Penn State adds program to train drone data experts

By Luke Geiver | March 03, 2016

Penn State University is working to help unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators become experts at reading UAS-captured data. Through a new online graduate certificate program in remote sensing and earth observations being offered by the school’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, UAS users or data experts will learn how to turn remote sensing imagery and terrain data into actionable prescriptions.

“The need for GIS professionals who can work with remotely sensed imagery and terrain models is increasing rapidly, along with the rise in new satellite and drone platforms for capturing imagery,” according to the program.

“There are a million different ways to use remote sensing data to solve challenging problems that face us in today’s world,” said Karen Schuckman, lead instructor of the 12-credit program that is ideally suited for those with some geospatial intelligence. The course will address the theory, methodologies and techniques for the professional application of remote sensing.

According to Schuckman, it is easy to ask the wrong questions when using drones to capture data, a possibility that yields the wrong answers to things like flood awareness or deforestation. “Choosing the right data for a particular problem requires really understanding how the sensors work. You can’t just push a button and get a meaningful, valid result,” she said.