Integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems to Measure Linear and Areal Features into Undergraduate Forestry Education

Reid Viegut, David L. Kulhavy, Daniel R Unger, I-Kuai Hung, Brian Humphreys


The use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in undergraduate forestry education continues to expand and develop. Accuracy of data collection is an important aspect of preparation for
“society-ready” foresters to meet the complex sustainable environment managing for ecological, social and economic interests.  Hands-on use of a DJI Phantom 4 Pro UAS by undergraduates to measure the length and area of 30 linear features and areal features on Earth’s surface were estimated.  These measurements were compared (measured within the ArcMap 10.5.2 interface) to hyperspectral Pictometry imagery measured on the web-based interface and the Google Earth Pro interface. Each remotely estimated measurement was verified with the actual ground measurements and the methods compared. An analysis of variance, conducted on the absolute length errors resulting in a p-value of 0.000057, concluded that the three length estimating techniques were statistically different at a 95% confidence interval. A Tukey pair-wise test found that the remotely sensed DJI Phantom 4 Pro data was statistically less accurate than the Pictometry and Google Earth Pro data, while both of which were found to be not different statistically in terms of accuracy. The areal feature area measurements were not normally distributed and therefore tested for equal medians using a Kruskal-Wallis test. The test found that there was no significant difference between sample medians, indicating that all three methods of estimating area are statistically equal in accuracy. The results indicate that Pictometry and Google Earth Pro could both be used to accurately estimate linear feature lengths remotely in lieu of in situ linear measurements while all three remote sensing techniques can be used to accurately estimate areal feature areas remotely in lieu of in situ areal measurements.

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International Journal of Higher Education
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