UMassAir Research Projects

UMassAir is comprised of an interdisciplinary and multi-campus team of core scientists, professional staff and research fellows conducting UAS-related research. 

A Sample of Current Research Projects

The Application of Unmanned Aerial Systems in Surface Transportation Project(s)

Principal Investigator Mike Knodler (UMass Amherst), along with co-PIs Lance Fiondella (UMass Dartmouth), Wala Mogawer (UMass Dartmouth), Yuanchang Xie (UMass Lowell), Cole Fitzpatrick (UMass Amherst), Daiheng Ni (UMass Amherst) and Michael Plotnikov (UMass Amherst) have received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to investigate the utility of UASs to address surface transportation needs in the Commonwealth. The project has several tasks, including: (1) Assessing roadway pavement condition with UASs; (2) Evaluating speed sensing using UAS; (3) Investigating the development of an emergency service drone network to support surface transportation; (4) Assessing situational awareness technology to support surface transportation; (5) Evaluation of cybersecurity threats and countermeasures to surface transportation; and (6) implementation, outreach and technology transfer coordination and management. 

UAS Salt Marsh Assessment Project 

UMassAir Fellow Scott Jackson, Charlie Schweik and Kevin McGarigal (UMass Amherst) have received a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the utility of UAS and various types of sensors (e.g., true color, multi-spectral, thermal) for assessing vegetation health/stress and the physical characteristics of Salt Marshes. 

Surface Water Monitoring

UMassAir Fellow Dr. Colin Gleason (UMass Amherst) is investigating the utility of UAS to help validate satellite imagery used to monitor surface water. 

Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles for Mobile Sensing in Full Scale Structural Testing

UMassAir Fellow Kara Peterman is investigating the utility of UAS to, in real-time and safely, monitor and visualize structural behavior during full scale tests of steel structures (for example). 

Soil Moisture in Wetland Habitats

UMassAir Fellow Christine Hatch is investigating the utility of UAS-derived products (e.g., infra-red and true-color imagery, digital elevation models, etc.) to understand groundwater flowpaths, surface water mixing, underground thermal regimes and soil moisture monitoring in wetland habitats both natural and restored. 

Health of Cranberry Bogs

UMassAir affiliate Hillary Sandler is investigating the utility of UAS-derived imagery to help understand how well cranberry bogs are growing and to identify locations where there may be further attention in the field. 

Understanding Traffic Behavior

UMassAir fellow Cole Fitzpatrick (UMass Amherst) and Danjue Chen (UMass Lowell) are conducting several different analyses of traffic behavior, including assessing movement in roundabouts and traffic speed along roadways using UAS aerial imagery and video. 

Investigating UAS Security 

UMassAir Fellows Wayne Burleson and H. Pishro-Nik (UMass Amherst) are investigating security threats in UAS settings and development of countermeasures to these threats. 

Documenting Archeological Sites in Belize

UMassAir affiliate Maxine Oland (UMass Amherst) and UMassAir intern Maxwell Schweik have used UAS to develop aerial orthomosaics, digital elevation models and 3D Models of various archeological investigations in Belize. These include both 19th century Sugar Mills and Mayan settlements. 

Recent UAS Contract Projects

CASA Radar and UAS project (June 2018)

UMassAir staff pilot Ryan Wicks and UMassAir Research Associate Daniel Myers conducted a series of flights of a Trimble ZX5 and DJI Phantom 4 in support of a project by the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) team in UMass Amherst’s School of Engineering. The flights were used to test the ability of the weather radar systems CASA has developed to track and identify UAS’ in flight.  

UMass 2018 Undergraduate Commencement Traffic and Operations Monitoring (May 2018)

UMassAir staff pilot Ryan Wicks conducted a series of flights before and after UMass commencement to capture video to better track and understand the flow of pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

UMass Amherst Facilities Planning

UMassAir staff affiliate Daniel Myers and Niels la Cour has been collecting aerial imagery of new campus facilities construction and buildings in support of campus planning activities and regular maintenance. The digital products (e.g., orthomosaics, 3D models, and raw imagery) are  integrated with the overall campus GIS and used to manage infrastructure and furnishing  for university stakeholders and contractors.