FANR5640/7640: 1. Course Introduction


Dr. Roger ‘Tripp’ Lowe  (


Wed & Fri (9:05 – 9:55) in 1-210


Mon (1:25 – 3:20) in room 4-419

Course Objectives:

I plan to introduce you to the unique aspects of integrating small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) into the sustainable natural resource management workflow.  We will explore acquisition, processing, and analysis of sUAS imagery as well as the safety, ethical, and federal regulations one must consider before deploying this type of system.  By the end of the semester, you should:

  • Understand some of the advantages of and differences among current sUAS technologies and how the data acquired by them differ from traditional aerial platforms;
  • Be familiar with the ever-changing sUAS safety, ethics, and compliance landscape as it relates to the Part 107 regulations;
  • Be able to describe when the use of this technology is advantageous for natural resource management activities and when it is not;
  • Be able to plan sUAS data collection missions and to monitor the data collection process;
  • Use sUAS data to create orthophotos, 3-dimensional terrain models, and to perform volumetric measurements, and will
  •  Have experience applying sUAS-based information to data analysis as it relates to forestry, fisheries & wildlife, natural resources recreation & tourism, and water & soil management.

Additional Graduate Requirements:

  • An original research project that employs the methods presented in class.  I will talk more about this in a week or so.
  • Maintain a course notebook in which you document select concepts, methods, and applications.  I will post a list of required topics next week.


  • Lab assignments (~8)  UND: 40% / GRAD:  20%
  • Lecture exams (~4)      UND: 40% / GRAD: 40%
  • Final exam                   UND: 10% / GRAD: 10%
  • Class participation       UND: 10% / GRAD: 10%
  • Project                         UND:   0% / GRAD: 10%
  • Course notebook         UND:   0% / GRAD: 10%

Topical Outline:

  • sUAS operations and applications in natural resource management
  • Safety, ethics, and compliance as it relates to the Part 107 regulations
  • Comparison of traditional aerial photography and sUAS-based imagery
  • A look at Structure From Motion (SFM) and a survey of commercial and open source sUAS image processing software
  • Mission planning and image acquisition
  • Image processing and quality control
    • Orthophoto creation
    • 3D terrain model generation
    • Volumetric measurements
  • Applications in natural resource management
    • Forestry: individual tree analysis; monitoring of general stand condition, effectiveness of vegetation treatments, reforestation efforts, harvesting efforts and BMP compliance
    • Fish/Wildlife: population surveys and habitat monitoring
    • Hydrology: stream monitoring
    • Recreation: see the forest from a unique perspective

To Start With:

I think a good start for the semester is to figure out how to fly in compliance with the FAA rules and regulations.  We’ll start here:  JRupperecht Law drone documents

Woodpile Demo:

Software: VLC, Autodesk ReMake

Image Source:  iPhone 6 video