How can a group of JMU students help a doctoral student in Colombia determine the effects of climate change on a historically and culturally significant wall in Cartagena?

With a drone, of course.

The six students, who have dubbed their group, “The City Walls Team,” are equipping a drone—built last spring by JMU students in a physics course—to photograph the wall when they visit the country in January. The team will then use the photos to create a 3D model of the wall for Manuel Saba, an engineering doctoral student at the University of Cartagena. Saba will add internal details and do static and dynamic analysis of the structure to see its weaknesses. His goal is to determine the porosity of the stone and research what effect acid rain and other climate factors have on the structural integrity of the wall, which is a UNESCO protected site.

The City Walls Team is one of eight cross-disciplinary teams—from three universities—outfitting drones to tackle a variety of global problems. The students are doing the work in a course called “The Virginia Drones Project.” (

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