Can you imagine the excitement of Orville and Wilbur Wright when they piloted the first powered airplane in 1903? They obtained a bird’s eye view of their surroundings and made history. That same thrill and desire to explore is evident today as the possibilities open up with the use of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), typically known as drones.
Drones have been around for a while, but what’s different is the FAA Part 107 rule that changed effective August 29, 2016. Now, we can help communities with this powerful platform through aerial photos and videos to promote ideas, projects and achievements; Digital Mapping/3-D modeling/surveying through photogrammetry and many more applications. I’m one of two individuals at MSA who has obtained a Commercial Airmen Certificate and can fly sUAS commercially.
At public meetings, stakeholders can view videos that show their community’s natural and manmade resources at a glance. Citizens no longer have to look at static photos or plan sets that can’t capture the true live essence of a community. This powerful tool can be paired with photogrammetry (the science of making measurements from photos) to turn a site into digital maps, orthomosaics and 3-D models. Photogrammetry outputs a map, 2-D rendering or 3-D model of a real-world object or land mass.
Check out this drone video example.
The UAS platform offers affordable project understanding and analysis that can assist with decision-making and project promotion. Potential developers will be able to easily view available sites and understand the benefits of each location. Aerial photos, of course, have been available for decades, but sUAS allow them to be frequently used for projects of all sizes, not just high-budget endeavors.
Can you imagine how aerial videos could enhance discussions about development of a river or recreational corridor? You could view the present situation, and with the help of 3-D modeling, you could see future scenarios. With this tool, public engagement and planning would rise to a new level, whether attendees were physically at a session or viewing potential plans at home. As demonstrated by YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, the most popular communication avenues include visuals. Successful community leaders will look for ways to build on this reality.
Other potential uses of sUAS include:
- Downtown Development
- Drainage Modeling/Plant Health
- Aerial Mapping and Surveying
What’s exciting for MSA is the ability to use images and video from UASs to further promote understanding of community projects, whether it’s for engineering, architectural, landscape architecture services or planning projects. Plans can be tough to understand if you’re not an engineer, but that’s not the case for photos. We’ll be able to say, “Here’s what your project looks like now—and this is what it could look like.”
With the use of drones, it’s possible to obtain aerial photos and videos that enhance our ability to communicate and create visions for our communities. We’re at the forefront of an exciting new era.
Shawn O’Shea, AICP, joined MSA’s Des Moines office in January of 2012. In his role as a community development specialist, he has been involved in an array of planning projects in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. His experience includes Community/Regional Planning and Design, GIS Analysis and Planning, Comprehensive Planning, Land-use Planning and Public Engagement. He is a certified planner and has both Private Pilot and Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Airmen Certificates.
Contact Shawn today for more information on MSA's Aerial Solutions.