UAS Summer Study Away Program Supports Wildfire Recovery Efforts in Oklahoma


Embry-Riddle Professors Dan Macchiarella and John Robbins led a group of nine Daytona Beach students on a UAS Disaster Study Away trip in May to support Oklahoma Emergency Management and Dept. of Wildlife Conservation efforts to survey the aftermath of large rangeland fires that raged across hundreds of thousands of acres in Oklahoma in April. 

Watch the Embry–Riddle UAS Disaster Response Team in action.

The trip began in Arlington, Texas with Predator/Reaper UAS orientation flight training. The next stop was Oklahoma City at the State Emergency Operation Center where the Embry–Riddle UAS Disaster Response Team received an initial briefing and prepared to assist with response and recovery efforts resulting from wildfires, tornados and other severe weather events. 

The team worked with the Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation to survey the "Rhea" and "34 Complex" fires that occurred in April, helping ranch owners begin to develop recovery plans. Students operated the senseFly eBee and DJI Inspire 1 UAS to collect and share still and full motion imagery while gaining a deeper understanding of the operational requirements and coordination associated with UAS in support of disaster relief operations.

“The students were able to learn UAS application principles in both academic and real world settings during the study away,” said Macchiarella. “They truly developed into a cohesive team.”

The Disaster Response Team also met and flew with Oklahoma State University (OSU) faculty and students at the OSU Unmanned Aircraft Flight Station, and then traveled to several sites in Oklahoma to provide demonstrations and professional education to public safety organizations.

Students participating in the three-semester credit hours UAS Study Away trip included Daniel Basany, Manuel Escobar, George Gebert, Blake Haubold, Steven Holmes, Joshua Marcham, Dalton Newell, Austin Noble and Christopher Piccone. The program was supported by industry partners Rapid Imaging Software and DroneSense.