Integrating Drone Technology with GPS Data Collection to Enhance Forestry Students Interactive Hands-On Field Experiences

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Undergraduate students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Forestry (BSF) at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) within the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture (ATCOFA) attend an intensive 6-week hands-on instruction in applied field methods. The second week of field station is focused on land measurement activities to introduce students to practical, hands-on, and technology based ways to survey forest boundaries. On Monday of the second week students are introduced to the concepts of how to use a handheld compass to navigate from point to point, use a consumer-grade handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) unit for collecting the geographic coordinates of given locations, use a GPS unit to calculate the area of a forest opening, use a GPS unit to walk and record a forest hiking trail, and evaluate the accuracy of their GPS derived locations via a Root Mean Square Error (RMSE) analysis. RMSE analysis between a students collected geographic coordinates and the instructors collected geographic coordinates indicated that the students were sufficient in correctly recording the geographic coordinates of point, line, and polygon features identified in the field. Grades on the student submitted reports summarizing Monday’s activities resulted in 33 of 56 students (59.0%) receiving a high A, 14 of 56 students (25.0%) receiving a low A, and 9 of 56 students (16.0%) receiving a high B indicating that the interactive hands-on nature of ATCOFA’s field station is effective at providing students with real-world applications whereby they will be ready to make a difference the day after graduation. Interactive drone imagery and video integrated into the daily activities in the field to enhance a student’s understanding of their specific objectives provided the students in the field with a bird’s eye perspective of the landscape to aid their understanding and planning of the field tasks assigned. In conclusion, employers can have confidence that when hiring recent BSF graduates from ATCOFA that the students have been introduced to geospatial technologies within a proven one-on-one instruction methodology designed to increase cognitive retention and can traverse from location to location accurately and record the geographic coordinates of earth surface features correctly.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalFaculty Publications
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

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