U.S. Geological Survey Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Roadmap 2014 [unknown]

Jill J. Cress, Michael E. Hutt, Jeff L. Sloan, Mark A. Bauer, Mark R. Feller, Susan E. Goplen
2015 Antarctica A Keystone in a Changing World   unpublished
For more information on the USGS-the Federal source for science about the Earth, its natural and living resources, natural hazards, and the environment-visit http://www.usgs.gov or call 1-888-ASK-USGS For an overview of USGS information products, including maps, imagery, and publications, visit http://www.usgs.gov/pubprod To order this and other USGS information products, visit Preface The Department of the Interior (DOI) is responsible for managing more than 500 million acres of surface land,
more » ... s of surface land, or about one-fifth of the land in the United States. Meeting the challenges of various mandated missions of the Department is complex, challenging, and rewarding. Since its inception in 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project Office has been working in collaboration across the DOI in technology transfer, applications development, and the implementation of UAS technology. UAS are proving to be a cost-effective, efficient capability that enhances our ability to analyze the effects of climate change, respond to natural hazards, study rates and consequences of landscape change, conduct wildlife inventories, and support land management missions. Since the initial United States Geological Survey Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 2010-2025 was released on July 29, 2011, interest in the utilization of UAS has continued to progress at an exponential rate. This progress can be partially attributed to the easier acceptance of new technologies by USGS scientists who were exposed to computer technology at an early age and are constantly looking for innovative ways to adapt newer technology to do their jobs better, more effectively, and more safely. They are willing to question the traditional paradigms and methods to evaluate if observing the Earth in a different way might provide new insights, enhanced perspective, and new solutions. A snapshot of the global UAS community in 2014 shows more than 175 U.S. universities involved with UAS-related programs, 70 countries actively involved with some aspect of UAS manufacturing, 200 UAS-related manufacturers in the United States, 715 global UAS-related manufacturers and nearly 2,500 UAS platforms on the market. Key contributors to the growth of UAS technology were several milestones specific to UAS established by the U.S. Congress in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-95, 126 Stat. 11). The act established a 2015 deadline for integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS), six UAS test sites, and support for UAS operations in the Arctic. UAS, after they are integrated into the NAS, will provide more than 70,000 U.S. jobs and add more than $13 billion to the U.S. economy (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, 2013; Teal Group Corporation, 2013). The DOI USGS use of UAS technology dates back to 2004 when a UAS was used to acquire data during a volcanic event on Mount Saint Helens, Washington. After carefully monitoring the rapid advancement of UAS, the USGS determined that UAS were ready to be employed for scientific, environmental, and land-management applications. The USGS National UAS Project Office was created in May 2008 to orchestrate an effective evaluation and transfer of UAS technology into the DOI's decisionmaking toolbox. USGS is only part of an energized and collaborative team working across the DOI, FAA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service, academia, and private industry. The DOI Aviation Executive Committee also formed a UAS working group to develop a cohesive, long-range, crosscutting UAS strategy, and the DOI Remote Sensing Working Group is maintaining an awareness of UAS capabilities. Similar to the use of the Internet, Geographic Information Systems, and Global Positioning Systems, use of UAS are enabling us to be better stewards of the land. UAS technology provides scientists a way to look longer, closer, and more frequently at some of the most remote areas of the Earth, places that were previously too dangerous or too expensive to monitor in detail. The flexibility of operations and relative low cost of small UAS (sUAS) enhance our ability to track long-term landscape and environmental change. In addition, we can quickly assess landscape-altering events, such as wildfires, floods, and volcanoes. The DOI requirements for UAS missions are "bubbling-up" from field-level staffs. The innovation and dedication of the DOI scientists and resource managers are readily apparent as they turn to UAS to iv perform their old jobs more cost effectively and safely and to do new jobs that hadn't been previously possible. Wildlife biologists first implemented the technology (monitoring and inventorying wildlife), followed by geologists (detecting landslides, mapping fault zones), hydrologists (monitoring shoreline erosion and stream temperature gradients) and ecologists (habitat mapping). The public safety components of the DOI are very interested in using UAS to support search and rescue, monitoring pipelines, and wildland firefighting. In general, if something can be observed with a manned aircraft today, we anticipate observing it with an unmanned system in the future. Our goal is to achieve a 10-to-1 cost savings by using a sUAS as compared with traditional manned aircraft for small projects. We have taken the approach that smaller systems (less than 55 pounds) will be the first UAS approved by the FAA for routine use in the NAS. We are currently using the AeroVironment Raven and Honeywell T-Hawk to conduct our operational test and evaluation of sUAS technology. The most exciting UAS-related development is the miniaturization and variety of readily available sensor packages. Using UAS, we are able to tailor sensor solutions to meet project requirements. We can readily obtain highresolution video, acquire thermal imagery, collect point cloud data, and generate high-resolution digital elevation models at a fraction of the cost of conventional surveying methods. Because the DOI is concerned with expenses related to system acquisition, maintenance, and operator training, we are defining crosscutting requirements that minimize the number of systems we operate and yet maximize their use. We also recognize that larger UAS will play a role in meeting our mission requirements. We anticipate contracting for data services with commercial UAS vendors in the future to meet long-duration or specialized acquisition requirements (such as State or national aerial photography or lidar surveys). UAS technology will allow us to do more with less and in the process enhance our ability to provide unbiased scientific information to better enable informed decisions. We fully expect that by 2020 UAS will emerge as the primary platform for all DOI aerial remote sensing applications. In summary, compared to traditional data acquisition methods, UAS data acquisition can be more • Economical • Safe • Efficient. UAS technology allows us to do things we couldn't do before, such as • Enhanced observations • New science • Better information to support informed decisions. UAS technology • Will supplement, not replace, other observation techniques • Will emerge as the primary platform for DOI remote sensing applications. I am grateful to the USGS National UAS Project Office (
doi:10.3133/ofr20151032 fatcat:agprehscmnbrbgfotcl5275hou