Wider Horizons

What is that soaring above the coulees? It’s clearly no bird. And it’s definitely not a plane. Bird plane drone - Geomatics studentsThat soaring object in the sky, in fact, is an Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS.

Students in the Geomatics Engineering Technology program at Lethbridge College were treated to a hands-on demonstration of these sophisticated pilotless aircraft above the coulees near the college last spring. While it is tempting to call these flying objects drones, drones use simpler technology primarily for tracking and target practice, while a UAS makes use of more complex technology that allows it to operate autonomously. The open-air demonstration was led by the company that owns and flies the UAS, Ventus Geospatial Inc.

According to Owen Brown, Chief Operations Officer at Ventus Geospatial, UAS technology is becoming more widely used to gather geographical data for different types of public and private sector organizations. During the demonstration at the college, the UAS captured information which was later shared in a presentation to students explaining how the techniques and data are used to benefit clients including surveyors, engineers, foresters and agricultural producers. The students also participated in capturing the data and were able to use the data for a project similar to what they would experience in the field. Geomatics Engineering Technology students learn about surveying and mapping using the latest data collection techniques and technologies during their two-year diploma program at the college.

“The demonstration opportunity for our Geomatics Engineering Technology students was invaluable,” says Bill Smienk, chair, School of Engineering Technologies. “This new technology is essential to engineering-related projects and our students are fortunate to work with a local company to gain exposure to state-of-the-art data capture techniques.”

The UAS used in the demonstration is military grade, worth approximately $140,000 and travels at a speed of about 35 kilometres per hour for mapping purposes and can fly as high as 150 meters. Designed for use in Lethbridge and southern Alberta, the UAS can operate in winds around 60 kilometres per hour and withstand gusts up to 90 kilometres per hour.

To learn more about the Engineering Technologies programs at Lethbridge College, call 403-320-3468 or email engineeringtech@lethbridgecollege.ca.

Wider Horizons
Megan Catalano
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