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Unmanned aircraft systems research program logo

The UASRP Team

The University of Florida Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Program (UFUASRP) is an interdisciplinary group of researchers from the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the School of Forest Resources and Conservation's Geomatics Program actively working towards the development of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) that are both affordable and address scientific questions in natural resources via remote sensing. Using a custom-designed composite airframe with a customized commercial autopilot/GPS avionics suite and image-collection systems, georeferenced imagery from small UAVs provides the ability to rapidly locate and assess ground targets in a variety of remote locations.                                                      

Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Dr. Raymond R. Carthy 

Program Director/Wildlife Lead

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Dr. Carthy is the Assistant Unit Leader at the USGS Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. He is a wildlife ecologist and sea turtle expert. His strong technical interests led to his involvement with the UFUASRP very early in the seventeen-year history of the Program. With the retirement of our former Program Director, Dr. H. Franklin Percival, Dr. Carthy’s role has expanded to UFUASRP Wildlife Lead. He matches natural resource questions to the appropriate technological platforms available within the Program, and directs research on incorporating new aerial platforms and sensor capabilities for conservation and management of species and habitats.


Mr. Andrew E. Ortega

Pilot and Research Coordinator

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Mr. Ortega is an undergraduate student in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at UF. He is working on a concentration in Geomatics and image processing. Mr. Ortega manages a variety of ongoing research projects in the departments of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, and Geomatics. His interdisciplinary skillset allows him to tailor solutions to a variety of on campus applications. His research includes photogrammetric data processing, low level lidar processing, as well as payload design and integration. Andrew holds his both his remote pilot and private pilot certificates, and is responsible for day to day field work activities.

College of Engineering

Dr. Peter G. Ifju

Aerospace Lead

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Dr. Peter Ifju is our aerospace lead, and an expert in the areas of micro air vehicles (design, fabrication, system integration, applications, and experimental characterization), experimental stress analysis, optical methods for stress analysis (moir interferometry, luminescent photoelastic coatings), and composite materials stress analysis and fabrication. The University of Florida MAV Team, lead by Dr. Ifju, won first place overall in the International MAV Competition in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 2000 Discovery magazine granted Dr. Ifju a Top Ten Technology Innovation Award for Micro Air Vehicle Development.

Mr. John A. Elder

Design and Manufacturing Team Lead

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Mr. Elder is an undergraduate student in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at UF. His work consists of the mechanical design of sUAS structures to accompany various sensor payloads and exhibit the structural qualities needed to accomplish mission goals. Mr. Elder leads the computer-aided design, manufacturing and ground-up assembly of sUAS vehicles, working extensively with composite materials and various traditional manufacturing methods.

Mr. Antonio L. Diaz

Mechanical Design Engineer

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Mr. Diaz is a doctoral student in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. He contributes towards design, fabrication and testing of unmanned vehicles and payloads.

Mr. Matthew B. Snyder

Flight Test Pilot

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Mr. Snyder is an undergraduate student in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at UF. Mr. Snyder is an avid model RC aircraft hobbyist and holds a remote pilot certificate. 

School of Forest Resources and Conservation - Geomatics Program

Dr. Benjamin E. Wilkinson

Imagery Processing Lead

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Dr. Wilkinson is an assistant professor in the Geomatics Program at the University of Florida, and is our lead for imagery post-processing. Dr. Wilkinson is interested in 3D scene reconstruction using photogrammetric techniques as well as data adjustment, fusion, and uncertainty estimation. He is coauthor of the textbook Elements of Photogrammetry with Applications in GIS, Fourth Edition.

Dr. H. Andrew Lassiter

Postdoctoral Researcher

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H. Andrew Lassiter is a Ph. D. postdoctoral researcher in the geomatics program working under Dr. Ben Wilkinson. Andrew joined the UASRP in 2016 to assist in the collection and processing of hyperspectral data. Since then, his focus has extended to include the collection of 3D data using both lidar and structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry. He is developing simulation software for lidar and photogrammetric data collection to determine best practices for UAS mission planning. He is also researching automated estimation of key traits of forest stands from point clouds, such as stem count, stem height, DBH, and AGB.

