Yesterday morning, Nicholls State University made history by officially becoming Louisiana’s first owner of a Trimble UX5 Unmanned Aerial System.
With Nicholls’ new President, Dr. Bruce Murphy, and Dr. Balaji Ramachandran, Associate Professor of Geomatics standing by, NEI President Barbara Poche’ signed the paperwork, effectively transferring ownership of the $70,000 equipment package to the university. The ceremony took place in Gouaux Hall, inside the Harold C. “Charlie” Poche Jr. Laser Scanning Laboratory, named after her late husband and founder of NEI.
“My dad would have been a huge proponent of donating an unmanned aerial system. I’m not sure if everyone knows this, but he was a Captain in the USAF for 10 years as a navigator on a C-130. He loved flight.,” said William Poche’, son of Charlie Poche and Vice President of Sales at NEI. “He would be proud that we are putting the latest technology in the hands of these students.” Kelli Poche’ Guidry, Vice President of Operations, echoed that sentiment by saying, ” I think my dad would be proud of the commitment to education. This is helping to ensure the future of the survey profession. I think he would have loved that.”
The Trimble UX5 is the latest addition to Trimble’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle portfolio, replacing the Trimble Gatewing. With a fully automatic workflow based on pre-flight programming, there is no room for pilot error. With small exceptions for emergency safety adjustments, this state-of-the-art camera on wings quite literally flies itself. Measuring only 5 feet across, the acrobatic UX5 can perform reverse thrust landing in tight spaces, and only requires 50 feet of ground clearance to take flight.
Featured in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the burgeoning commercial use for drones, the UX5 is lauded for its many applications, including ones that hadn’t been considered in the planning phases of user projects. According to WSJ writer Jack Nicas, “EDF Energy, a unit of Électricité de France SA, said that after it used a drone made by Trimble Navigation Ltd. TRMB +1.01% to survey the site of a planned nuclear power plant in southwest England, other uses became clear. The drone mapped debris for removal, pinpointed piles of asbestos for excavation and calculated where water was pooling to assist flood management. “There is potential for any construction project,” said Barnaby Wiegand, EDF Energy’s project development director*.”
In North America, UAV commercial flight capability is currently limited to institutions that can acquire a Certificate of Airworthiness (such as military, government, universities and law enforcement). However, the battle for commercial drones is being won overseas in countries with less stringent federal guidelines. In Japan, Yamaha has been selling drones to farmers for 20 years. According to Motion Picture Association of America President Kate Bedingfield, drones are “increasingly common” in film shoots overseas, due in part to their ability to take more nimble and creative footage, such as the quidditch matches in Harry Potter. Couple this factor with a price comparison of a UAV vs. a manned helicopter, and suddenly it becomes clear what the big deal is and why so many businesses want to bust through government red tape so that they can employ this amazing technology.
Nicholls State University plans to use the donated equipment to conduct coastal restoration research projects.
Pictured (Back row, L-R): Larry Howell, Executive VP, Nicholls State University, Kelli Guidry, William Poche’, Dr. Balaji Ramachandran. Front Row: Barbara Poche, Dr. Bruce Murphy, University President.
Cited Materials Source: Jack Nicas: http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702304732804579425342990070808-lMyQjAxMTA0MDEwMTExNDEyWj