UOG Drone Corps partners with Palau Community College for drone flight missions
The University of Guam Drone Corps conducted drone mapping missions at priority monitoring sites in the Republic of Palau and promoted drone usage for research at the Palau Community College.
From Oct. 6 to Oct. 9, 2024, a team comprising UOG personnel and students from NASA Guam Space Grant, NASA Guam Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center (PI-CASC) embarked on remote piloting missions to capture aerial imagery of sites affected by the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB). The team also conducted a sample fluid lensing mission at one of Palau’s protected coral reef sites to demonstrate the technology’s effectiveness in removing wave distortion and creating clear images of what lies beneath the ocean surface, from up above.
The mission was made possible through a partnership between Dr. Romina King, associate professor of geography at UOG who also serves as the UOG lead for the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center and as associate director of the NASA Guam Space Grant and NASA Guam EPSCoR programs, and Dr. Christopher Kitalong, vice president of PCC’s Cooperative Research and Extension (CRE) department. The collaboration provided an opportunity for both institutions to share resources, network, and assess the interest in emerging technologies for research and natural resource monitoring in Micronesia.
“The embodiment of partnership is in its people, the land they are from, and the oceans that connect them. Micronesian youth working together to better understand how our lands and oceans provide for us is a goal that makes the PCC and UOG partnership so valuable,” said Dr. Kitalong. “The way forward is together — respecting traditional knowledge and practices by allowing them to guide us, while integrating technology and new knowledge to carry us forward into the new world.”
The UOG Drone Corps also visited the PCC campus to showcase their program and the research their students have done on Guam using drones, ranging from reef monitoring to land surveying. The team shared the program’s model with students, personnel, and faculty, providing them with a valuable resource to reference when developing their own remote pilot program in the future.
Mira Mariur, a senior research assistant at PCC’s CRE department who is also pursuing a master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources at UOG, played a crucial role in guiding the Guam team throughout Palau and assisting with the missions and outreach. Mariur is a PI-CASC Climate Adaptation for Resource Management (CARM) fellow, and her thesis project is related to the monitoring of the CRB population, which influenced the missions for this trip. After earning her degree, she plans to return to Palau and to help establish a drone program that will support ongoing monitoring efforts.
"On behalf of the Palau Community College Cooperation Research and Extension, we would like to show our deepest appreciation to UOG Drone Corps as they have demonstrated a new perspective into the field of natural resource management to the students of Palau. As technology advances, it is only right that we use it to benefit our food system and agriculture. The presentation of this new and innovative science has encouraged the students of PCC studying agriculture to broaden their perspective and maybe one day join the Drone Corps,” Mariur said.
Established in 2021, the UOG Drone Corps program has trained 36 students from UOG and the Guam Community College (GCC) to become federally certified and experienced remote pilots. Members of the program have assisted local government agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector with flight missions for data gathering, aerial photography, and surveying. The program seeks to expand beyond the institution and further support the island community, Micronesia, and beyond.
“We are so proud of the UOG Drone Corps program’s success here on Guam, and are committed to finding ways we can broaden our reach throughout Micronesia,” said Keanno Fausto, communications coordinator for NASA Guam Space Grant and UOG Drone Corps. “Through our efforts with PCC, we look forward to seeing how students can adopt a similar program in Palau and modify it to suit the country’s unique environmental needs.”
Once the aerial imagery datasets gathered during the campaign are completely processed, they will be made available online at https://www.uog.edu/nasa-guam-space-grant/information#Resources. These maps will be accessible upon request for research purposes.
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