Faculty participants in GeoTEd-UAS Institutes continue to receive mentoring and support for sUAS projects

In 2020, Veronica Spradlin of Blacksburg High School and Kevin Hamed of Virginia Tech will produce an educator’s guide for using sUAS in natural resource education. The guide, Exploring our Natural World with sUAS, will help K-12 teachers to incorporate small unmanned aircraft sytems into the classroom.

Chapters will focus on sUAS safety and regulations and the basics of drone flight. The guide will also offer exercises and class projects related to natural resources and climate change.

Spradlin and Hamed’s work will culminate in a one-day hands-on workshop for educators on how to use the guide as a resource in summer 2020.

Tamara Lasley, assistant professor of Information Systems Technology at Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC), plans to work with VHCC science and horticulture students to test a M6E-1 spray and fogging drone for potential use with the U.S. Forestry Service Gypsy Moth Project. Results of the demonstration may indicate potential uses for sUAS in the dispersal of gypsy moth pheromones.

Peter Berquist, assistant professor of geology at Thomas Nelson Community College, Williamsburg campus, will attend a one-day course during the Geological Society of America annual conference. The short course, Introduction to Drones (sUAS) in the Geosciences, will cover basic sUAS topics in addition to orthomosaic and structure-from-motion (SfM) techniques.

Drone Technology in Agriculture

Agricultural Drones


GeoTEd-UAS member Fred Coeburn and students in the sUAS (small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) program at Mountain Empire Community College are using drone technology to plant seeds at Rowlett Farm near Jonesville, Virginia.

Students in the course titled “sUAS On-Site Training” are using a special agricultural drone, a DJI Agras MG-1P, to disperse the seeds. The drone has two different farming attachments, a liquid tank with two pumps which can hold 10 liters of liquid used for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers and a spreader hopper which can hold up to 22 pounds of solids.

At Rowlett Farm, students weighed the Tall Fescue seeds, used to thicken the grass coverages and increase next year’s yield, before pouring them into the drone which uses a variable speed rotating disk.

When the Rowlett Farm project is completed, over 60 acres will have been seeded using drone technology.

Mountain Empire Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science degree in sUAS Operations Technical Studies. Learn more about the program here: https://www.mecc.edu/drone/



GEOTREK-12 hosted a 3-day geospatial technology (GST)/unmanned aircraft (UAS) professional development workshop for about 10 Hampton City school teachers last week.

Participants, all high school educators, learned how integrate  GST and UAS into their classrooms. Day one, at the TNCC Peninsula Center, was all about Geographic Information Systems (GIS) resources available online and through ArcGIS software. The second day, participants traveled to TNCC-Historic Triangle campus where they learned to fly drones, and collect aerial data, and make a drone from a kit.

The final day at ODU Peninsula, Max DePiro, founder and CEO of Casper Drones, introduced students to the programmable Ryze Tello drone and Walle software for implementation into the classroom.

A short video can be found here.

Learn more about GEOTREK-12 here.

UAS Faculty Institute Report for VCU Rice Rivers Center

GeoTEd-UAS’s third UAS Faculty Institute supporting further professional development of community college faculty and other high school educators was hosted by the Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Rice Rivers Center (RRC). The RRC is situated on 342 acres along the James River, which includes a 70-acre wetland restoration site and the LEED Sustainable Walter L. Rice Education Building.

This Institute enabled GeoTEd-UAS cohort members to plan and conduct real-world field operations to produce data useful to VCU’s RRC. Data were collected using a variety of sensors, e.g., true color, multispectral, near-infrared (NIR), and thermal. All missions were operated under the FAA Part 107 rules for commercial small UAS operations. Data collected will be provided to RRC to use in their ongoing research. The primary objective was to characterize the vegetation, structure, microhabitats, drainage patterns, and tidal activities of the large wetland using high resolution mapping techniques.

Other objectives included providing a baseline for the growth and spread of reintroduced subsurface vegetation and vegetative vigor on the green roof of the conference center.

Future projects and courses led by community college faculty will provide deeper analysis and interpretation of the data in support of the Center.

Photographs are available for download at this link 

All data is available for download at this link (coming soon)

Remote Sensing Using ArcGIS Pro Workshops

Arc GIS Pro

Workshop locations and dates:

  • Williamsburg, VA, August 5 – 6, 2019
  • Blacksburg, VA, August 14 – 15, 2019

Two “Remote Sensing Using ArcGIS Pro” workshops are being offered this August in Williamsburg, Virginia and Blacksburg, Virginia. These workshops are designed for geospatial / planning / natural resource managers / and others associated with local governments, PDC’s, state agencies, federal government agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and academia.

