroom and office space until construction is finished on campus.

The university budget for the renovations and construction has been estimated at $59 million and is coming from donations as part of a major fundraising campaign tied to the bicentennial.

“We have several projects that are going to be on their way very soon,” said David Magida, chief  administrative officer at Norwich.

As part of a normal process of renovating dormitories. Patterson Hall will be renovated this summer, which will start the day after commencement, said David Magida, chief administrative officer.

Besides beginning the renovations on Patterson on the south end of the quad, Norwich will also begin the process of constructing a new building called Mack Hall starting this April, which is part of the major renovations planned for the Webb/Dewey/Ainsworth buildings. The Mack Project will be located behind Webb on the north side.

Magida said the busy summer will also include starting the renovations of Ainsworth, which houses the College of Liberal Arts faculty. As with the entire package of planned renovations, the goal is to bring buildings up to speed in terms of teaching/learning styles and to address critical maintenance items on campus. [Read more…]

Norwich’s new ‘Civic Scholars’

Left, Civic Scholars Chad St. John, Alexandria Spezia (middle) and Jordan Lutz work at the Vermont Foodbank, volunteering to help hungry Vermonters.

On a recent Saturday at the Vermont Foodbank in Barre, nine Norwich students found themselves getting an unusual workout and hands-on education in the business of feeding hungry Vermonters.

Working together, they sorted 15 pallets of food, which would go out to a network of 225 food shelves, meal sites, senior centers and after-school programs, providing 26,000 meals to Vermont residents in need. Think of it as off-site homework.

The students are part of the new, innovative Civic Scholars Program, which joins a long tradition at Norwich of responding to the needs of communities surrounding the university campus and beyond. From building an orphanage in Tanzania to the thousands of volunteer hours donated by students cleaning up in Northfield following Tropical Storm Irene in August of 2011, students at the school have always responded to the call for service. [Read more…]

Corps freshman is raising the bar

  Norwich University gets a wide range of athletes, but Gabriela Carrasquillo isn’t just any ordinary college competitor.

Carrasquillo, who plans on becoming an intel officer in the United States Army, has set herself an athletic goal that aims really high in her sports passion, which is weightlifting. “I aspire to make it to the Olympics one day,” said Carrasquillo.

Carrasquillo, 19,  is a freshman criminal justice and Spanish major from Framingham, Mass., who got into Olympic-style weight lifting at the age of 15. “I really got into it about last year. I competed three times,” said Carrasquillo. In two of those three competitions, she placed in the competition, and currently Carrasquillo is the North Atlantic Junior champion and Bay State champion for weight lifting in her division. [Read more…]

Prof. Dough Smith teaches his longtime passion

“Growing up I’ve always loved listening to radio as a young kid and since then my fascination with it grew,” said Professor Doug Smith, from Grantham, N.H.

He added “I had a piano teacher that actually worked in a radio station and I would spend most of my piano lesson actually talking to her about radio and I just found it to be very interesting.”

Most people know all about WNUB, the radio station on campus, but most people don’t know the person behind the station. Professor Doug Smith, who has been making the trek from New Hampshire to Northfield since 1999, runs WNUB from top to bottom as well as teaches communications courses on campus.

“When I was younger I use to mess around with short wave radios, crystal radios and always loved listening to music so that’s kind of where most of this started,” said Smith.

He was amazed at how radios work and his love for music only made his interest for radios much greater. [Read more…]

New center for writing is drawing students

Nearly one year ago, Bailey Beltramo sat in his barracks on the campus of Norwich University. The excitement of studying abroad in Ireland the following semester was starting to mount, and he was counting the days until he could leave snowy Vermont for the rolling hills of Ireland.

But before heading out, an opportunity to expand his resume and apply his knowledge of writing to help students presented itself. [Read more…]

A day on the job with George Sanders

It’s hard to find a man happier and more eager to serve on Norwich’s campus than George Sanders, one of the hard-working grounds crew.

The business of keeping Norwich University clean and landscaped falls to the team of blue-shirted personnel who can easily be seen walking around campus hard at work.

Mowing, shoveling, snow removal, room set ups, planting, and general outside upkeep are the duties of the grounds crew at Norwich University. It is not an easy task for the 11-member crew to keep all 1200 acres of Norwich land in pristine condition.

The strength of the grounds crew lies in the dedication and personal effort put forth by each employee and the coordination of information from their superiors – safe to say it’s no easy job.

“I love it, I’m outside working, inside, making everyone happy, seeing everyone smile,” said George Sanders, 34, who lives in Northfield. “I’ve been doing this work all my life, it comes naturally.” [Read more…]