HIGH ALTITUDE UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

A significant component of my research is the design and development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that are capable of operating at the extreme elevations of the Andes. Our study sites are typically between 4000-5500masl, which makes operating off the shelf unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) almost impossible. To remedy this I have designed and built a number of multirotor platforms capable of operating successfully at over 5000masl. I have also deployed kite and balloon based systems, and am currently working on fixed wing platforms.  These platforms are fitted with a number of different sensor payloads including cameras that collect data in the visible (RGB), near infrared (NIR) and thermal infrared (TIR) spectrums. Imagery is processed using Structure from Motion algorithms and high accuracy GPS. Using this method we are able to generate high resolution digital elevation models and orthomosaics of the land surface as well as go beyond this to look at non visible variables such as plant health, soil moisture storage, as well as surface and subsurface hydrologic pathways. The possibilities of this technology in earth science research are limitless!

Results of this research have been incorporated in a number of presentations including presentation at the Association for American Geographers and American Geophysical Union Annual Meetings and the following publications: 

2017     Wigmore, O., Mark, B., Monitoring Tropical Debris Covered Glacier Dynamics from High Resolution Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Photogrammetry, Cordillera Blanca, Peru, Submitted to: The Cryosphere Discussions, DOI:10.5194

2016     Somers, L., Gordon, R., McKenzie, J., Lautz, L., Wigmore, O., Glose, A., Glas, R., Mark, B., Baraer, M., Quantifying groundwater-surface water interactions using a stream energy balance model and dye tracing in a proglacial valley of the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, Hyrological Processes, DOI 10.1002/hyp.10912.