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Got UAS (Drone) Data?

January 4, 2021 4 comments

This guest essay was authored by Dr Wing Cheung, Palomar College, California USA. Thank you Dr Cheung for writing this!

The obvious way to get UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) or drone data is to collect it yourself, but this may not be a viable option for everyone due to legal, liability, or resource limitations. And even for those with access to a drone, they may not have access to all the fancy sensors (e.g. near infrared, thermal infrared, LiDAR) that are needed to collect the data that may want to experiment with for their particular use cases.  In this post, I will suggest some ways for you to access drone data in case you want to tinker with it for your personal interest, introduce it in your classes, or experiment with it prior to investing in a drone or a new drone sensor.

There are many academic institutions which currently have a drone program. Have a look at our article [directionsmag.com] in Directions Magazine to see a sample of schools with a drone degree/certificate program. Be sure to explore the websites of these different drone programs, as many of them may share case studies, sample drone data, or even curriculum from their programs. An example of these programs is the UAS Operations Technician Program at Palomar College (http://uastep.org/ [uastep.org]), which offers tutorial videos and case studies in the resources section of its website, as well as ready-to-use curriculum materials. Another example of these programs is the National Center for Autonomous Technology at Northland Community and Technical College (https://ncatech.org/digital-resource-library/ [ncatech.org]), which offers a variety of tutorial videos, webinar recordings, and even an equipment rental program for those who may want to collect their own UAS data. 

Aside from academic institutions, you may also want to contact vendors of various sensor systems, or visit their websites to access sample drone data captured with their hardware. This was how I first obtained multispectral drone data and integrated it in my remote sensing course prior to acquiring a multispectral drone sensor. As an example, MicaSense [micasense.com], which specializes in UAS multispectral sensors, shares sample imagery from its sensors, such as its 10-band dual camera drone sensor here [micasense.com]. As another example, MAPIR [mapir.camera], which also specializes in UAS multispectral sensors, also has sample drone data collected with different drone platforms available on its website [mapir.camera].  If you are interested in Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), you can visit GeoCue Group’s [geocue.com] website, to see its case studies and download sample drone data from those real-world case studies [geocue.com].  

While UAS are increasingly accessible as a result of lower cost and greater ease of use, with some fairly capable drones (such as DJI’s Tello [store.dji.com]) costing less than $100, there may still be legal or safety considerations that prevent you from acquiring your own drone data. And data from higher-end multispectral and LiDAR sensors continue to be out of reach for many. However, with the tips that I have provided in this post, I have hopefully convinced you that you don’t necessarily need your own drone or your own sensor to start learning about and tinkering with drone data. 

Editor’s Note: For more posts on UAS/UAV/Drones and related data, see our posts on this blog, here. For UAS data from the USGS, see this page. For sample UAS data from Esri, see this page. You can also find sample UAS imagery by searching ArcGIS Online, such as this amazing 0.5 inch imagery near Sacramento. Duke University has served their campus UAV imagery as the default imagery layer in ArcGIS Online, which is clearly visible by going to http://www.arcgis.com, typing Duke University into the search box, changing the basemap to imagery, and zooming to the campus (or you can see it on this map as well). Keep an eye on the Spatial Reserves blog, because the field of UAS is in rapid change and there will be additional data in the future that we will inform the community about. –Joseph Kerski

A sample of UAS imagery, over Illinois, showing the detail possible from this platform.

Categories: Public Domain Data

Harmonising UAS Regulations and Standards: Article Review

October 23, 2016 Leave a comment

A recent article in GIM International about harmonising UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), or “Drone” technologies) regulations and standards is definitely worth reading, providing an excellent summary of this rapidly evolving sector of the geospatial industry.  The article, beginning on page 6, is in a special issue of GIM International dedicated exclusively to UAS, available here.  Peter van Blyenburgh summarizes developments in regulations and standardization in Europe, the USA, Japan, and China, and then provides some down-to-earth advice for companies who are seeing the potential for profits only but may not see the bigger picture about liability, regulations, and safety.  The GIM issue also includes articles about integrating UAS and multibeam echosounder data, multispectral and thermal sensors on UAVs, UAS applications in agriculture, and the article “Airborne laser scanning” provides an excellent introduction to the two main platforms:  fixed-wing and rotorcraft.

