A flying device that looks like a six-legged spider is the latest tool SF State geographers are using to map the environment in greater detail than ever before.
Known as a “hexacopter,” after its hexagonal shape, this unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is the size of a model airplane and was adapted by graduate student Peter Christian to be used for aerial surveys.
“Using UAVs opens up new areas of research that were previously too expensive to survey from the air or too difficult or dangerous to study from the ground,” said Christian, a student in the Geographic Information Science master’s program.
He noticed that researchers are often constrained by what data they can feasibly collect. So for his master’s thesis, he used the hexacopter to develop an aerial instrumentation platform, providing an affordable way of capturing high resolution images of the earth’s surface, including landslides, vegetation patterns, wetlands and marine habitats.
“With this new technology you don’t have to depend on where NASA has flown in the last five years or go to the expense of hiring a plane for aerial photography,” said Christian, who noted that UAVs have grown exponentially more popular among academic researchers in the last decade.
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