GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 354-6
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


DUNCAN, Casey James1, WHEATLEY, David Fairchild1 and CHESEBROUGH, Sam W.2, (1)Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, 383 FASB, 115 S 1460 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0101, (2)Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah, 1550 MEK, 1495 E 100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84112,

The widespread availability of powerful and user friendly Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) technologies coupled with new FAA regulations has allowed drones to be used on a large scale for research and educational purposes. Stock drone cameras have sufficiently high spatial resolution for mapping and 3D model creation, which makes them particularly useful in geologic field data collection. These benefits ensure that drone usage will be crucial to the success of future students in both academia and industry. Since the ubiquity of these technologies in field data collection is likely to increase in the future, it is imperative that students are educated in the collection, interpretation, and use of drone-based data. For drone technology to be truly effective, it needs to be appropriately integrated into the curriculum instead of merely being “tacked on”. Use of drone technology at the University of Utah field camp has produced two overarching best-practices regarding both the (1) timing and (2) amount of drone data products. (1) Drone technology should only be used after students have had the opportunity to create their initial geologic map and struggle with the geologic problems. This struggle not only develops the students’ problem-solving skills but also aids in creating a persevering attitude in the field. (2) Overuse of drone data products can overwhelm and distract the students. Drone imagery should be used sparingly on the most difficult aspects of the project or where drone imagery provides a unique perspective. Examples of integrated drone use include (1) comparing ground level visualization to the map view, (2) visualizing complex mapping relationships, (3) imaging geomorphic features such as landslides, (4) gaining a perspective on stratigraphic relationships (5) aiding the instructors in mapping difficult areas, and (6) finding students/reconnaissance (i.e., field site safety). There are many other possible applications, demonstrations, and uses for drone technology in the field, and it should be noted that drone-based tools can never replace skilled and intelligent field observation and interpretation; however, the benefits, to both students and staff, of integrating drone-based data into the field geology curriculum outweigh the limitations and logistics of the technology.