National Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office (NUPO) was established on May 8th, 2008, to coordinate the integration of UAS data collection into the scientific, monitoring, and resource management functions of the Department of the Interior (DOI).

The NUPO strives to:

Lead research and integration activities into next-generation and lower-cost UAS technology and compatible sensors

Perform research missions to support UAS testing, sensor integration, data evaluations, and the development of data acquisition guidelines and data standards

Develop leading-edge data processing techniques that use state-of-the-art computational methods to make use of the increased resolutions and accuracies made available by UAS collected low-altitude data

Support the establishment of operational USGS UAS field offices by providing training, operational procedures, platform/sensor recommendations, collection guidelines and data standards

Serve as the DOI - Center of Excellence for Scientific Investigations of UAS technology by providing access to subject matter experts and performing outreach activities including presentations, workshops, office tours, online videos, publications, and a comprehensive web presence

In the fall of 2019, after a temporary grounding of DOI UAS was put in place by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Bernhardt, NUPO staff quickly transitioned into new roles as the USGS focal point for coordinating and disseminating information and potential impacts. On January 29th, 2020, Secretary Bernhardt released Secretarial Order 3379, which extended the DOI UAS grounding indefinitely but also provided limited exceptions for emergency response and associated preparedness. NUPO immediately implemented a clearinghouse for tracking completed USGS emergency response missions and started coordinating all USGS emergency preparedness waivers submitted through the DOI review board. 

Today NUPO, through the National Land Imaging Program, continues to lead the implementation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in support of USGS natural hazards response and scientific applications.  Strategic implementation of UAS within the USGS focuses on the evaluation and integration of new innovative sensors, development of data standards and processing techniques, recommendations of UAS data acquisition best-practices, and support for the training and proficiency of new and existing UAS operators.