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Practical use of mini- and micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the Environmental Sciences


This comprehensive five-day course will provide you with the knowledge and hands-on, practical skills required to manage an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) campaign safely, legally and successfully for NERC oriented science.

UAV24th-28th August 2015

Practical sessions will take the form of simulated mission scenarios, where you will have the chance to take an off-the shelf instrument, integrate it into a mini/micro UAV airframe (<20kg in weight) and plan and perform scientific flights.  You will then analyse collected data and evaluate your missions. Alongside the hands-on sessions, lectures will be presented on topics including regulatory and air traffic legislation, flight planning and checks, and the miniaturisation and integration of instruments into UAV designs.  
Your lecturers each have many years’ experience using UAVs for research.  As such, we anticipate high demand for this course and recommend early registration.

Topics covered on this ‘Practical use of mini- and micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ Course:

  • Using UAVs for NERC Science
  • Aircraft control theory and autopilots
  • Miniaturisation / integration of instruments
  • UAV regulations
  • Flight planning, operations and checklists
  • Pilot and support staff selection and responsibilities
  • Integration of sensors onto mini/micro UAVs
  • Indoor mission flights
  • Outdoor flight missions
  • Mission debriefs and supervised data analysis
  • Group presentations and practical results

This course has been specifically designed for environmental scientists with an interest in the application of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to their science.  The course will take place at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban, Scotland, where you will have the chance to fly both indoor and outdoor missions (weather permitting).

Price: This course is free of charge for current PhD students and early career scientists with at least 50% NERC funding.  Accommodation, subsistence costs and reasonable travel within the UK will be funded by NERC for eligible students, but places are strictly limited and you must undertake an application process.  If funds allow, additional support may be available for overseas students.
You can apply by completing and returning this form.  The closing date for applications is the 1st August 2015.  For further information, please contact


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Professor Rob MacKenzie has 20 years of research experience, and over 70 peer-reviewed publications, an h-factor of 21, and has graduated 11 PhD students (with a further 2 currently studying and 3 due to start in October 2013). Rob’s expertise is in the design and delivery of atmospheric science field campaigns using specialist research aircraft. He and a small number of close European colleagues managed the research programme of the high altitude Geophysica aircraft for over ten years. Rob led a NERC technology Theme scoping study on the use of UASs for Earth and environmental science and is currently part of the team that will carry out the first combined campaign of the FAAM BAe146 and the remotely piloted NASA Global Hawk.

Dr Phil Anderson is Head of Marine Technology at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). Phil was the first person to operate UASs in the Antarctic and his team is now designing and operating marine-capable platforms for survey and sampling the Scottish coastal environment.

Dr Rick Thomas worked for several years at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, in Professor V. Ramanathan’s highly successful UAS program. Rick’s expertise lies in the development and integration of novel environmental sensing instrumentation and the safe scientific application of UAS up to 12,000ft altitude in non-segregated airspace. He is currently developing a whole-air sampler for a UAS helicopter platform at the University of Birmingham.

Dr Keri Nicoll is a NERC Independent Research Fellow at the University of Reading.  She has seven years of experience with development of small, lightweight science sensors, which have been flown on free balloon and UAS platforms. Dr Nicoll’s expertise is in the field of atmospheric electricity and cloud interactions, but she also has experience with Saharan dust and volcanic ash measurements, using a variety of sensors developed at the University of Reading including solar radiation, electrical charge and cloud droplet sensors.

Squadron Leader Rob Leather read Physics with Astrophysics at the University of Leeds, graduating in 1999.  He is a RAF fighter pilot with 14 years’ experience and several thousand flying hours.  He has flown both the Jaguar low level ground attack aircraft and the Eurofighter Typhoon Air Superiority Fighter on the front line and most recently acted as the independent senior supervisor at the RAF Typhoon base at Leuchars in Fife.  He has also served as a Flying instructor and Weapons instructor on the Hawk advanced training aircraft and currently works on the Typhoon project team in Bristol where he advises the engineering and support community on operational and safety matters.  Outside of the RAF, he holds a civilian Commercial Pilots Licence and is a sports glider pilot.

Dr Pauline E. Miller is a Research Fellow at the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, and has a background in Geomatics, with particular expertise in photogrammetry and laser scanning (lidar). Her research concentrates on the development of geospatial methodologies for engineering and earth science applications, and much of her work has focused on slope stability and landslide hazard assessment. Pauline has an ongoing interest in UAV platforms and sensors, primarily from a photogrammetric perspective, and she is currently involved in a number of projects investigating this rapidly-evolving technology.

You can apply by completing and returning this form.  The closing date for applications is the 1st August 2015.  For further information, please contact


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Education Department
Scottish Marine Institute
Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK
T: +44 (0) 1631 559 000
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