Catching up with the UAVs

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Australia, and indeed globally, has proliferated over the past few years with many institutions - universities, governments, businesses - purchasing and regularly using UAVs for a wide range of applications. While many UAVs are purchased ‘off the shelf’, others have been individually designed and constructed carrying an array of instruments ranging from simple RGB cameras to lidar and hyperspectral sensors.

Catching up with the UAVs

Given the rapid developments in UAVs, a 3-day workshop, organised by geospatial academics and professionals from a variety of universities and organisations, was held at UNSW’s research station at Fowlers Gap, 100km north of Broken Hill.  The workshop allowed users to showcase their UAV platforms and sensors and demonstrate the relative benefits and limitations of these and associated data processing workflows.

UNSW Chief UAV remote pilot Dr Yincai Zhou from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering was overseeing UAV safe operation and compliance for the workshop and reported, “About 20 different UAVs were flown over 10 selected sites. Lidar, RGB, NIR, thermal, multi-spectrum and hyperspectral cameras were used for aerial data/image collection. To allow comparison of capability and demonstration of applications, a range of ground truth data (e.g., on vegetation structure, stock distributions, geology) was collected over the 3-day period.” The resulting images and data are expected to contribute a large resource for educational purposes and to establish a baseline of vegetated and non-vegetated attributes, which can be used in future years in the development of algorithms for detecting and understanding change.

Dr Johnson Shen from the School’s Construction Innovation and Research Initiative (CIRI) also participated in the workshop and observed the flight experiments of multiple UAV platforms and various sensors.

In order for participants to georeference their data, the NSW government’s Spatial Services extended their CORSnet-NSW GPS base station infrastructure to a new site near Fowlers Gap to enable some high precision positioning. The installation was brought forward a year, and achieved in record time, specifically to support the Australian UAV Workshop.  As Simon McElroy, Senior Surveyor, CORS & Geodesy at Spatial Services and UNSW graduate said, “This install is testimony to Survey Services commitment to support innovation and a practical demonstration of another spatial service that empowers tertiary and government organisations.”


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