NUSO 2023 Research Missions

NUSO is conducting evaluations of uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) to find suitable replacements for the existing Department of the Interior (DOI) UAS fleet. The Skydio X2D is a 4th generation DOI UAS that has sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms running on the flight controller while also using 360-degree obstacle avoidance cameras. This allows the aircraft to perform fully autonomous photogrammetric missions in confined, GPS-denied environments. NUSO is testing the Skydio X2D 3D scan capability to create photogrammetric models to assist infrastructure assessment teams at bridges and dams.

Working alongside Civil Engineer Matthew Klein’s team from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, NUSO participated in a test and evaluation of the Skydio X2D uncrewed aircraft’s 3D scan capability for assisting with infrastructure inspections near Heeney, Colorado at the Green Mountain Reservoir. NUSO team members placed a series of ground control points and scale bars to assist with the processing of the photogrammetric models.

Multiple flights were conducted that focused on the main bridge deck, bridge supports, and bridge substructure. Several visual observers were present including Rich Thurau of the DOI Office of Aviation Services to maintain visual site of the aircraft during the scan. Since these were the first flights using the Skydio in confined spaces, more care was taken to track the aircraft. Matt Chandler, Aaron Begle and Taylor Mitcham from Skydio were also present to assist with 3D scan parameters and provide support. The aircraft performed as advertised with little to no input from the remote pilot during the scan.

An Independent review of the Skydio imagery showed it is possible to acquire a high-quality camera calibration for the Skydio imaging systems allowing for a highly accurate photogrammetric model.

Learn more: USBR Green Mountain Powerplant

Study Points of Contact:
Todd Burton, Regional Aviation Manager & Remote Pilot
NUSO, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
[email protected]

Mark Bauer, Geographer
NUSO, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
[email protected]