Using cameras mounted to drones, students will design and construct an experiment to take enough photos to make a 3-dimensional image of an outcrop or landform in a process called structure from motion (SfM). This activity has both a hands-on component (collecting data with the drone) and a computer-based component (creading the 3-dimensional model).
This activity was developed for middle school and high school students, grades 6 - 14. This activity could be conducted as an after school project.
Three class sessions or more (44-55 minutes each or more). One session to develop an investigation plan, one to collect the data, and a final session to generate the models and analyze it.
Students should be able to have a basic understanding of flying a drone, as well as be able to interpret a computer generated model.
This activity can be used at any time in an earth science class, though is particularly useful when discussing geologic hazards, environmental issues, remote sensing techniques, or interpretation of models. It is also a great activity to teach students how to design and implement a field experiment for data collection.
Performance Expectations: MS-PS4.B, MS-PS4.C, MS-ETS1.A, MS-ETS1.B, MS-ETS1.C, HS-PS4.B, HS-PS4.C, HS-ETS1.A, HS-ETS1.B, and HS-ETS1.C.
Science and Engineering Practices: & bull; asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering); & bull; developing and using models; & bull; planning and carrying out investigations; & bull; analyzing and interpreting data; & bull; using mathematics and computational thinking; & bull;obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Crosscutting Concepts: & bull; patterns; & bull; scale, proportion, and quantity
Students will be able to:
Drones can take photos that can be analyzed later. By planning ahead to have enough overlap between photos, you take those individual photos and make a 3-dimensional image!
In this activity, you guide the students to identify an outcrop or landform to study later or over repeat visits. They go through the process to plan, conduct, and analyze an investigation to help answer their science question.
The Challenge: Design and conduct an experiment to take enough photos to make a 3-dimensional image of an outcrop or landform, then analyze the image and interpret the resulting 3-d image.
For instance they might wish to study a hillside that has been changed from previous forest fire. How is the hillside starting to shift after rainstorms or snows? Monitoring an area over many months can lead to discoveries about how the erosional processes happen and also provide homeowners, park rangers, planners, and others valuable information to take action to stabilize areas to prevent landslides.
Animated gif showing a 3-dimensional model constructed from overlapping photographs.
A 3D View from a Drone teacher materials [pdf]
A 3D View from a Drone student worksheet [pdf]
Learn more about this technique in the Geodesy Tools for Societal Issues unit: Introduction to SfM.
This work is based on materials provided by the UNAVCO Education and Community Engagement Program, and the GAGE Facility supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under NSF award: EAR 1261833. This activity was made in partnership with Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP). Activity author: Shelley Olds, UNAVCO. Contributing author: Randy Russel, UCAR Science Education Center.
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Last modified: Tuesday, 19-Dec-2017 02:40:01 UTC