Drones are Innovating Geographic Research

Andy Paladino uses his drone not only take interesting photos and videos, but also to advance his own geographic research. (c) 2017 Leah Newton

By Leah Newton SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — Who knew there could be a way to use drones to combine both your hobby and your career? Andy Paladino is a senior geography major at Syracuse University. He’s also on the cross country and track team. Paladino has had his drone for a year and he uses it for both fun and for work. 

The drone has a tracking feature that allows it to focus on and follow a specific person or object. Paladino uses this feature whenever he wants to get an interesting vantage point on some of his runs. 

The Syracuse cross country team uses Sweet Road in Pompey, N.Y., just outside of Syracuse, to prepare for their competition season. Paladino brought the drone along one day to document the infamous hill.

It didn’t take long for Paladino to realize he could also use his drone to apply to the research he does as a geography major. As part of his capstone project, he and one of his professors take the drone to different areas around Syracuse to survey the land.

“You can analyze plant health. You can analyze elevation, and you can analyze just the map,” said Paladino. “From that map, based off the drone data, you can do different types of surface analysis with the software, with drone deploy. So one of the things that we’ve been doing is we’ve been analyzing the elevation of the ground using the drone data.”

Using a special kind of software, Paladino and Professor Pang Gao map out a path for the drone to take in the sky. The drone takes multiple sets of pictures in that path. The two then upload the pictures into a Geographic Information Systems database, which converts the pictures into a map. You can also convert the maps into 3-D models.

“The next step is to figure out how to measure cross sections, how to analyze cross sections of Onondaga creek. And that’s helpful with the flow of the creek and the depth of the creek,” said Paladino.

Paladino will be graduating next May and hopes to get a job analyzing geographic information systems.