Skip to main content

GEOG 892 - Geospatial Applications of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


Unmanned Aerial Systems are developing aggressively, and many government and non-government agencies are considering acquiring such systems. The acquisition of a system may be the easy part of the entire process of running an UAS. However, selecting the right system and providing details of running and managing the system may prove to be challenging for an ordinary user who does not possess prior knowledge in this field. There is quite a large amount of information now available on the UAS. However, most of such information focuses on either the engineering aspect of the aircraft or its defense applications. Very little information is available on the geo-spatial utilization of a UAS.

This course provides an introduction to the Unmanned Aerial system from the Geo-spatial perspective which includes but is not limited to:

  • sensors and platforms;
  • civilian and remote sensing applications;
  • sensors calibration and boresighting;
  • operational requirements of the UAS;
  • concept of operation for UAS;
  • data processing software;
  • Evaluating data quality and accuracy and the new mapping standards;
  • generation of digital data products such as ortho-rectified imagery and digital terrain surface;
  • current rules and regulations governing owning and operating a UAS in the United States;
  • concerns surrounding UAS safety, security, and privacy issues.


Upon the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • understand the capabilities and limitations of the UAS and data post-processing systems;
  • understand fundamental concepts surrounding operating a UAS such as:
    • selecting the right UAS,
    • assessing its performance,
    • managing resulting products,
    • selecting the appropriate commercially available processing software,
    • products accuracy assessment,
    • ways and means to produce metric products from UAS;
    • Evaluating data quality and accuracy.
  • understand rules and regulations governing operating a UAS in the United States of America.

On the practical side, students develop knowledge about photogrammetric processes and will have the opportunity to use the Pix4D processing software to perform aerial triangulation and produce their own orthos and digital terrain model using imagery collected by UAS.

Students who excel in this course are able to:

  • assess commercially available UAS and its suitability for the job;
  • assess commercially available data processing software and its suitability for the job;
  • describe the basic principles of UAS operation requirements and develop Concept of Operation (CONOP);
  • assess risks surrounding operating a UAS and propose mitigation for such risks;
  • design a UAS-based aerial imagery operation;
  • design a UAS-based flight mission;
  • evaluate strength and weakness of different phases of the design;
  • recommend a procedure for sensor calibration;
  • recognize and recommend potential applications of the UAS for GIS operations;
  • apply acquired knowledge and critical thinking skills to solve a real-world problem with appropriate UAS acquisition and data processing and analysis methods;
  • produce geospatial products such as ortho photos and digital terrain models;
  • advise users on the rules and regulations on operating an UAS;
  • Understand the new ASPRS mapping standards and how it applies to UAS-derived products.

Required Materials

The materials listed here represent those that may be included in this course. Students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.

Required Textbooks

Because of the newly introduced topic of UAS for civilian use, there are very few published books available on the topic. There is no one textbook that I found in the market that covers both topics of the UAS and the Geospatial applications. Therefore, this course requires the following three textbooks, two of which are offered as an eBook through PSU libraries:

Barnhart, R., Michael, M., Marshall, D., and Shappee, E. ed. 2016. Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 2nd edition. Boca Raton. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1482263930. (Available for purchase or as an ebook through the PSU libraries)

Fahlstrom, P. and Gleason, T. 2012. Introduction to UAV Systems. 4th edition. United Kingdom. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. ISBN: 9781119978664. (Available for purchase or as an ebook through the PSU libraries)

Wolf, P., DeWitt, B., and Wilkinson, B. 2014. Elements of Photogrammetry with Applications in GIS, 4th edition. McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 978-0071761116. 

Recommended Materials

Campbell, J.B. 2007. Introduction to Remote Sensing. 4th edition. The Guilford Press. ISBN 978-1606230749.

Abdullah, Q. A., Mapping Matters(link is external). A monthly column published in the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing journal.


There are no formal prerequisites for graduate students taking this course. However, prospective students should have some working knowledge of the following topics, covered in Geog 480, 482, 483:

  • photogrammetry and geographic information system (GIS)
  • basic GIS or CAD data processing experience
  • datums and coordinate systems
  • maps accuracy standard


This course will require a minimum of 5-10 hours of student activity per week. The instructor will poll students during the first week of class to find a weekly time to hold a live class discussion via the Web. The live session is intended to substitute for face-to-face meetings in the classroom, and most students enjoy the opportunity to ask questions and hear the instructor's commentary on lesson topics.

Major Assignments

Students earn grades that reflect the extent to which they achieve the learning objectives listed above. Opportunities to demonstrate learning include:

  • 9 online quizzes (30%)
  • 11 activities including online discussions or reports development (50%)
  • 1 final project and presentation (20%)

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
1Introduction to the Unmanned Aerial System
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
2Unmanned Aerial System Elements
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Quiz 1
  • Quiz 2
3Concept of Operation (CONOP) and Risk Assessment for UAS
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Quiz 3
  • Submit Preliminary Project Idea
4UAS Mission Planning and Control
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Quiz 4
5Fundamentals of Unmanned Aerial System Operations
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Quiz 5
  • CONOP and Risk Assessment Report
  • Submit Pix4D processing materials for exercise 1
  • Submit final project idea
6Aviation Regulatory and Certificate of Authorization (COA) Process
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Quiz 6
7Products Generation
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Quiz 7
8Civilian and Commercial Applications of the Unmanned Aerial System
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Quiz 8
  • Submit your COA Application 
  • Submit your Pix4D processing materials for exercise 2
9Data Quality and Accuracy and Strategy for Selecting a UAS-based Geospatial Mapping System
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Submit your Final Project Report and Presentation Slides
10UAS Safety and Privacy Concerns
  • Weekly Zoom meeting
  • Online Discussion
  • Final Comprehensive Quiz
  • Submit materials for  the digital image classification  exercise "Land Use/Land Cover Classification"
  • Present final project to the class