NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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Unmanned Vehicle Applications and Innovations for Environmental Monitoring

EmeraldPlanet | August 25, 2013

Aerial view of a colony of seabirds (common murres)

The EmeraldPlanet weekly television programs are broadcast and distributed via Channel 10 TV in Fairfax, Virginia USA. The programs are being simulcast to 2095 stations around the United States and then overseas by the Internet and C-SPAN television. Watch the video on the EmeraldPlanet site

Program Summary:

The EmeraldPlanet weekly television programs are broadcast and distributed via Channel 10 TV in Fairfax, Virginia USA. The programs are being simulcast to 2095 stations around the United States and then overseas by the Internet and C-SPAN television. The EmeraldPlanet programs are currently available in all countries and 214 territories around the world. The Emerald Trek and companion The Emerald Mini-Treks are identifying the 1,000 "best practices" on location from the 143 nations, 750 cities, and 50,000 communities by Internet TV, local television stations, main stream media outlets, YouTube, Facebook, The EmeraldPlanet Meetup, Twitter, among other social media networks, and all manner of print media.

The EmeraldPlanet TV is broadcasting weekly a number of the "best practices which are identified through collaboration with: major non-governmental organizations (NGOs); United Nations, universities and colleges; research institutes; government ministries and agencies; Embassies; banking and micro-lending organizations; Chambers of Commerce; World Trade Centers, international bodies such as The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Inter-American Development Bank, African Development Bank Group, Asian Development Bank, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), citizens groups; multimedia organizations; among others by utilizing the most advanced broadcasting hardware and software along with an outstanding television Production Crew to reach an ever expanding global audience. The Emerald Trek is focused upon linking principals identified among the 1,000 ‘best practices’ in the 144 nations being visited through this world-wide movement. The Emerald Trek is encompassing over 300,000 miles, visiting 750 major cities, and 50,000 suburban and rural communities in the identified nations.

Our featured guests are:

  • Segment 1: John C. Coffey, Vice President, Unmanned Ariel Systems Division, TriVector UAS Environmental Monitoring (In-Studio);
  • Segment 2: Donnie Rogers, Graduate Research Assistant, Mechanical Engineering Unmanned Systems Laboratory, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & Sate University (Virginia Tech) (By Skype) with John C. Coffey, Skype Back-Up (In-Studio);
  • Segment 3: Gregory W. Walker, Director, Alaska Center for Unmanned Ariel Systems (UAS) Integration, University of Alaska/Fairbanks (By Skype) with John C. Coffey, Skype Back-Up (In-Studio); and
  • Segment 4: Panel Discussion with John C. Coffey (In-Studio), Danny Rogers (By Skype), and Gregory W. Walker (By Skype) with Dr. Sam Hancock, Director and Host, The EmeraldPlanet TV.

John C. "JC" Coffey is Vice President of the Unmanned Systems Division, TriVector Services Inc. His work is in support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Office and several Inter-Agency Organizations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, a MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a Masters Certification in Government Contracting from George Washington University, and numerous certifications from the Defense Acquisition University.

He is a retired Naval Aviator and DOD acquisition professional with over 25 years of experience in flight operations, testing and evaluation, systems engineering, program management and strategic planning, including involvement in defense procurement programs. He has flown over 4,500 hours in numerous aircraft including the T-2, T-34, T-44, P-3, A-4, RC-12, H-2, H-46, H-52, H-60, S-3, F/A-18 and MZ-3A.

TriVector Services, Inc. provides programmatic and engineering experience in the Department of Defense Testing and Evaluation of aeronautical and aerospace vehicles and payloads for domestic and international customers including NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense. Most recently, TriVector has conducted comprehensive unmanned systems technical analysis, operational assessments, acquisition strategies and operational planning for several government and non-government organizations. TriVector’s expertise has been developed through years of hands-on application of systems and aerospace engineering fundamentals and partnerships with multiple domestic and international agencies and organizations including NASA, NOAA, the United States Army, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and commercial Launch System providers. The company was established based upon 3 guiding principles (Experience, Performance, Value), and TriVector was founded by three former NASA Engineers in 2008.

The Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University "Virginia Tech" Unmanned Systems Laboratory (USL) brings together a diverse group of researchers to a common facility dedicated to autonomous and remotely operated systems development and integration. Areas of expertise include: 1) air and ground vehicle design; 2) ground control stations; 3) vision and LIDAR systems; 4) robotics; 5) image and signal processing; 6) communications; 7) vehicle testing; and 8) acoustics. It is the goal and decade long track record of the Unmanned Systems Laboratory to offer turnkey solutions for clients while providing the most advanced higher education curricula for undergraduate through graduate level programs of study.

Donnie Rogers is a lead Graduate Research Assistant for the Mechanical Engineering Unmanned Systems Laboratory (USL). He works under the direction of Dr. Kevin Kochersberger, Director of the Laboratory. During his time at the Lab Donnie has worked on various projects related to unmanned systems ranging from payload development and autopilot integration to remote sensing and flight control. He is also the project lead and creator of the USL’s precision agriculture project.

The USL is located off-campus on Plantation Road in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Lab offers the ideal environment for air and ground vehicle research and testing. It currently has funded research projects that utilize rotary and fixed-wing aircraft modified to carry specialized payloads for sensing and sampling. There are eleven [11] graduate students that call the lab home, and two undergraduate autonomous vehicle competition teams. These are the "International Aerial Robotics Competition" and the "Unmanned Surface Vehicle Competition". One of its largest projects, the Aerial Nuclear Materials Detection and Sampling project, requires the use of the Yamaha RMAX. The Laboratory is authorized to fly this 94 kg autonomous helicopter at the Kentland Farm agricultural research facility via an United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certificate of Authorization. The USL has extensive experience in operating unmanned helicopters and welcomes new opportunities for experimentation, research, and evaluation. The Lab has a dynamic group of faculty and students equally capable in algorithm development, hardware design, fabrication, and flight testing.

The State of Alaska "Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration" (ACUASI) has an abundance of natural resources. Its vast size, over twice that of Texas, has provided significant challenges for the management and exploitation of those resources. Alaska has few roads, making aviation the only year-round way to access the farthest reaches of the state, including almost 200 rural villages. Alaska has become an aviation-centric state with six times [6x] more pilots per capita than the rest of the United States. For the past two decades the Department of Defense has driven the extremely rapid expansion and deployment of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for military applications. The race to transition these systems for civil commercial and scientific applications provides an enormous opportunity for Alaska to develop and exploit the benefits of this new technology; and Alaska is the best place in the country to work out the issues of separating and integrating the emerging UAS airspace from the existing National Airspace System.

Anticipating the importance of these unmanned systems for Alaska, the University of Alaska/Fairbanks under the leadership of Gregory W. Walker, Director, began aggressively experimenting with these technologies over a decade ago and has become a world leader in applying this technology to real-world challenges. Most of this UAS development work was carried out at the Poker Flat Research Range, the nation’s largest land-based rocket range and the only one in the country owned by a university. UAF has flown a variety of in-situ and remote sensing instruments on several types and sizes of unmanned aircraft at multiple locations in Alaska and around the globe for applications including: precision mapping; surveying wildlife including marine mammals, terrestrial animals and fish; fighting wildfires; imaging glaciers and sea ice; first responder support including anti-poaching activities; oil spill response and energy infrastructure leak detection and monitoring; and many more. The use of UAS eliminates the need for pilots in the cockpit and the technology is especially well suited to applications in hazardous conditions.

Over the years UAF has aggressively expanded its UAS hardware and software procurement, flight operations, educational outreach activities, and industry connections to create new economic opportunities within Alaska. Funding for this activity had been customer based including a healthy mix of government agencies, technology development firms, and the user industry sectors such as fishing and energy. With new State funding, economic and social growth leading to a sustainable high-tech industry in Alaska is becoming a major element of the program. The Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration provides the needed structure, visibility, focus, and support for the program’s leadership role in the University, in the State of Alaska, and beyond, both nationally and internationally. The center is a natural hub of educational work and outreach, linking research to course development, curriculum and research to outreach, drawing Alaska’s youth into science and engineering while advancing understanding in a host of other scientific endeavors.


Watch the video on the EmeraldPlanet site