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Integration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Aerial Photogrammetry into a Civil Engineering Course to Enhance Technology Competency

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Star Tech: Bringing Data Science and Technologies into the Classroom

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Mary Kay Camarillo P.E. University of the Pacific Orcid 16x16

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Mary Kay Camarillo is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. She specializes in water treatment and in domestic and industrial waste treatment. Dr. Camarillo’s research includes development of biomass energy projects for agricultural wastes and treatability assessments for oilfield produced water. She focuses on environmental problems in California. Dr. Camarillo earned her Ph.D. at UC Davis and spent many years working in industry on water and wastewater treatment infrastructure projects.

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Elizabeth Basha University of the Pacific

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Elizabeth A. Basha is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of the Pacific. She received a S.M. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from the University of the Pacific. Her current research interests include robotics, environmental monitoring, event prediction, and international development.

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Muhammad Saud Khan University of the Pacific

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Muhammad is a graduate student at the University of the Pacific.

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Given the increasing use of technology in civil engineering, it is important for students to be proficient in learning and using new technologies. In academic settings, this priority translates into students gaining experience using technology and learning about potential applications. Since technology evolves, it is more important to cultivate technology competency in students than to teach specific technologies, software, coding languages, etc.

In this project, our objective was to integrate technology into the civil engineering curriculum by introducing an activity into an existing course where students learned about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and aerial photogrammetry. Our use of UAVs was motivated by the increasingly common industry practice of using aerial systems for monitoring buildings and environments. We integrated this activity into an existing civil engineering elective course titled ‘Heavy Construction Methods.’ In the classroom, students learned about the principles of UAVs and aerial photogrammetry. Students then practiced these principles by observing a UAV flight (conducted by a FAA licensed drone pilot), setting and recording coordinates for ground control points, collecting field data, and using Autodesk software (Recap, Recap Photo, and Civil 3d) to create digital surface models. This activity spanned two class sessions. Student attitudes towards technology and learning were captured using a questionnaire conducted in class.

A major finding of this project was that faculty can work with students to better integrate technology learning into classroom settings, making technology more approachable and creating meaningful experiences for students. One of the challenges we found in introducing technology into the classroom is that the instructor may need to update their skill set and become proficient in using the technology first. Institutional support was also important to provide and maintain the appropriate equipment and software. Students appreciated the “real world” application, outdoor setting of the first session, and collaborative nature of the activity.

Overall, the project demonstrates how technology can be integrated into the civil engineering curriculum in a relevant manner and how collaborative and hands-on activities can cultivate students’ ability in using technology.

Camarillo, M. K., & Basha, E., & Khan, M. S. (2020, June), Integration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Aerial Photogrammetry into a Civil Engineering Course to Enhance Technology Competency Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34855

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