Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) are increasingly utilized within Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, and many other fields. For university faculty with a teaching focus in these areas, this emerging technology provides unique educational challenges and opportunities. This presentation concerns the ongoing development of a sUAS Remote Sensing Laboratory at Frostburg State University, a regional comprehensive educational institution situated in Western Maryland. Initially focused on identifying appropriate software and hardware resources to enable development of undergraduate curriculum and collaborative research opportunities, the work is now moving into its operational phase, with the first offering this Fall of a specialized course giving students hands-on experience with project planning and with the collection, processing, and archiving of data obtained with sUAS.
Updating traditional major program offerings in the geospatial sciences with sUAS technology has the dual benefit of enhancing student interest while also building a multifaceted technical skillset. Students gain insight and understanding with respect to the integration of imagery with other geographical data and with the organization and transformation of this data into useful geographical information.
This presentation will focus on the issues encountered in the handling and processing of the voluminous datasets produced from sUAS aerial photography surveys. It will include examples to illustrate the workflow through data capture, transfer, preparation, and processing of geo-referenced sequences of 2-D photographs to derive orthorectified mosaics, 3-D digital surface models, and point cloud visualizations, all with the goal of enabling detailed study of specific landscape components. The specific cases and examples detailed here will be discussed within the broader context of data handling issues that exist in a range of scientific applications that utilize remote sensing technologies.
Matthew E. Ramspott, Ph.D.
Phillip P. Allen, Ph.D.
Department of Geography, Frostburg State University