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UAS Applications in Arctic Remote Sensing

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Aerospace Technical Session 3

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Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1613.1 - 26.1613.11



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Paper Authors


Michael C. Hatfield University of Alaska, Fairbanks

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Michael C. Hatfield is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Associate Director for Science & Education, Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration. He earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from Ohio Northern University; an M.S. in electrical engineering from California State University Fresno, and a Ph.D. in Electrical/Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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Keith W Cunningham

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Samuel Vanderwaal

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Eyal Saiet University of Alaska Fairbanks

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UAS Applications in Arctic Remote SensingThe Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI) as part of the and a partner with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pan Pacific UAS Test Range Complex istasked with the dual role of exploring the application of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to academicand scientific research as well as evaluating the safety and proper operating practices in order tointegrate unmanned aircraft into the National Air Space.Through a strong partnership between ACUASI, engineering faculty and students, and research faculty and students, the university has developed a synergistic methodology whichhas resulted in several improvements, including the development of new UAS aerospace assets andcapabilities, the accomplishment of numerous arctic climate environmental monitoring missionspreviously not achievable through this means, and has provided engineering students with valuableexperience in aerospace technology. The combination of these factors has significantly benefitted allaspects of program, and has helped to substantially bolster STEM opportunities for ourlocal schools.An important component of this strategy is ACUASI’s ability to test a wide variety of sensors andintegrate them into UAS platforms quickly in order to respond to academic and scientific researchproposals. This necessitates evaluating multiple sensors and rapidly integrating them into existingaircraft platforms. This approach has been applied to the development of aircraft of the ACUASIPtarmigan, an electric powered hexacopter which utilizes commercial-off-the-shelf componentscombined with custom parts in order to create an open architecture system. This gives the Center theability to integrate sensors onto a platform without requiring vendor support to overcome proprietary,locked down systems, enabling a wide variety of remote sensing missions to be accomplished with aminimum of lead time and cost to research partners.Examples of sensors integrated into the Ptarmigan hexacopter include: 1) a hyperspectral camera whichwill be able to analyze numerous arctic environmental phenomena, such as vegetation health andregrowth after wildfires, presence of minerals in support of resource discovery and oil spill cleanup,and shoreline soil composition for coastal erosion studies; 2) multiple instruments designed to sampleparticulate matter for volcano and wildfire plumes (optical particle, impact drum sensor, and IRtechnologies); 3) IR cameras for survey of arctic land and marine wildlife, volcano and wildfirefootprints, and monitoring critical oil; pipeline/processing infrastructure; and 4) single and multiplecamera configurations to precisely measure structural size of vegetation, and create digital elevationmodels of glacial and sea ice, roads, buildings, etc.In addition, sensors and payload components for other aircraft types have been developed for otherfixed-wing and rotary wing aircraft, including a methane sensor for sniffing gas leaks and numerouscamera gimbal components and protective casings for camera payloads.These UAS systems have greatly increased the ability of to accomplish important arcticresearch, provide hands-on experience to our engineering and computer science students, and supportSTEM development in our local community. By exploiting the utility and popularity of these, stands poised to strengthen our aerospace industry.

Hatfield, M. C., & Cunningham, K. W., & Vanderwaal, S., & Saiet, E. (2015, June), UAS Applications in Arctic Remote Sensing Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24949

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