USC Spatial Sciences Institute drones in GIS mapping

The University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute offers flexible online degree and certificate programs that provide the education and recognized qualifications required to successfully use drones for GIS mapping. Read on to learn more about how the University of Southern California is influencing the way GIS professionals collect data.

How GIS experts capture insights from drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) provide a powerful means of observing everything from changes in the atmosphere to military action on the ground. Professionals working in the field of geographic information science (GIS) or geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) use the remote sensing data collected by drones to generate valuable insights in a variety of areas.

3D rendering of a topographic map of Toronto, Canada.

For example, city planners use drone technology to map and project city expansion and make better decisions about the future of our cities, while environmental scientists collect data related to everything from deforestation to migration patterns of endangered species. The uses of drones are practically unlimited and are becoming increasingly important in order to better understand our world.

UAVs equipped with technologies such as digital cameras, multispectral sensors, and GPS have become critical to GIS mapping and data acquisition. Drones can be used to review and supplement crowdsourcing information and to open up new perspectives for areas that are otherwise difficult or dangerous to capture.

The faculty at the University of Southern California Institute of Space Sciences Developed online programs designed to help professionals in all fields analyze this very type of information and apply what they learn to the challenges of businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, or the armed forces. According to the professor of the practice COL [R] Steven D. Fleming, cutting edge GIS tools and best practices, can make the most of the input from drones and other sources.

“Whether it’s satellite or aerial or even terrestrial collections, the need to manage the different forms of data is changing rapidly today and we need to make sure we understand the software applications that do it best . ” he said.

USC Spatial Sciences Institute online programs offer first-hand experience in collecting geospatial data using drones. Many students take a trip to USC’s Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, where they dispatch UAVs to collect geographic information in the open air and complete their own research.

The trip to Catalina Island is the most memorable aspect of the program for many graduates – including epidemiologist Mine Metitiri, the one Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST). Metitiri’s work exemplifies how spatial thinking can be directed to complex problems in various disciplines. As associate director of cancer registry programs for the nonprofit Vital Strategies for Public Health, she works with agencies in Asia, Africa and Latin America to improve how data is turned into guidelines and provides GIS training for doctors and public health decision makers.

“I love GIS because it enables people to see their data in a way that is more related to it than numbers or labels,” said Metitiri. “It speaks to both the heart and the mind of a person.”

Nathan Novak, another USC alumnus with an MS in GIST, specializes in airborne operational survey functions with Leidos, Inc., a contractor for the Fortune 500 Department of Defense. Novak is also very optimistic in this area and attributes a dramatic change in his career to his academic training.

“I have been to over 30 GIST conferences and have never met a person who is not really enthusiastic about the future of geospatial technologies,” said Novak.

The USC Spatial Sciences Institute prepares students for the future of the discipline in the following online programs for Masters and Diploma certificates:

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