US: Galileo Group, has completed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flight operations and hyperspectral data collections for a series of missions supporting a NASA sponsored project to map sea grass beds and coral reefs in the Florida keys. The information contained in the hyperspectral data sets is used to establish sea grass bed location, extent and its photosynthetic production, and can play a key role in monitoring changes over time relating to environmental conditions. A secondary objective was to demonstrate that UAV usage for environmental projects is feasible in light-use US airspace. A manned sensor aircraft flown by Galileo provided concurrent hyperspectral measurements for independent cross referencing purposes. The NASA grant, known formally as “High Resolution Assessment of Carbon Dynamics in Seagrass and Coral Reef Biomes,” was awarded to the UAV Collaborative, located in Silicon Valley, which managed the overall project under the leadership of Dr. Stanley R. Herwitz as the Principal Investigator. Galileo performed the airborne collection work as contractor for the UAV Collaborative.
Scientific analysis of the hyperspectral data will be conducted by a collaborative research team of co-principal investigators. The research findings will be published in the coming months by the investigators and additional collection flights are planned for May 2013.
“This is the first time large scale UAV-based hyperspectral data has been collected for environmental purposes in Florida,” said Dr. Zhihong Pan, Galileo Group Director of Research, who led the effort for the company. “Given the timeline requested by the customer, we had to move rapidly to integrate the sensor into the UAV nose cone, develop autonomous control software from scratch and go straight from a short NASA test certification to large scale open-water science collection. We flew five days of science collection with an aggregate deployment total of twelve hours without a single flight scrub due to the sensor system. The average mission sortie time was three hours. Over 320 gigabytes of mission data was collected over the deployment. The new autonomous control software is written so that our sensor can now be adapted for other UAV installations on a rapid response turnkey basis. It was a pleasure working with Dr. Herwitz at the UAV collaborative and the NASA mission management team led by Randall Berthold. We look forward to our continued working together in this ongoing mission series, particularly in light of the importance of the science concerning better understanding new environmental observables.”
As a supplement to its long established commercial airborne remote sensing services operations using manned aircraft, Galileo plans to continue the hyperspectral sensor UAV programme with NASA and the UAV Collaborative. Elements of the commercial programme may be expanded for environmental and research customers on an international basis, providing a turnkey collection and analysis service to demonstrate peaceful uses of UAV and airborne drone technology.
Source: Market Watch