Old and new meet at Dookie campus

October 24, 2017

New lease on life... history of Sewin Deputy vice-chancellor Ross McPherson remarked on the rich history of Swinburne Hall, which was once the dining hall for the college.

There was a building opening, researchers to talk to, wine tasting and animal displays.

But it was the new technology, in the shape of a drone, which drew a lot of attention from prospective young students at the University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus open day.

Secondary students were more than impressed with the static display of a giant, black, 2m-wide drone, which can be equipped with a LIDAR (light detection and radar) sensor, and enjoyed the demonstration of a smaller drone.

University field research engineer Rodger Young said in Australia, which has large cropping areas, a drone can get a picture of a whole area, and with the right camera can detect patterns of stress in crops.

‘‘We have some cameras which look at different bandwidths in infrared and you can tell a lot about a crop and stress or pest issues with a crop,’’ Mr Young said.

‘‘With on-board computers, the drones can be programmed to do a range of things.’’

Mr Young said university staff had successfully identified key stress periods in grapevines to identify optimum harvest times.

He said one of the key issues with using drones was the management and interpretation of data generated by the cameras.

‘‘We have a lot of software which can make images extremely accurate,’’ he said.

‘‘We have discovered we need more people to work on processing the images.’’

Mr Young said although there were regulations on the use of drones, there were fewer controls to be concerned about in rural agricultural areas.

The university has more recently been using drones to scan the Melbourne Exhibition Building to document the state of the historic building so a three-dimensional model can be made, which will be useful for maintenance and redevelopments.

Deputy vice-chancellor Ross McPherson opened the refurbished Swinburne Hall at the open day last Wednesday.

The former dining hall and student accommodation have been renovated in a $3million project to better serve the 80 students based at the campus with modern different teaching spaces.

Campus manager Ros Gall said it was a fantastic day that brought back former teachers and students, prospective students and university staff to have a close look at Dookie.

‘‘We’ve been able to keep the heritage aspects of the building, which was once the dining hall and is a former library,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ve been able to incorporate the new technology without compromising the heritage values.’’

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