Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) & GIS 

King County GIS User Group

December 2 , 2015

Peter Keum - WTD GIS Specialist


  • Introduction of sUAS
  • Use Cases
  • Examples of  Workflow

small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS)

Short Back Story

CUGOS April 2014

"Google Guys"

UAS - Unmanned Aerial System

FAA Definition: Unmanned Aircraft (UA) system that is operated by a pilot via ground control or on-board computer. 

UAS Categories


  • Size: 1 - 2 meters ( 3 ft - 6.5 ft), < 55 lbs. 
  • Control: Visual line of sight, Radio control
  • DJI Phamtom, 3DR - Solo, Insitu - ScanEagle


  • Size: Equivalent to a car, ~ 1000 lbs.
  • Control: Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) & Beyond LOS, RC & Satellite
  • General Atomics -MQ1 Predator 


  • Size: > 30,000 lbs. 
  • Control: Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) & Beyond LOS, RC & Satellite
  • Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk ~$222 Million


Unmanned Aerial Systems "Drone"

Types of sUAS Operations

  • Model Aircraft (Hobby/Recreation only) Register,not yet
  • Civil Operations (Commercial) Section 333 Exemption.
  • Public Operations (Governmental)- Cert. Of Authorization (COA)  [Ada County in Boise, ID. waiting]

Number of Operators

Why Now?

Cell Phone Technology + Lower $$

  • Electronic Control System (ECS)
  • Accelerometer & Gyroscope Chip
  • GPS Chip
  • Lithium Polymer (LiPo) Battery
  • Motors
  • Economical
  • Easy to use
  • Quality data collection
  • Consistency/accuracy

(small)UAS as Platform


Fixed wings

  • Short flight time (< 20min)
  • Cover small area
  • Highly maneuverable
  • Less expensive
  • Access confined spaces more easily
  • Long flight time
  • Covers large area
  • Larger selection of sensors



Thermal Infrared

Lidar Camera

High resolution digital camera

  • Agisoft PhotoScan - St Petersburg, Russia
    • $3500 - Professional Edition
    • $180 - Standard Edition
  • Bunder - Open Source  
    • Linux installation, free to download
  • Pix4D - Lausanne, Switzerland
    • $8700 - Professional Edition
    • Rent Option
      • $350 /month 
      • $3500 / year
  • DroneDeploy - Cloud Based Integrated Solution 
    • Image Processing for any drone

Application Examples

3D Modeling

3D Modeling

3D Modeling


1. Aircraft + Sensor        (Data Collection)

2. Data Processing 

3. Information Products 


Workflow Example 1

Whidbey Island, Langley Downtown example

Step 1. Flight with Data Collection

Step 2. Data Processing

  1. QGIS to georeference aerial imagery export to tiff file
  2. Using GDAL
  3. Or use mbutili to export into tiles
gdal2tiles.py --profile=mercator -z 1-22 yourmap.tif outputfolder

Step 3. Information Product 1

  • Create web-map using GitHub's gh-page
git checkout gh-pages
git add outputfolder
git commit -m "Yes... TILE DATA"
git push

Step 3A. Information Product 2

  • Using imagery to digitize street, add features to OSM
  • Add below url into OpenStreetMap iD Editor

Workflow Example 2

KC Brightwater Treatment Plant &

KC Cedar River Revetment 

(river bank protection)

3D Modeling

PhotoScan Sparse Point Cloud

Dense Point Cloud

Textured Mesh

Flying Brightwater TP Odor Control Units


Cedar River Revetment


Lesson Learn

  • Understanding various platform and sensors
  • Various software packages to process captured data
  • Various flying techniques for capturing aerial data

UAVs are just another tools in the toolbox 

Help decision makers with appropriate analytic information product 

What's Next?

  • Write a business plan with cost analysis  for management
    • Roof top facility inspection - WTD 
    • (Potential) Flooding structure inspection - WLRD 
    • (Potential) Aerial inventory of landfill - Solid Waste
  • Have clear understanding of steps to proceed for FAA's approval of use of small UAVs for public works
  • Presentations and Educations 




for now

Thank You!!!


GIS and Drone

By Peter Keum

GIS and Drone

Conference summary and talking points for what sUAV is to KC staffs

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