Blue Ridge Discovery Center Explorer Feature

drones and biology

The fall edition of the Blue Ridge Discovery Center Explorer features Dr. Hamed and his Biology students work with Unmanned Aircraft Systems to monitor Golden-Winged Warbler habitat. The full text is below.

During the last week in September, Blue Ridge Discovery Center teamed up with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers, AmeriCorps NCCC, the Quarter Way Inn, and the US Forest Service to maintain and enhance golden-winged warble habitat along the Appalachian Trail in northern Smyth County.

The ecologically valuable tract of old field and shrubby habitat that is currently found throughout the tract is in various stages of succession. If allowed to progress through succession, much of the area will revert back to forest and the diversity of wildlife that is found within the tract will decline.

Habitat loss through natural and unnatural means is thought to be one of the leading causes of the drastic decline in golden-winged warbler populations across their range, so maintaining known breeding habitat is critical for the species.

While the warblers are headed to Central and South America for the winter, this yearly maintenance of strategic brush hogging and non-native invasive plant control can safely be completed to maintain the correct ratio of structure across the tract. Not all of the work was done with machinery, AmeriCorps NCCC crew members and a few folds from Celanese Corporation provided much of the enthusiasm and energy to tackle the invasive plants across patches of the tract.  

 

VHCC Biology Students Collect Real World Data

Blog post via Kevin Hamed, PhD,  VHCC Biology

Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC) students had a great experience learning how to utilize small Unmanned Aircraft Systems to collect real world data.  A partnership with the Blue Ridge Discovery Center, US Forest Service, and VHCC allowed our students to map critical Golden-winged Warbler habitat.  Audubon considers this bird to be the most imperiled species in North America that is not currently designated as “threatened” or “endangered.”

Golden-winged Warblers require a unique blend of habitat including grasses, small shrubs, large shrubs, and mature forest.  Managers must constantly work to maintain the ideal states of succession that facilitate successful nesting.  Aerial imagery collected will be used to measure and assess habitat.

In addition to learning about sUAS operations and autonomous flights, Jay Martin (Blue Ridge Discovery Center) and former USFS wildlife biologist) gave our students an incredible hands-on presentation focusing on habitat management for Golden-winged Warblers.

Today was a great learning experience for our students and an amazing opportunity to help our natural community.  I am grateful to Jay Martin and the GeoTEd team members for their assistance and support to help enrich the education of our students.

 
                                                                                                              
 

Mapping with Drones

In partnership with the GeoTEd-UAS project, the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the Virginia Geospatial Extension program at Virginia Tech recently coordinated and offered two workshops.

The Mapping with Drones workshops helped attendees learn how to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  This 3-day workshop offered in Blacksburg, VA and Richmond, VA attracted 28 participants from four states.  The participants represented an array of organizations including educational institutions (precollege and higher education), state agencies, research institutes, planning district commissions (PDC’s), and the private sector.

 

Mapping with Drones workshop included instruction on the legal and safe operations of sUAS in support of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) remote pilot knowledge test.  Discussions and presentations associated with sUAS applications and data collection sensors and platforms (both fixed wing and rotor) were provided.  Participants acquired valuable information to streamline data collection in the field, maintain equipment, and enhance collected data through image processing options to facilitate spatially enhanced decision-making.

 

Additional sUAS workshops are being scheduled in January 2019 (Blacksburg) and spring 2019 (Richmond and Tidewater).

More info on these workshops can be viewed here, https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2018/09/cnre-dronemappingworkshop.html.  For additional information, please visit https://www.virginiaview.cnre.vt.edu/workshops_MappingUAS or contact Daniel Cross (cxcross@vt.edu ).

                                                                                                              
 

Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Survey

GeoTEd-UAS and partners are collecting data to help inform future workforce development and education programs to train the unmanned andautonomous systems (UMAS) workforce (air, land, sea). This should only take about 5-10 minutes to complete.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/UMASsurvey

 

We ask that you complete this survey to help define and quantify your organization’s current and projected workforce needs. Please submit your response by 10/5/18, but all data collected in the near future will be used to inform future programs.

For more information, contact Chris Carter, VSGC Deputy Director at cxcarter@odu.eduor 757-766-5210.

