An Inside Look Into My UAS Course

Guest post by Qassim Abdullah, subject matter expert

Teaching institutions play a huge role in the creation of a better future for the geospatial industry by hosting opportunities for students and professors to exchange knowledge and produce more creative solutions. Fortunately for me, Penn State University decided to take part in furthering this knowledge sharing and recently approached me to teach a course on advanced geospatial topics. We determined to focus the 10-week, online course on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as they represent the latest additions to the geospatial field. This new area of interest is subject to much social debate, and I was excited to share my knowledge of and insights about the technology, its capabilities and its possible future to students from around the country.

I structured the course to cover all of the important topics that concern UAS owners, operators and end users. Besides explaining UAS classifications and different architectures, the course details the rules of and regulations for operating a UAS in the United States. Specifically, students would experience the following:
• The creation process of a UAS Concept of Operation (CONOP)
• The ability to assess different risks surrounding UAS operation and propose mitigation strategies
• A chance to prepare materials and draft their own Certificates of Authorization (COA) required by the FAA for UAS operation.
• The planning of a mapping mission
• Different mapping products that can be generated with UAS-obtained data

I found it very exciting that students were provided with their own licenses for a leading UAS data processing software program and would have the chance to produce their own products, such as ortho photos and digital elevation models (DEM). In the final project, I will ask students to design their own systems by selecting commercially available UAS with all the sensors needed for the mission, describing the CONOP, developing materials for the COA and using an existing UAS dataset to produce multiple mapping products.

I view teaching as an essential tool for the mapping and geospatial industry to ensure that the production process and different practices within the industry are executed efficiently and with optimum creativity. Geospatial education brings awareness to ever more efficient and economical ways to conduct business.

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