DroneCamp 2021: A Collaboration Success Story

Aug 6, 2021

DroneCamp 2021: A Collaboration Success Story

Aug 6, 2021

July 2021 marks the fifth anniversary of Drone Camp, and thanks to an all-star lineup of presenters and instructors and a fantastic and diverse group of over 255 attendees from all over the world, it was a massive success this year. Initially launched in 2016 by the UC ANR, IGIS Statewide program, DroneCamp has now evolved into a multi-campus and industry collaboration, with a network of drone experts hailing from UC ANR, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, UC Merced, UC Davis, CSU Monterey Bay, and the Monterey Bay Drone Automation and Robotics Technology corporation. From 2016 to 2019, this event was held in-person at Davis, San Diego, and then in Monterey, CA.; however, in 2020 it was moved online due to COVID-19. The move indoors, to discuss a very outdoor-oriented topic, came with some challenges. We had to shelve our important (and fun) hands-on equipment and flight training, for example. Yet it had rewards. We were able to reach a more diverse and a greater number of participants, and widen the scope of content.  Ultimately, 2020 was a great success, but in the process we recognized that it could be even better with additional help from our network of drone expert friends from around the state.

Like last year, we came together online for DroneCamp 2021 in July. Over 255 people joined from around the world to learn about theory, application, regulation, and data processing. We learned about the practical aspects of maintaining safety while flying, we took deep dives into various software workflows, and explored agricultural, forestry, and vegetation mapping examples. This year we hosted 5 Plenary sessions, and had some electrifying plenary talk sessions from cutting-edge scientists from around California: Crashing drones! Precision Agriculture! Citizen Science! Mapping aquatic environments! 

Because the overall objective of DroneCamp remains to provide the most practical and comprehensive learning experience possible for attendees, we are working on an in-person, hands-on training day that is being scheduled for October, to be held in Monterey/Marina California. And, as the threat of COVID-19 subsides, additional in-person training sessions will be added around the state of California in the coming year. 


DroneCamp Image

DroneCamp Overview:

DroneCamp is designed for a wide range of skill levels and interests, for those who are interested in using drones for anything other than non-recreation use (calling for a part 107 remote pilot's license), from complete beginners with little to no experience in drone technology, to intermediate users who want to learn more advanced data processing and analysis.  Between presentations on contemporary applications of drones in environmental and agricultural research, and hands-on data processing and analysis exercises, attendees have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the following topics: 

  • Flight Skills: Safe Launch and Landings, Basic Operations, Traversing and Avoiding Obstacles, Night Flying 

  • Safety and Regulations: Safety and Regulations Overview; How to be a Good Visual Observer; Operating in Controlled Airspace

  • Hardware: Sensors, Platforms and Field Accessories

  • Data Collection: Mission Planning; High Precision Mapping

  • Data Processing: Stitching Drone Images with Pix4D, Agisoft Metashape, ArcGIS Pro, and OpenDroneMap; Analyzing Processed Drone Data in QGIS and ArcGIS Pro

  • Data Analysis and Management:  Vegetation Analysis, Vegetation Analysis and Classification in ArcGIS Pro;Analysis of the Intertidal Zone; A case study of data management, from collection to storage and sharing of data outputs. 

It was super fun and rewarding, and a great success for ANR and all the other collaborators. We built networks, increased collaboration, learned some very cool technical stuff, and got updated on current regulations, including the fact that you can now renew your 107 license easily here


Some inspiring quotes from anonymous attendee reviews:

I was so appreciative of the extremely high caliber faculty/instructors that were recruited to give presentations, demos, and use of software. You all worked so well together to impart different pieces of expert knowledge. You all are brilliant and I'm inspired!!!


Loved it. We started off heavy which blew my mind but all the talks were so informative and fascinating. Really appreciate the diverse group of people you gathered together. Just wish it was in person! I would love to meet everyone. 


Excellent presentation that allowed those of us with ArcMap experience to see the similarities and differences offered by ArcGis Pro. Again, a wonderful presentation (by a professional) that accounts for all the practical steps involved with data manipulation rolled into a final product.


Once I read through my notes, look at my screen captures and watch some of the presentations again, I will be able to structure my drone classes for my students. I'm developing a drone program from scratch for middle and high school students at a local charter school.


Consider signing up for the in-person training in October, and keep DroneCamp 2022 in your sights!  Further information will be coming soon to the DroneCamp website,  https://dronecampca.org/ 


By Sean Hogan
Author - IGIS Academic Coordinator II
By Ben Satzman
By Maggi Kelly