If I am reading the “tea leaves” correctly, in the world of education, just about every GIS program offered at a technical college and university will include at least one course in UAS technology and data by this time next year.  And I would expect that a whole host of online MOOCs and other courses will appear from universities, companies, and GIS organizations to help people effectively use these new tools and technologies.  I attended, for example, a multi-hour course at the recent Geo’Ed community college GIS conference on this topic.  This reinforced my opinion that while online courses and programs will be helpful, the face-to-face component, actually working with the software and hardware, is particularly useful when working with UAS:  There is no perfect substitute for rolling up one’s sleeves and working with these devices.

As publishing director Durk Haarsma states in his editorial for this special issue, UASs are disruptive technologies, because they are influencing so many geospatial fields and subfields, such as cadastral surveying, cultural heritage, and precision agriculture, just to name a few.  Because UAS influence how people in an increasing number of professions map and model the world, interpreting the data from those UAS is central to our book and this blog–understanding your data, and how they are obtained, is more critical than ever.

uaslaunch

Launching a fixed wing UAV at the Geo’Ed conference, Louisville Technical College, Kentucky. Photograph by Joseph Kerski.  Video here and analyzing thermal imagery here.

UAV/UAS: The next influx of spatial data

September 9, 2013 8 comments

UAVs or UAS (unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aerial systems) are a hot topic this year. We have already discussed some of the privacy concerns in an earlier post, and for many, privacy will be the first thing that comes to mind when UAS are mentioned. However, for all the concerns, the increasing adoption of UAVs for capturing aerial imagery is heralding what Mike Tully described in his article for Sensors & Systems, The Rise of the [Geospatial] Machines: The Future with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), as a ‘…..technological earthquake’. Although Tully’s prediction of Jetsonian skies cluttered with remotely operated UAS raises some other concerns, his description of a UAS-borne pizza delivery made me think how much better life could be for those of us who live just outside the current fast-food delivery area.

Pizzas aside, perhaps the most important change that’s coming with UAS is the deluge of information that’s soon to be available to mapping companies and geospatial professionals. Recent technical innovations in UAS design, computing power, data capture techniques and processing software have demonstrated that bulky and expensive sensors (such as manned aircraft) are no longer required to produce high-quality spatial data. Imagery from an increasingly extensive network of light-weight and affordable UAS equipped with cameras, will be continuously relayed to mapping service providers at a fraction of the cost.

Base maps previously updated on an annual or quarterly basis will be updated in a matter of hours, turning the once static background “wallpaper” into what Tully describes as an “operational layer”. This will provide end-users with up-to-date and high-resolution data and become an invaluable resource for those responding to emergency situations who were previously reliant on out-of-date and expensive mapping products. Although crowdsourced local information has helped in these situations, the quality of the data can be variable and in some cases proved too unreliable to be of any benefit.

To make optimum use of this new influx of data, new processes and analytical tools will be required to deal with both the volume and resolution of the data. Just when the dust seemed to be settling after the geospatial cloud revolution, it seems another upheaval is on the way.

Hangar: A new on-demand UAV Data Service

October 28, 2018 2 comments

We have written about the rapid evolution of imagery platforms and portals many times in these blog essays over the years.  One major recent advancement is the UAV service from Hangar, an Esri business partner.  This service allows data users to order UAV imagery and receive it according to their project specifications:
https://www.spar3d.com/news/uav-uas/hangar-esri-reality-data-arcgis/

In my way of thinking, it is sort of like an” Uber for Drones”.  Let’s say you don’t have a pilot’s license, or time, or equipment, or expertise to fly your own UAV imagery.  Hangar is a new UAV service covering all areas that may be of interest to a client requiring imagery.  For this service, Esri partners with Hangar, a company that holds hundreds of waivers to fly almost anywhere and the expertise and equipment to serve clients from just about any discipline and with any need.   For more information, read the article “Hangar Joins Esri Startup Program to Add ‘Task & Receive’ Aerial Insights ArcGIS:”   https://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/05/prweb15514744.htm. 

