ESCI 497Z: Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

for Environmental Research & Monitoring


Dr. David Wallin; Office: ES342
Phone: 650-7526

Teaching Assistant: Megan Bugaj

Online Reference: Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA publication)

Additional Readings as Assigned: (journal articles and online links; see below)

Class Meeting Time: Tuesday 1:00-5:00

Office Hours: MWF 10:00-11:00 email to set up time to meet online via ZOOM or by phone

Prerequisites: Completion of a 300-level course in either ESCI, ENVS, EGEO, BIOL, GEOL, ANTH or permission of instructor


Student Learning Objectives: Upon completion of the course, students will be well versed in the safe use of UAS and be capable of using data from UAS to conduct environmental research and monitoring.

Reasonable Accommodation: Reasonable accommodation for persons with documented disabilities should be established within the first week of class and arranged through Disability Resources for Students: Telephone 650-3083; email and on the web at


Disability, equitable access, and accommodations

This course is intended for all WWU students, including those with visible or invisible disabilities. Students with disabilities will be provided equitable access to educational experiences and opportunities. If, at any point in the quarter, you find yourself not able to fully access the space, content, and experience of this course, please first contact the Disability Access Center (DAC) to discuss potential accommodations. Faculty and staff partner with the DAC in the implementation of accommodations.


If you already have accommodations set up through the DAC, please be sure to send your Faculty Notification Letter to me, through the myDAC portal, and reach out so we can discuss how your approved accommodations apply to this course.


If you are unsure if accommodations are appropriate for you, contact the DAC for more information, temporary assistance, or connections to other resources: or




ONLINE NOTES: Due to COVID-19, this course will be offered entirely online during Spring 2020. Moving to online delivery will require lots of changes and we will need to work together to make this work. Iím still working out the details. Generally speaking, my intent is to offer lectures synchronously during our scheduled M1-5 time slot but also provide the option of allowing you to view this lecture asynchronously if you canít make this meeting time. The synchronous lectures will enable us to have a dialog to address questions and provide me with feedback from you. But I also recognize that during these difficult times, it may be problematic for some of you to join in during these times. Hence I will record these class sessions and you will have the option to view these lectures at a time that works for you.


Our synchronous meeting will occur using Zoom. You do not need your own Zoom account to participate in these meetings. You will need a computer and (hopefully high speed) internet access. Not sure but you may even be able to just use a smart phone but the small screen size would be problematic. Ideally your computer should have a microphone and a video camera. To join our meetings, Iíll send you a link that you can paste into a browser and you will be able to join the meeting. Zoom is pretty cool but Iím still learning all of the features.


I will be recording all of our synchronous meeting and later posting a link to this (MP4 file?) somewhere (Canvas or Google docs).


In addition to my own lectures, another great source of content for this class is being provided by Scholar Farms ( This organization is run by Dr. Greg Crutsinger. Greg is a Ph.D. plant ecologist and former faculty member at the University of British Columbia. Iíve known him for about 6 years and for the last 4+ years, he has been totally immersed in the UAS industry. He has put together a great series of videos covering the use of UAS to monitor agricultural systems. Use of these videos will make up part of this class. We will be discussing these videos during our synchronous meetings.


Analysis: Iím still work out the details of pulling this off but I also want to have you carry out a series of different analyses using imagery that I have acquired over the past few years. I will give you a series of processing steps and have you work with the imagery using a variety of software packages. We will need to do this by having you log in remotely to computers in the Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL) at WWU.



Grades: (under revision)

1.      Quizzes (weekly online)30%

2.      Lab Exercises 30%

3.      Projects? 40% Students will take on an independent project developed in consultation with me.




Lab Exercises Index


Tentative Project List/Ideas


Late Assignments: grades reduced by 5%/day if turned in late without a valid excuse (illness, family crisis, etc.). Assignments that are more than one week late will not be accepted without a valid excuse (illness, family crisis, etc.)

Grading: A =93; A- 90-92; B+ 88-89; B 83-87; B- 80-82; C+ 78-79; C 73-77; C- 70-72; D+ 68-69; D 63-67 D- 60-62; F 0-59

Academic Dishonesty: There has been a substantial increase in the number of cases of Academic Dishonesty in recent years.For this reason, all faculty members have been instructed by the Registrarís Office to provide students with explicit information about Academic Dishonesty.Briefly stated, lying, cheating and stealing will not be tolerated in any form.Actions of this type will result in severe consequences that could include a failing grade in the class and dismissal from the university.Hopefully, this does not come as a surprise to anyone.All students should review Appendix D, Academic Dishonesty Policy and Procedure Appendix D, Academic Dishonesty Policy and Procedure in the back of the University Catalog for a more detailed discussion of what constitutes academic dishonesty.For more information see:

Plagiarism Policies & Guidelines:

The Studentís Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism:



Tentative Schedule: Check for updates to this schedule throughout the quarter.


Click here for links to readings


Syllabus under revision (last revised 10/10/2022): Still working on Week 4; later weeks under development






Week 1: 9/27

Why UAS?

Course Outline

Section 107, Chap 1

Letís go fly!





Chap1_Section 107_Regulations.pptx

Week 2: 10/4

Intro to Remote Sensing

FAA AC-107-2

Anderson & Gaston 2013


Scholar Farms Videos: 1-3a



Week 3: 10/11

The National Airspace; Where can I fly?


Intro to Structure from Motion software; Agisoft Metashape; online lab

Remote Pilot sUAS Study Guide Chap 2

Scholar Farms Videos: Sections 3B Ė 5




Week 4:10/18

Mission Planning


Autonomous Flight

Mission Planner lab (or use Sidepilot?)

Remote Pilot sUAS Study Guide Chap 3a and 3b

Scholar Farms Videos: Sections 6, 7, 8




Week 5:10/25


Sensor Systems

Remote Pilot sUAS Study Guide Chap 4-8

Scholar Farms Videos: 8(continued), 9, 10, 11Sections





Week 6: 11/1

Out in the field to fly!

Scholar Farms Videos: 12a-12c

Note: Iím still checking out Lab 2 in Scholar Farms: stay tuned.



Week 7: 11/8

North Fork Logjam Analysis Lab

Remote Pilot sUAS Study Guide Chap 9-12

Scholar Farms Videos 12d-13





Week 8: 11/15


Work on projects




Week 9: 11/22

Sequoia/Vegetation Indices Lab


GPS and Ground Control Points



Week 10: 11/29

Project Presentations







Finals Week: 12/5-9


No final Exam!