These UA engineering student team members created a quad-copter to map buffelgrass. They are (from left) Alex Warren, Rachel Powers, Thomas Schucker, Jeremy Hibbs, Jesse Odle, and Travis Kibler.  UA Photo
These UA engineering student team members created a quad-copter to map buffelgrass. They are (from left) Alex Warren, Rachel Powers, Thomas Schucker, Jeremy Hibbs, Jesse Odle, and Travis Kibler.
UA Photo

The University of Arizona stresses real-world projects for engineering students to work on for their senior “capstone” projects. One of the 57 interdisciplinary student teams this year, sponsored by the University of Arizona Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is creating a quad-copter to map buffelgrass for the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center (SABCC).

Team members will be presenting their project at the Arizona Senior Academy on Thursday (May 14) at 3:30 p.m.

“SABCC has volunteers who go out and visually mark and inspect buffelgrass locations. An alternative is to hire a private helicopter crew to take pictures of the grass. The volunteer work is time-consuming and labor-intensive; the helicopter option is expensive. The quad-copter we are building costs less, is safer and easier to use, and requires fewer people,” explained team member Travis Kibler.

“It navigates using GPS waypoints, which we upload into the autopilot,” Kibler continued. “The quad-copter autonomously takes off, flies to the waypoints, and returns to the take-off point. Once the images are taken, we upload them into software we are writing and stitch together the images to create a huge image map of the area.”

The technology developed by these students is applicable to many other uses, from mapping real estate surveys to surveying disaster sites.

The students are part of a unique University of Arizona program for senior-year engineering students, where they form teams to bid and work on a variety of real-world projects proposed, sponsored and paid for by industry and other UA departments.

Although many universities have similar capstone classes, they typically are specific to a particular discipline (electrical, mechanical, optical, etc.); the UA program intentionally puts together teams with students in multiple majors to accomplish projects that take broad expertise to satisfy project requirements.

Written by Ivar Sanders, Academy Village Volunteer

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Engineering Students Use Quad-copter to Map Buffelgrass: May 2015
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