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College of Applied Science and Technology students complete unmanned aerial mapping flight

April 24, 2017

Students with drone

On April 18, 15 surveying and mapping students took part in Professor Gary Schuller’s Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Surveying class, which flew the new 3D Robotics IRIS+ UAS to capture aerial images of the topography at Bath Nature Preserve (BNP).

Students first used some of the flight skills developed on UA’s new Drone Simulators to test the UAS at a flying height of up to 60 meters. The small (3.5 lb) aircraft captures high resolution 18Mp imagery as it flies a pre-programmed flight plan by relying on an advanced autopilot system along with an on-board compass, precision altimeter, and global positioning system (GPS) satellite receiver. Prior to visiting BNP, students learned to create flight plans that would allow for the desired accuracy and the correct overlap (70 to 80 percent) between flight lines to allow for creation of a true 3D model from the photos.

Before the flight, students strategically placed six ground targets that were each visible in multiple aerial photos. The x, y, and z ground target positions were determined earlier using precise GPS methods by the Advanced Surveying Class. Using the center of the 1-foot-square ground targets allows students to later analyze the accuracy of geospatial data and define the scale and coordinate system for the 3D model that will be created using software in the Engineering and Science Technology computer lab.

The site at BNP, near The University of Akron Field Station, was selected because it allowed for flying away from airports, people and roads, some of the restrictions placed on flying small UAS safely within the National Air Space.