Class Meeting Times:        Friday 9-11:50am (& afternoon sessions as needed)

Classroom:                         ESRM Tech Lab (Sierra 2314)


Alan Jaeger

Office Hours:                         F 8-9am, Manzanita 1112


Dr. Jean Pan

Office Hours:                         F 12-1pm, ConsBio Lab (Sierra 2324)


Dr. Sean Anderson

Office Hours:                         M 1:30-3pm (BTW 1265), T 10:30-11:50am (BTW 1265), W 11:45am-12:45pm (Tortilla’s)


Emily Welsh

Office Hours:                         TBD (Sierra 2323)


Course Overview

In this hands-on course, students will explore the fundamentals of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Remotely Operated Vehicles from a range of perspectives including operational principles, legal and social issues, public safety, practical field applications, and data collection and analysis. Students will be exposed to common control systems, various vehicle designs and equipment, as well as the maintenance and repair associated with these systems.  Students will gain hands-on experience in the use of an emerging technology within this discipline and will conduct or support data collection, analysis and synthesis in a real-world, collaborative and teaming project.

Student activities will include: surveys, literature-based background research, synthesis of relevant information, scientific writing, collaborative research activities working with their faculty mentor and within and between peer groups, and the preparation and presentation of a scientific poster and research presentations.

Learning Objectives

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

  • Demonstrate the knowledge and skills associated with the safe and effective operations of UAVs.
  • Describe and discuss in detail UAV’s contribution to the study over the semester.
  • Develop a detailed flight plan and documentation to safely operate UAVs in appropriate airspace.
  • Carry out methodologically relevant modes of analysis relevant to address UAV-related field applications.
  • Prepare and present a research poster and oral presentation.

Course Outline

The course will include three distinct components:

  • Fundamental principles of operations, safety, legal, best practices and hands on operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).  Students will be expected to spend significant time learning the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for UAV operation and how to safely operate UAVs in the federal airspace.  Students are encouraged to obtain their Remote Pilot Operator Certificate (optional). This component will also include an introduction to the operation and application of UAV’s as research tools and discussion of relevant issues such as environmental resource management and methods of use of UAV’s for data collection.
  • Development of Research Project. Students will form groups and select a UAV research topic from a provided list of topics. Examples of topics may include the configuration and operation of the UAV, accurate collection and calibration of imagery and design of appropriate field methods.
  • Conducting Research Project. Data will be collected during a series of field flights, tentatively scheduled during April – May, and, in this final component of the course, the emphasis will be on the detailed analysis of the images and aerial footage obtained. Groups will prepare a final project poster, presentation, and written report to demonstrate effective communicate the results of the study, covering the development of the protocols used in the study, alongside the compilation of results obtained that address the identified research question.

Course Assessment

Course assessment will be based on the following:

  • 10%  – Class Participation (including online discussions of current events)
  • 10% –  UAV Opinion Polling and Analysis/Report
  • 20%  – Midterm – Students may choose to take and pass the FAA Part 107 standardized test instead of taking a knowledge based midterm (assessment fee is the responsibility of the student)
  • 20%  – Practical demonstration of Skill’s associated with the safe and effective operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
  • 40%  – Completion of an instructor-approved group research, research proposal presentation, and analytical study with appropriate final deliverables

Course Grades

The final grade will be calculated based on the breakdown of tests and assessments as described.

Grades will be earned as follows:

  • A = 100 – 90
  • B = 89 – 80
  • C = 79 – 70
  • D = 69 – 60
  • F = below 60

Make-up of missed class dates or field activities will be on a case specific basis and only at the instructor’s discretion. All assignments must be submitted on time for full credit. Points will be deducted for late submissions. Extensions will only be allowed after discussion with the instructor.


DateGeneral TopicsAssignments Due
Jan. 26Course Introduction and Syllabus Review
UAV Survey introduction and Discussion
UAV Systems Introduction and Overview
Introduction to Field Applications in Conservation
Feb. 2Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Principles of Flight, UAV Operations, Components and Systems, Communications
Research Project Expectations and Overview
Experimental Design: Overview, Formulating the Question, Hypotheses
Flight Demonstration (weather permitting)
Feb. 9Discussion of Current UAV News and ArticlesCompletion of UAV Paper Field surveys
National Airspace System, Airspace Types and Classes, Part 107 rules, UAV Safety
Experimental Design: Determining data needed, Sampling Considerations, Data analysis, and Results
UAV Flights (weather permitting)
Feb. 16Current UAV News and Articles (1-paragraph write-up to be submitted online)
Feb. 23Discussion of Current UAV News and ArticlesUAV survey written report
Components of UAV Flight Plans and Safe Flying Guidance
Introduction of Research Topics
Mar. 2Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Research Proposal Topics and Research Team Formation
Literature Review
Part 107 Rules and Regulations
Mar. 9Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Literature Review
Design of Experiment and refine research topic and plan
Part 107 Rules and Regulations
Mar. 16Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Design of Experiment and refine research topic and plan
UAV Safety Plan and Demonstration (weather permitting)
Mar. 23No class-Spring Break
Mar. 30No class-Cesar Chavez Day
Apr. 6Discussion of Current UAV News and ArticlesResearch projection presentation, Part 107 completion
MIDTERM: Group Presentations on approved Research Topic and Plan
Knowledge Test -or- Proof of Part 107 Test completion
UAV Operations and Safety Practical Test
Apr. 13Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Data collection and analysis summary, review and discussion
Apr. 20Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Data collection and analysis summary, review and discussion
Apr. 27Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Data collection and analysis summary, review and discussion
May 4Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Data collection and analysis summary, review and discussion
May 11Discussion of Current UAV News and Articles
Data collection and analysis summary, review and discussion
May 18Final Exam : Group Presentation of Research Projects (10:30 – 12:30pm)Project poster, report due

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