Drones: Navigating the New Frontiers of Data Collection and Management


Drones: New Frontiers of Data Collection and Management

There is an exciting emergence/surge of small drones (unmanned aerial systems or UASs) for use as data collection tools in many (and expanding) sectors. But the “whats” “whys” and most crucially “hows” of drone use in scientific communities are still being negotiated. Many institutions are incorporating drones into their data collection toolbox, and this session will explore: What data? Why drones? And most importantly:

How are drones being incorporated? Places like the Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring Programs (CTEMPs) and the University of Vermont's Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL) have set themselves up as “UAS deployment” labs or departments, but many other researchers, universities and institutes are purchasing their own for easier use. This leads to an exciting new frontier of data management and stewardship, as drones are bringing people from many different backgrounds (different fields of research: environmental science, remote sensing, and transportation and different backgrounds altogether: academia, government, industry and hobbyist), into the “big data” fold, often without prior experience or knowledge.

Three Specific Topics to Consider:

Data Collection - Imagery, but also other instruments and types of data
Data Stewardship / Management - Examples: irregular nature of drone data: time, space, mode of collection, formats, metadata model -- plus how this data is archived and shared.
Applications - There are many applications, but this session may focus more heavily on the first two topics with the possibility to discuss applications in another session (example: Ag and Energy session)

The Session would include 3-4 Speakers. Details and Speakers are currently being finalized.

Session Schedule (proposed):
Introduction: Drones: A New Frontier in Data Collection, Management and Application -- possibly some Policy/Regulation Updates?
3-4 Speakers:

  • Pairing Imagery with GHG data (Barbieri - or in Ag/Energy Session)

  • “UAS” Team / Lab Models: (UVM Spatial Analysis Lab or CTEMPs)

  • Designing Methodologies for Drones in Research (Messinger?)

  • Open source / Software Issues/Discussion (Wyngaard)

  • Data Management (Peterson?)

  • Applications (Conservation Drones? Precision Ag? Use Cases from NASA or NOAA or USGS or the Department of Transportation?) 

Wrap Up / Discussion Drone Data and How it Connects with ESIP more broadly.



Building A UAS Program

Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne

Note: This was presented remotely.


Focus on how to actually build up a drone lab.

1: Define your requirements

  • Easily Deployable and Reliable
  • Produce GIS ready/mapping grade products
  • Alleviate privacy concerns

2: Choose your system

  • Quadcopters or fixed wing platforms
  • Build your own, or buy commercially
    • Costs are similar overall

3: Understand the legal landscape

4: Build your team

5: Don't forget the back end

  • Drones generate LOTS of data

6: Develop your workflow

7: SOP, Checklists, and Logs

8: Understanding your capabilities

9: Do Cool stuff!

Evaluate erosion from a tropical storm

  • Monitor flood conditions
  • Parking analysis and capacity
  • Integrate into disaster response
  • Train wreck response
  • Flood responses
  • Soil Contaminants
  • Woody debris into streams



Designing Methodologies for Drones in Research

Max Messinger


This comes out of a forest monitoring project in Peru

            Come to the agriculture session tomorrow to learn more!


Notable Projects

  • Coal Ash pond – estimate of drainage
  • Mountain mapping
  • Deforestation detection in Peru – Monitor causes

Disucssion surrounding the legallity

  • Always need line of sight
  • Altitude limitations

Rotary vs Fixed wing

  • Rotary can take off and land vertically
  • Rotary has higher load carrying capacity
  • Fixed wing can fly twice as long and 3x as fast

As satellites improve, what is the role of drones?

  • Clouds will always be a problem
  • Illegal logging is still better through drones

  • Large scale deforestation is still better through satellites

  • Taskability is an issue with satellites. You can’t get an image for a certain area at a certain time always with a satellite

  • In Situ measurements can be critical

How reproducible are these sampling techniques and data processing?

What is the governance for this data?

            What are the file formats? How interoperable are they?

What can we do about provenance?


ESIP could potentially work to develop and work with these various file formats, governance, and metadata issues. We can leverage the knowledge of ESIP. 

File Drone Session.pptx16.65 MB
Barbieri, L.; Wyngaard, J.; Drones: Navigating the New Frontiers of Data Collection and Management; Winter Meeting 2016. ESIP Commons , October 2015