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          xyHt  | Pangaea Past Issues | Field Notes Past Issues                                              February 14, 2017—No. 178

UAS Survey of the Great Sand Dunes

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located in South Central Colorado and contains the tallest dunes in North America, spread across 30 square miles. It is an amazing destination, one that I first visited when I was 18 years old and have re-visited innumerable times since; I simply never tire of its beauty. So when I learned of a recent survey completed by a team of local UAS firms, I just had to share the story: not just because “the Dunes” are such a cool place (they are), but also because it illustrates important factors in the UAS arena.

The staff at the Sand Dunes National Park is required to track how the dunes shift year to year. Since vehicles are not allowed on the dunes and ground surveying on foot is virtually impossible, they turned to UAS Colorado for help. UAS Colorado is a non-profit business league, supporting the safe integration and use of unmanned aircraft systems in the state of Colorado. The project developed into a collaborative effort facilitated by UAS Colorado that also included Black Swift Technologies, a Boulder, Colorado UAS manufacturer; the National Park Service; and Wohnrade Civil Engineers, Inc. a Broomfield, Colorado civil engineering firm that incorporates UAS technology into their service offerings.

Wohnrade Civil Engineers became the first FAA-licensed service provider to use a UAS to successfully map a one-square-mile area of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. UAS data collection was executed on October 19, 2016 using the SwiftTrainer fixed-wing UAS developed by Black Swift Technologies. The resulting terrain data set will be compared to a 2011 airborne lidar acquisition prepared by the United States Geological Survey. For a detailed white paper (PDF) describing the project, visit Wohnrade’s website.

Two big takeaways from this. 1) UAS operators should add environmental analysis and/or monitoring to their list of possible opportunities, and 2) consider the benefits of joining a professional UAS organization in your area. Maybe you are curious about the possibilities of adding UAS to your toolkit, or perhaps you are seriously considering making the plunge into UAS and are overwhelmed with questions. Possibly, you have already acquired a UAS and are thinking “now what?”

In any of these situations, I would highly recommend joining a UAS group in your area. The educational, networking, and referral opportunities afforded by these associations make them a worthwhile investment. A good place to start is the AUVSI that has 35 chapters across the U.S. You can also check out and other social media. Do note that there are many UAS groups dedicated to recreational as opposed to commercial pursuits. (Thanks go to Bill Emison of UAS Colorado for the story idea and info.)

Finally, if you’re planning a Colorado vacation and will be near Alamosa, make time to stop by the Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve. You won’t regret it!

Want to add to this conversation?  Comment under this post at

Until next time,
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senseFly Granted Anytime BVLOS Authorization
The big news:
senseFly has become the first drone operator to be granted anytime Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) authorization in Switzerland. The country’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) has granted senseFly permission to fly any of its eBee-branded mapping solutions beyond the visual sight of a drone’s operator, using observers, without the need to set-up a flight operation “Danger Area” beforehand. What: “This country-wide, anytime BVLOS authorization is a first for Switzerland and we are delighted to be working closely with FOCA to pioneer this kind of flexible, extended use,” said Jean-Christophe Zufferey, senseFly’s CEO. “While this permission is valid only for senseFly, it opens the door for our Swiss eBee customers to apply for, and enjoy, similarly flexible flight conditions. Learn more: on senseFly’s website.
Plan Now for AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL 2017
The big news: AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL conference covers the unmanned vehicle space across every vertical market and all domains—air, land and sea. What: highlights of the conference include 650 plus manufacturers in more than 370,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, daily keynotes from tech visionaries and business experts, and more than 200 world-class sessions in three unique tracks (policy, technology and business solutions). When and where: May 8-11, Dallas, TX. Learn more at AUVSI’s website.

GeoSLAM Launches Desktop V3
The big news: GeoSLAM announced the launch of Desktop V3, the latest release of their industry leading Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) registration software. GeoSLAM Desktop V3 builds on the success of the popular local desktop version of their SLAM processing software that was released at the start of 2016. What: While maintaining the simplicity and ease of use of the initial software, V3 now provides users with increased functionality to view, edit, and define results. Desktop V3 now incorporates a 2D and 3D viewer such that registered point clouds can be immediately viewed without moving to third-party software. Learn more on GeoSLAM’s website.

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