Andrew has served as a teaching assistant at UF since the summer of 2013 for the courses of Advanced Photogrammetry, Forest Resource Information Systems, Spatial Measurement Systems, and Geomatics. Prior to that, Andrew worked as a survey technician in Panama City, Florida, in both the public and private sectors.

Mr. Connor Bass

Pilot and Data Processing Specialist

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Mr. Bass is an undergraduate researcher studying in the Geomatics program and specializing in Geospatial Analysis. He is an FAA Part 107 certified pilot with land and sUAS surveyal experience.

Dr. Amr H. Abd-Elrahman

GIS Lead

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Dr. Abd-Elrahman is an Associate Professor of Geomatics at the University of Florida’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. He received his BS in Civil Engineering and MS in Digital Mapping. He acquired his PhD in Civil Engineering-Geomatics with a minor in Computer Engineering. Dr. Abd-Elrahman has been involved in natural resource management and precision agricultural research projects utilizing unmanned aerial system imagery since early 2000s. His research projects involved wetland land cover classification, invasive plant detection, and modeling crop stress using pixel- and object-based image analysis and machine learning techniques.

Dr. Scot E. Smith

Remote Sensing Lead

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Dr. Smith started working as part of the UF UAS Research Program in the early 2000's as part of the Florida GAP Analysis project. He is a professor of Geomatics in the SFRC and specializes in remote sensing, image processing, and GIS. Scot is very knowledgeable about optical sensors, and is our sensor guru. Scot's interests include application of a variety of remote sensing approaches to environmental assessment. His long-term experience includes work in hydrological processes and the use of remote sensing in water resources protection and management.

Dr. Travis J. Whitley

 Ph.D Graduate

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Dr. Whitley is a PhD in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at UF. Travis was our airframe and controls specialist.

Dr. Matthew A. Burgess

 Ph.D. Graduate

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Matthew A. Burgess was the previous Program Coordinator of the University of Florida Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Program; a large interdisciplinary research program at the University of Florida administered through the USGS’s Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Dr. Burgess held this position for nearly nine years, and recently completed a Ph.D. in the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Ecology at UF under the advisement of Dr. H. Franklin Percival, retired Unit Leader of the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Matthew received his BS in Zoology in 1999, a MS in Interdisciplinary Ecology in 2008, and his PhD in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation in May 2017; all from the University of Florida. Matt's dissertation focused on the feasibility of using small unmanned aircraft systems technology and low-cost, high-resolution optical payloads as remote sensing tools to collect data to assist researchers address scientific questions based in natural resources, ecology, and management. Dr. Burgess now works for the USGS as a Mission Operator and Geospatial Analyst. 

Mr. Chad S. Tripp

Vehicle Stability and Operations

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Mr. Tripp is an undergraduate student in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at UF. In addition to working with the FAA and other aviation authorities, Mr. Tripp assists in the development and fabrication of sUAS airframes and payloads. He has both his remote pilot and private pilot certificates.

Mr. Kalem A. Dinkel

Propulsion Systems Team Lead

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Mr. Dinkel is an undergraduate student in the Department of Computer Science Enginnering at the University of Florida. Mr. Dinkel is responsible for developing solutions for federally funded research projects in the departments of Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering, Wildlife Ecology, and Geomatics. Mr. Dinkel holds several ratings as a private pilot with detailed knowledge of regulation and legislation pertaining to sUAS manufacturing and operation. 

Mr. Axton Isaly

 Lead Controls Engineer

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Mr. Isaly is a senior Mechanical Engineering student with interests in computer science. Along with significant mechanical design work, he has contributed to the lab in the form of software and control system design for a number of drones. Namely, he has worked with autonomous behaviors, user compatibility, and flight test analysis. He will continue studying controls as a graduate student in Fall 2019.

Mr. Calvin Kroese

Controls and Simulatuions Engineer

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Mr. Kroese is a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UF studying controls. In addition to software and control system design, Mr. Calvin Kroese has developed software in the loop simulations for autonomous behavior characterization, and is working towards constructing high fidelity models for future and existing aircraft.