CNM Conducts Drone Workshops for Mapping Professionals

June 28, 2017 -- Thirty members of New Mexico’s surveying and mapping community attended CNM-sponsored workshops May 19 and June 2 on the operation of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), commonly known as drones, and using an onboard camera to obtain mapping data and produce digital terrain models.
CNM Conducts Drone Workshops for Mapping Professionals

Jun 28, 2017

“The workshop attendees, who represented the New Mexico State Highway Department, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, land surveyors, engineers and aerial photographers were excited about using the sUAS as an alternative to conventional surveying and mapping,” said Ron Forstbauer, CNM Surveying instructor. “We provided them with an overview of what comprises a sUAS, and how to gather and interpret the data. The spring workshops were so successful that we may offer them again this fall.”

A sUAS consists of an unmanned aircraft, a ground-based controller and a system of communications between the two. The flight of UASs may operate with various degrees of autonomy, either under remote control by a human operator or autonomously by onboard computers. Mapping sUAS carry a digital camera.

The type of aircraft the workshop attendees used is called a quadcopter. It is a helicopter with four propellers. It has a footprint approximately 18 inches square and weighs about five pounds with the camera. By law, the aircraft and its payload must weigh less than 55 pounds.

Fifteen people attended each of the two workshops. During the morning portions of the workshops, attendees were introduced to the art of flying a sUAS, including mission planning, which involved determining how high to fly the sUAS and route planning. Forstbauer then showed them how to control a sUAS while in the air at Balloon Fiesta Park.


They spent the afternoons downloading images from the camera mounted on the sUAS and learning how to convert the information to build 3-D mapping models in sessions at CNM’s Advanced Technology Center.

In order to fly a sUAS, pilots must obtain Federal Aviation Administration certification. The workshop participants learned what topics they needed to know to pass the FAA test, which includes sections on safety, regulations, weather, airspace and reading air charts.

CNM offers a one-credit online course to prepare for the FAA Part 107 exam in order to receive a sUAS Airman Certificate and a three-credit introduction to UAS course. Both will be offered this fall and are found in the GIS section of the CNM Course Catalog. CNM’s School of Applied Technologies will launch a sUAS certificate program in fall 2018.