These are comprehensive workshops that provide ‘start to finish’ processes associated with remote sensing using ArcGIS Pro. While we will utilize Landsat imagery during this hands-on workshop, the skills learned are applicable for other sensor/data platforms (Sentinel, sUAS, VBMP, etc.). Previous knowledge of ArcGIS Desktop (or other GIS software) is desired. Previous experience using ArcGIS Pro is not required. Additional information about the workshop is available here:  https://frec.vt.edu/announcements/RSArcGISPro.html

Workshop Fee:  Due to partial sponsorship by Virginia View, the registration fee for the Williamsburg workshop has a discounted fee of $150. The registration fee for the Blacksburg workshop is $300. The registration fee includes instruction, handouts, resources, and breaks (Lunch is not included).

Online Registrationhttp://tinyurl.com/RSwithArcGISPro  After your registration has been processed, you will receive further information about the workshop (workshop address, etc.).

Workshop Summary

This is a ‘hands on’ workshop.  Through this workshop, you will learn how to:

  • Manipulate data in ArcGIS Pro
  • Obtain and download imagery
  • Display image data from Landsat or other remote sensing platforms (including orthoimagery [VBMP], Sentinel, & sUAS derived imagery)
  • Save and export maps
  • Create composite images
  • Subset images
  • Enhance and analyze remotely sensed imagery using various techniques (radiometric enhancement, supervised & unsupervised classification, etc.).

If you have any questions, please contact John McGee @ jmcg@vt.edu

GeoTEd-UAS 2019 Spring Mini-Institute

VCU Rice Rivers Center.

The GeoTEd-UAS 2019 Spring Faculty UAS Mini-Institute was held May 21 – 23 at Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Rice Rivers Center in Charles City. Eleven faculty from six different colleges, one high school teacher and six instructors came together for hands-on training in using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Virginia colleges represented at the event included Thomas Nelson Community College, Tidewater Community College, Mountain Empire Community College, Virginia Tech, Blue Ridge Community College, Virginia Highlands Community College, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Germanna Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College and John Tyler Community College.

The GeoTEd-UAS team and faculty worked with VCU scientists and researchers interested in acquiring aerial imagery and data on the Rice Rivers Center property. A special focus for most of these UAS missions was on a ‘reclaimed’ tidal wetland associated with several different research projects.

The imagery collection efforts will be used to support VCU research designed to assess the ecological succession (changes in vegetation, etc. over time) in the tidal wetland. Researchers wanted to acquire high quality baseline imagery of the wetland so that they can compare imagery captured in the future.  In addition, they were interested in determining different types of vegetation that currently grows in this area and proof of concept for using UAS to identify the shoreline.

VCU Center staff were also concerned about the status of solar panels located at the research boat dock. Faculty used a thermal sensor (see photograph) mounted onto a quadcopter to determine that at least three solar cells were not functioning properly.

By leveraging a research vessel operated by a Thomas Nelson Community College faculty participant, the cohort also demonstrated a proof of concept using side-scan sonar to detect subaquatic vegetation. Faculty participants planned and operated the missions with guidance and support from the project leadership team.

The GeoTEd-UAS faculty cohort planned and completed more than 20 different missions collecting thousands of images and video from UAS and the side-scan sonar. The faculty processed the imagery using UAS software and generated a number of products including orthomosaic basemaps at both high and low tides, plant health maps, elevation maps, and other products.

The images and a preliminary analysis were presented to the VCU Center Director and staff. All images and products will be delivered to the Center Director for further analysis and to help inform future planning and decisions.

Since GeoTEd-UAS began, nine colleges are now offering UMS courses and 320 students have enrolled in UMS courses. Three Career Studies Certificates and one Associates Degree have been created.

Drone Testing for Upcoming Workshop

Virginia Commonwealth University Rice Center drone mapping

On Tuesday, the GeoTEd-UAS leadership team flew several UAS missions at the VCU Rice Center to gather data in preparation for the upcoming faculty workshop.

During the workshop, faculty will conduct real UAS missions to support the data collection needs of the Center while expanding their own experience and training in conducting service learning missions. Potential flights for the workshop include an aerial shoreline vegetation mapping, solar panel examination, mapping the entire property, and using side scan sonar from the boat to “image” vegetation to determine vegetation health.

The Virginia Tech GeoTED-UAS Mini Institute will be held May 21-23 at the VCU Rice Center outside of Williamsburg. Workshops in the previous three years have focused on classroom training with basic hands-on learning. This year, the fourth and final session, will be the capstone of GeoTED-UAS.  Faculty will gain experience with a series of real-world sUAS operations designed to collect mapping and video data of the wetlands and riverbank habitat on the Rice Center property.  The participants will be tasked with all aspects of sUAS missions, from flight planning, to mission execution, and ending with data processing.  Throughout the entire process, we will be approaching this course with an eye to the safety application of sUAS technology in all stages of sUAS operation.