Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Teaching Geospatial Disciplines

ASPRS 2009 Annual Conference, Baltimore, Maryland, March 9-13, 2009

Eugene Levin, Robert Liimakka, and Stephen Curelli

“The latest developments in small unmanned air vehicle (SUAV) technologymake it possible to utilize SUAV platforms in geospatial disciplines research and teaching processes. Michigan Technological University is implementing a number of remotely controlled aircraft platforms in its photogrammetry course. The Surveying Engineering Program is working on a SUAV suite configuration that will make the following hands-on labs possible: project planning and potential accuracy analysis, implementation of project waypoints into the SUAV operational control unit, auto-pilot flight control over calibration sites and test-objects, and processing of gathered UAV imagery on softcopy photogrammetric workstations. The initial SUAV is equipped with autopilot and can carry up from 1 to 11 pounds of payload, and is currently fitted with a 7.1MP non-metric camera. Students use surveying grade GPS equipment to prepare calibration sites. Work on processing of the obtained datasets encompasses: bundle block adjustment, image co-registration, mosaicking, and finally feature extraction from UAV imagery. Comparison of the results obtained from the SUAV to respective results obtained from traditional aerial photogrammetry will provide an excellent opportunity for research investigation directed at accuracy and applicability of SUAV imagery for specific projects. Practical hands-on experience with SUAV control and imagery provides students a unique opportunity to participate in ongoing development and research activities in the geospatial science and industry.”

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