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ScanEagle UAS Performing Flood Plain Surveillance Over Red River

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Insitu Inc
: 29 March, 2010  (Application Story)
Insitu is working with the University of North Dakota on flood plain surveillance in response to flood threat in the North Dakota and Minnesota border region
ScanEagle UAS Performing Flood Plain Surveillance Over Red River
The University of North Dakota’s (UND) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Centre of Excellence and Insitu are conducting aerial flood plain surveillance along the Red River using the ScanEagle UAS.

In preparation for the flood, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), North Dakota Gov John Hoeven and Minnesota Gov Tim Pawlenty enlisted the help of UND to monitor rising river levels along the Red River, which threaten communities along the North Dakota and Minnesota border.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Certificate of Authorization (COA) permitting ScanEagle to be flown over the flooded area during this operation. UND is directing the effort with assistance from an Insitu flight operator team. This is the first time a university and a federal agency have collaborated on a project where a UAS has been used for flood plain research.

“We appreciate the support of NOAA, Governors Hoeven and Pawlenty and the FAA for recognizing this critical need and allowing us to fly the ScanEagle in the national airspace. We are gathering important data that will provide scientists and first responders with real-time imagery of the flood progression, which will help facilitate future flood forecasting,” said Jeff Kappenman, director of the Unmanned Aircraft System Center of Excellence at UND.

While ScanEagle has logged more than 290,000 hours on successful military missions, UAS have not seen wide domestic use. State and county officials are beginning to recognize the vast potential and cost benefits of using UAS as an alternative to manned aircraft.

“We have long envisioned the benefits that unmanned aircraft can offer communities. They provide safe, effective alternatives to manned aircraft, offering continual surveillance, particularly when it is impractical to put a pilot in the air,” said Insitu Business Development Executive Paul McDuffee. “We thank the FAA, NOAA and UND for enabling the Red River operation.”

Professor Doug Marshall at UND is excited about this opportunity and the teaching tool it will provide his students. UND launched its UAS program because the university recognized the future role UAS would play and the opportunities they would provide for students interested in aviation. Marshall expects to use data from this operation to teach students. Data will also be shared with the FAA and NOAA, providing information that will be useful for future UAS operations.

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