UAS Delivers Detailed Results from National Park Flyover

Engineering firm Wohnrade Civil Engineers Inc. recently went to southern Colorado to deploy an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to map one square mile of the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve.

Conducted in coordination with Black Swift Technologies, UAS Colorado and the National Park Service (NPS), the project aimed to “develop precision mapping using high-fidelity remote sensing to monitor change detection and measure dune height in the vicinity of the Star Dune,” explains Wohnrade Civil Engineers.

According to a white paper on the project, the Star Dune is a large formation that “commonly change[s] locations based on shifts in weather patterns” in the park.

In October, Black Swift Technologies’ Swift Trainer fixed-wing drone was used to collect data. Over two flights, the UAS was deployed for 2 hours and 30 minutes, and it collected 1,289 and 466 images, respectively, for each flight.

In turn, the companies delivered high-res, georeferenced, orthomosaic imagery; topographic mapping at a one-foot contour interval; a 3D model of the one-square-mile area; and a georeferenced point cloud.

NPS granted a scientific research and collection permit for the project. However, in order to comply with NPS regulations, the companies deployed and landed the aircraft outside of the park.

“The Great Sand Dunes National Park aerial data collection was performed under very challenging conditions under the purview of the National Park Service,” the white paper concludes. “Numerous site and environmental factors affected the final accuracy of the collection, and much has been learned about how to mitigate these factors in the future.”

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