SF State geographers recently deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle to survey California landscapes in the San Francisco Bay Area. The UAS, or unmanned aerial system, successfully completed its mission by flying over hills near Roberts Road in Pacifica.
“The goal was to prove the ability of the system to create 3D surface models of inaccessible features with extreme relief,” Peter Christian, project leader and SF State graduate student, told the Golden Gate Express.
Airplanes and satellites are expensive and cover a considerable amount of ground, while the UAS is capable of capturing high resolution images of targeted areas – all while flying in spaces too dangerous to send a person, like a cliff or over water.
“The hexacopter really provides the spatial information for my research that I’m not able to obtain with my instrumentation,” Andrew Oliphant, a geology professor, told the publication.
The hexacopter was purchased from 3DRobotics, headquartered in Berkeley, California. Christian modded the original design, mounting an Atmel–Arduino circuit board that includes an accelerometer, barometer, compass and GPS. In addition, the digital cameras of the ‘copter was altered to capture the near infrared spectrum, allowing scientists to determine the vegetation’s health by snapping one picture per second.
Ultimately, says Christian, he’d like to see SFSU support the continued use of unmanned aerial vehicles and systems to assist with the preservation of California’s natural resources.