And two of the best examples of some of the Hangar imagery is this story map of the devastation from the Carr fire in California and this story map showing some of their imagery for Kilauea, shown below.   Be sure to zoom and pan the 360-degree UAV imagery shown in these story maps.  Warning!  They are highly addictive and fascinating.  And for those of us in education, they make for an attention-getting teaching tools which I have already used numerous times from primary school to university and beyond to teach about wildfires and volcanic hazards.

uav_hangar.JPG

-Joseph Kerski

Categories: Public Domain Data Tags: , ,

Spatial Law and its Relevance to Geospatial Practitioners – Review

March 27, 2016 2 comments

Understanding the legal aspects of GIS has always been important, going back to its inclusion in the GIS&T Body of Knowledge and earlier, but with cloud-based data and services, UAVs, and other trends and tools, it is more important than ever.  A series of essays on spatial law and its relevance to geospatial professionals from the folks at the GIS Lounge provides an excellent resource to supplement our book and this blog.

In these three essays, Sangeeta Deogawanka defines spatial law and some areas that spatial law governs. She goes on to focus on remote sensing policies, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAVs and UASs), GPS, and touches on the implications of GIS in the cloud.  She finishes by discussing how the purpose for gathering data can determine policies and regulations, including data capture, storage, use sharing, intellectual property rights, and privacy policies.

One of the resources provided at the end of the series is the site for the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy,  of which we have high regard, and to which we referred recently when we wrote about photograph location privacy.  Sangeeta also providees a useful link to 10 spatial laws and policies around the world.

What are your reactions to the relevance of spatial law to the geospatial profession and decision making?

 

Company ethics versus technical reputation

May 19, 2014 1 comment

Over the last two years we have written a number of posts on some of the issues surrounding personal information and data privacy; from UAVs (drones) to the secret lives of phones, the collection and reuse that information continue to challenge end users and customers. How much of our personal information are we willing to trade for access to products and services?

A recent ZDNet article by Jack Schofield reported the results of a Harris poll into corporate reputation and the responses from 18,000 American adults to six categories: emotional appeal, financial performance, products and services, social responsibility, vision and leadership and workplace environment. The survey indicated that 76% of those surveyed were concerned about the amount of personal information captured by large companies, including technology giants Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft and Amazon, and less than half (44%) reported that they trusted companies to act responsibly with that information. In the category Social Responsibility, the only technology company to appear in the top five was Microsoft, ahead of both Google and Apple.

How much of that mistrust materialises as lost sales or changing preferences? According to the poll company business practices are an increasingly important factor for customers, with 60% of those surveyed reporting that they researched companies before they considered engaging with them. It seems that technical reputation is not the only measure by which companies are judged and company ethics, in particular personal information policies and practices, now play a major role in influencing our choices.

 

 

 

Supporting humanitarian aid with open UAV imagery

February 10, 2014 3 comments

Last year we wrote about the imminent influx of high resolution imagery from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones and the great potential this could offer those agencies responding to emergency situations where the effective provision of humanitarian aid relies heavily on access to current, accurate and readily available map data.

When Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), reportedly the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall, struck the Philippines on the 8th of November 2013 it caused catastrophic destruction and loss of life. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (H.O.T) activated Project Haiyan to provide geographic base data for the affected areas.

Imagery for Phillipines

Providing updated imagery for the Philippines

However as Kate Chapman reported in a project update last month, although a large number of UAVs had been used to collect imagery immediately after the typhoon struck, much of the mapping activity was uncoordinated, resulting in fragmented data sources that were unavailable to the aid agencies. Although UAV imagery can provide much higher resolution data (5-10cm) than is currently available from satellite imagery sources (0.5m), if the data can’t be accessed when required, the relevant agencies don’t know what’s available and from whom or the licensing arrangements prohibit open access to the data, then the transient opportunities to put the data to good use are lost.

Given the increasing miniaturisation, reduced costs and availability of these devices, a register of publicly available UAV data sources, a crowdsourced OpenUAVImagery initiative or the “OpenReconstruction/Open Drone” platform described by the H.O.T.  would seem to be the next step towards making the most of this data resource.