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Corresponding Author

Daniel R. Unger

Abstract

Vertical height estimates of earth surface features using an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) are important in natural resource management quantitative assessments. An important research question concerns both the accuracy and precision of vertical height estimates acquired with a UAS and to determine if it is necessary to land a UAS between individual height measurements or if GPS derived height versus barometric pressure derived height while using a DJI Phantom 3 would affect height accuracy and precision. To examine this question, height along a telescopic height pole on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) were estimated at 2, 5, 10 and 15 meters above ground using a DJI Phantom 3 UAS. The DJI Phantom 3 UAS (i.e., drone) was flown up and down the telescopic height pole to estimate height at the 2, 5, 10 and 15 meter locations using four different user controlled flight modes with a total of 30 observations per flight mode. Flight mode configurations consisted of having GPS estimate height while landing the drone between flights, non-GPS mode to estimate height via barometric pressure while landing the drone between flights, flying continuously up and down the height pole while estimating height with GPS on, and flying continuously up and down the height pole in non-GPS mode to estimate height via barometric pressure. A total of 480 height measurements were recorded (30 measurements per height interval per all four flight mode combinations). Standard deviation results indicated that height measurements taken with the drone were less precise when landing was not reset between measurements. Root mean square error (RMSE) analysis indicated that having the landing reset without GPS on achieved the highest accuracy of all measurements taken. An ANOVA conducted on the absolute errors reconfirmed that having the landing reset before each height measurement using the drone achieved higher accuracy compared to flying the drone continuously. This indicates the practical application of height measurement of the DJI Phantom 3 UAS and the importance of resetting the UAS before each height measurement.

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