Unmanned Aerial Vehicles expand geoinformatics research at NAU


Watch Video: UAS Remote Sensing in Walnut Gulch

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Principal Investigator

Temuulen Sankey


Dr. Sankey recently acquired a custom-engineered octocopter UAV. The UAV has a unique capability to carry a large payload including a hyperspectral sensor, which images the Earth surface in over 300 spectral bands at 5 cm resolution, and a lidar scanner, which images the land surface and vegetation in 3-dimensions. Funded by TRIF, both sensors represent the newest available technology with extremely high resolution, precision, and accuracy. The lidar’s cm-resolution, 3-dimensional mapping capability is valuable for a large range of science and engineering applications, spanning from engineering-grade mapping of built or natural environments to detailed geologic mapping and inventory of forest biomass and carbon. The hyperspectral imagery is particularly valuable for detailed investigation related to soils, minerals, plants, and water.


High resolution remote sensing images and datasets are typically acquired at a large cost, which poses a big challenge for many research projects. In Dr. Sankey’s lab, we can now generate our own images with the instrument at a fraction of the cost. Sankey is currently testing and validating the UAV image applicability in forestry, rangeland ecology, geomorphology, and snow hydrology research in collaboration with faculty across campus and scientists from federal agencies.


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Funded by Northern Arizona University through a Technology Research Initiative Fund grant.