Inform Reclamation Programs about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Identity Opportunities for Future Applied Research

Project ID: 8168
Principal Investigator: Kristin Swoboda
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2013
Keywords: unmanned aerial vehicles, uavs, aerial imagery, video, infrared, data collection

The Raven UAV is hand launched.  When the Raven takes flight the remote operator ensures they have control of the UAV through the use of remote operating controls called a video terminal.<br>[<a href='imagepop.cfm?id=8168|654' target='_blank' style='color:#bbb'>view information</a>] Lester Britton Piloting Raven UAV on Elwha Dam Removal Project<br>[<a href='imagepop.cfm?id=8168|650' target='_blank' style='color:#bbb'>view information</a>] Following operational procedures and checklists in order to safely pilot the UAV, Kristin is performing a check for video status on forward and side cameras.<br>[<a href='imagepop.cfm?id=8168|652' target='_blank' style='color:#bbb'>view information</a>] Kristin piloting the Raven UAV while Lester operated the mission control unit's flight software.<br>[<a href='imagepop.cfm?id=8168|656' target='_blank' style='color:#bbb'>view information</a>] Lester setting up the Ground Control Unit (GCU) and checking for positive charges on Raven batteries.<br>[<a href='imagepop.cfm?id=8168|658' target='_blank' style='color:#bbb'>view information</a>] Lester piloting the Raven UAV with the remote operating controls (video terminal) 'heads up' or eyes on the Raven.<br>[<a href='imagepop.cfm?id=8168|660' target='_blank' style='color:#bbb'>view information</a>] Raven UAV in flight<br>[<a href='imagepop.cfm?id=8168|662' target='_blank' style='color:#bbb'>view information</a>] Lester setting up for pre-flight operations.  This entails following a procedural checklist to ensure safe Raven flight operations and requires communication and procedures followed by both the mission pilot and the mission control operator.<br>[<a href='imagepop.cfm?id=8168|664' target='_blank' style='color:#bbb'>view information</a>]

Research Question

What potential Reclamation data collection projects could benefit from the ability to acquire high-resolution still, video, and infrared imagery using the Raven RQ-11A or T-Hawk RQ-16C unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) currently available through DOI, Office of Aviation Services? Would Reclamation programs or projects be willing to cost share in future applied research to investigate the cost-benefit of UAVs or explore innovative uses of UAV to support mission activities?

Need and Benefit

Aerial and infrared imagery are used extensively by Reclamation programs and projects in support of mission activities. In many cases, the acquisition of imagery can often be cost prohibitive and/or time prohibitive to meet the project needs. Timely and cost effective imagery acquisition particularly in remote or difficult to access and potentially hazardous locations is of considerable benefit to Reclamation. Mission activities, such as dam safety inspections, landslide investigations, and resource monitoring, often involve difficult to access locations that can be readily accessed by UAVs. However, use of UAVs is constrained because Reclamation managers and staff do not have the information needed to determine where and how UAVs could meet their needs.

Information about the capabilities of the Raven and T-Hawk UAVs is not readily available to Reclamation managers and staff in a useable form. There is a need to prepare and deliver information about the capabilities of available UAV platforms to assist Reclamation managers and staff in identifying potential opportunities to test and evaluate their use to meet program, project, and mission objectives.

Preliminary findings of ongoing research indicate that there are a number of activities that could benefit from the unique capabilities of UAVs. For example, the T-Hawk's capability to hover and capture infrared imagery/video could greatly enhance detection and investigation of seepage on difficult to access dam faces or remote canal structures. Another example is the potential use of a Raven UAV to protect archeological resources by with its capability to capture infrared imagery at night, which could provide law enforcement with the necessary information to investigate thefts of artifacts.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Independent Peer Review

The following documents were reviewed by qualified Bureau of Reclamation employees. The findings were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Determinining how Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can help meet Reclamation's Remote Sensing Data Needs (interim, PDF, 1.9MB)
By Mr. Doug Clark
Report completed on November 12, 2013

Substitution of the GoPro Hero2 camera offered considerably better mapping results than the standard camera mounted on the Raven A platform, but for best results we recommend that DOI invest in (a. a rotary type UAS with the capability to incorporate a professional grade digital single lens reflex camera and better flight planning/management software, and (b. a fixed wing UAS that has camera/optics and flight planning/management system better suited to photogrammetric applications.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20