Unmanned Aircraft System (Drone)


Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) survey is available to CBS faculty and researchers at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Aerial images can be collected, processed, rendered into 3D models, and used to gather information and data for research.


CBS-RLT owns a small, fixed-wing, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which can be flown at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. This could be used to collect aerial images of research plots, before and after imagery of prescribed burning, and imagery of old agricultural plots and pine plantations.

Images can be collected as low as 50 meters AGL (height above ground level) and as high as 120 meters AGL. The maximum coverage distance on a single flight is 10 km². The maximum flight time is 45 minutes. The UAV must also remain in visual line of sight of the pilot in command at all times. Some specific customizations to this service may require FAA approval.

CBS-RLT uses high-performance computing resources to process and render the collected images. Data available to researcher:

  • Original collected images. (jpg)
  • Composite image from original images. (Pix4Dmapper)
  • 3D model of composite image (Pix4Dmapper)

CBS-RLT operates under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations - Summary of Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule Part 107 (14 CFR part 107). Under Part 107, CBS-RLT has staff with the required Remote Pilot Airman Certificate.

Getting Started

To fly at Cedar Creek, researchers must first work with Cedar Creek and submit a research proposal as described here: http://www.cedarcreek.umn.edu/research/procedures. Once confirmed with Cedar Creek, contact CBS-RLT to determine if available UAV will meet your needs.

To fly at other locations, contact CBS-RLT to discuss options.

For general UAV capabilities or other questions, please email cbs-rlt@umn.edu.


UAV flights are currently offered at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Please contact CBS-RLT to discuss other locations.

The included camera only collects visible light (Canon WX RGB). Additional cameras with enhanced features such as NIR, multispectral sensor, thermal imagery, and red-edge high resolution are available but may require funding.

  • All flights must adhere to applicable local laws and ordinances.
  • All flights must adhere to FAA Part 107 or established FAA waivers. Part 107 specifics include (but not limited to):
    • Must be in Class G airspace
    • Must keep aircraft in sight
    • Must fly under 400 feet
    • Must fly during the day
    • Must fly at or below 100 mph
    • Must yield right of way to manned aircraft
    • Must not fly over people
    • Must not fly from a moving vehicle
  • All flights must adhere to University Policies for UASs.
  • All flights must adhere to MNDoT regulations.
  • All flights are dependent on weather conditions.
  • The Pilot has final decision making authority during flights.

Related Services

Research Support


Possible costs include:

  • Travel related expenses.
  • Consumable parts (replacement propellers, propeller rubber bands, battery packs, etc.)
  • Funding for other type of camera

CBS-RLT will only require mileage reimbursement for a test flight and/or proof-of-concept flight. A more complex project with multiple flights could incur nominal costs. Please email cbs-rlt@umn.edu to discuss costs and funding options.

Lead Time

Discussing needs early is best. This allows enough time to determine if FAA waivers are required and schedule a pilot. Requested advance notice for flights:

  • Cedar Creek: 1 month.
  • Other locations: 1 month or greater.

Related Information

Sample Images taken from Cedar Creek: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B1IcmPmdmGGLa1R5c2dzcHdxQ1U?usp=sharing


University Drone Policy: https://policy.umn.edu/operations/drones

FAA Part 107: https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/Part_107_Summary.pdf

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on May 10, 2017