New Workshops for Fall 2018: Mapping with Drones

What: Three-day workshop,  Mapping with Drones
Who: Natural resource managers, planning professionals, public safety officials, agricultural producers, inspectors, educators, etc.
Topic: Mapping with Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)  (aka ‘drones’)
When and Where: October 2 – 4 (Blacksburg), and October 15 – 17 (Richmond)
Cost: $400 (includes three days of instruction, materials/supplies, and lunches during the workshop).
Information & registration: www.virginiaview.net/workshops_MappingUAS
 
Workshop Summary 
Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) are permeating many sectors of industry, and are increasingly being employed as data collection platforms to support of an array of applications. Applications span disciplines and industries and can include:  planning, natural resource management, marketing, inspection of structures, agricultural production, permitting, and public safety. Specific sensors can be used to tailor application needs. Flights can be scheduled and conducted under short notice to accommodate weather, and temporal considerations. sUAS operations support efficient workflows and provide opportunities for ‘data on demand.’
This 3-day workshop will provide participants with the following:
  • An understanding of FAA and sUAS lingo;
  • A comprehensive knowledge of current federal commercial sUAS regulations;
  • In-depth discussions of sUAS platforms (fixed wing and multi-rotor), sensors (including true color, NIR, multispectral, thermal), and associated applications;
  • sUAS project workflows, including;
    • Compliance with FAA regulations and safe practices;
    • An overview of sUAS operation planning software, check sheets, and smartphone apps;
    • Demonstrations of fixed wing and multi-rotor aircraft (contingent on weather and other local conditions / regulations) of both autonomous and manual operations, and;
    • A comprehensive presentation and demonstration of image processing software techniques and options (image mosaics, NDVI, etc.).
Workshop Outcomes
At the conclusion of the workshop, participants will:
  • be prepared to take (and pass) the FAA’s Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (aka Part 107);
  • have the knowledge to be able to identify applications that may be appropriate for sUAS data collection; 
  • understand the steps required to conduct a commercial sUAS operations safely and legally;
  • be able to identify suitable platforms and sensors to support their application needs;
  • generate image mosaics, compatible with numerous software applications (including GIS, remote sensing, etc.) using drone imagery.
Registration
This is an intensive, yet introductory level workshop. No previous knowledge or experience with drones, sUAS, or GIS is required. 
Online registration is required is available via https://tinyurl.com/UASMapping (major credit cards are accepted).
The cost of the workshop is $400. This includes instruction, handouts and resources, and lunch (for all 3 days).
After registration is received, you will receive further information about the workshop (exact location, etc.).
Space is limited. Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Questions associated with the workshop should be directed to John McGee (jmcg@vt.edu) or Daniel Cross (falkus@vt.edu).
This workshop is sponsored by the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program in partnership with the Geospatial Extension Program at Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), the Conservation Management Institute (CMI), and GeoTEd-UAS.

Blacksburg High School Teacher Commands First UAS Flyover at Lane Stadium

On June 21, 2018 a small unmanned aircraft went whizzing over Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium. Daniel Kuhar, a student at Blacksburg High School and member of the BHS Drone Club stood on the field, eyes fixed on the small craft as it zipped its way overhead, fingers twitching slight adjustments to its path on the remote controls.

Veronica Spradlin stood close by, monitoring the drone’s progress on a phone plugged into the control console, ready to take command should need arise. An Engineering teacher at Blacksburg high, Spradlin was the remote pilot in command for this mission, responsible for the safe completion of the first ever drone flyover of Lane Stadium.

Continue reading “Blacksburg High School Teacher Commands First UAS Flyover at Lane Stadium”

Liberty University Partnership with VCCS

Through a partnership with Liberty University, three unmanned systems (UMS) courses offered at any Virginia community college can now transfer to Liberty as equivalent UAS courses in their B.S. in Aeronautics–Unmanned Aerial Systems Cognate degree program.

Virginia community college students who complete the three-course sequence, UMS 107 (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Remote Pilot Ground School), UMS 111 (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) I), and UMS 211 (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) II) can transfer these courses to Liberty University for equivalency with two Liberty courses, AVIA 230 (Unmanned Aerial Systems) and AVIA 235 (Small UAS Ground). This partnership makes it easier for students to transfer community college credit to Liberty University, a four-year institution, which helps them to further their academic pursuits in UAS. The GeoTEd-UAS project hopes to facilitate more similar transfer agreements between VCCS colleges and four-year institutions.

Community College Faculty Receive Training in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to Bring Back to the Classroom

 

Photographs from the 2017 GeoTEd-UAS Faculty Institute.

 

Funded by the NSF and administered by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC), the Geospatial Technician Education-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (GeoTEd-UAS) project is providing professional development and training in UAS for educators. On May 20-25, the second UAS Faculty Professional Development Institute will be hosted by Virginia Tech.
Media are invited to attend. Please see attached press release for more information.