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Remote Sens. 2012, 4(6), 1671-1692; doi:10.3390/rs4061671

Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Remote Sensing and Scientific Research: Classification and Considerations of Use

School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida, P.O. Box 110410, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
California State University, Monterey Bay/NASA-Ames Research Center, P.O. Box 1, MS 245-4, Bld. 245, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
USDA Forest Service, 1601 N. Kent Street, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22209, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 April 2012 / Revised: 1 June 2012 / Accepted: 4 June 2012 / Published: 8 June 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) based Remote Sensing)


Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) have evolved rapidly over the past decade driven primarily by military uses, and have begun finding application among civilian users for earth sensing reconnaissance and scientific data collection purposes. Among UAS, promising characteristics are long flight duration, improved mission safety, flight repeatability due to improving autopilots, and reduced operational costs when compared to manned aircraft. The potential advantages of an unmanned platform, however, depend on many factors, such as aircraft, sensor types, mission objectives, and the current UAS regulatory requirements for operations of the particular platform. The regulations concerning UAS operation are still in the early development stages and currently present significant barriers to entry for scientific users. In this article we describe a variety of platforms, as well as sensor capabilities, and identify advantages of each as relevant to the demands of users in the scientific research sector. We also briefly discuss the current state of regulations affecting UAS operations, with the purpose of informing the scientific community about this developing technology whose potential for revolutionizing natural science observations is similar to those transformations that GIS and GPS brought to the community two decades ago.
Keywords: Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS); UAV; drone; aerial survey Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS); UAV; drone; aerial survey
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Watts, A.C.; Ambrosia, V.G.; Hinkley, E.A. Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Remote Sensing and Scientific Research: Classification and Considerations of Use. Remote Sens. 2012, 4, 1671-1692.

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