Submitted by Ben Surpless (re-posted from:

Flying High

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to fly? Well, occasionally, us geology students find ourselves staring out of a window, asking ourselves, “What do these rocks look like to the birds?”

Today, we got to find out. With Ben piloting and the rest of us monitoring and taking notes, we recorded lots of aerial video from a drone. Besides the fact that the clips were just down-right cool looking, they also served a scientific purpose. After processing the video, we should be able to create a 3-dimensional computer model of the fractures exposed in the rocks. This data collection and processing workflow is at the cutting-edge of geology tech; people have explored similar “structure-from-motion” technology, but so far, it has not been extensively used. Essentially, we undergraduate students are getting involved in high-level research with amazing technology in a geologically significant region; we are lucky.

Taylor Teams Up

And so, we spent the day split into two teams. While one group flew the drone, the other group hiked out to the cliffs on the opposite side of the canyon, taking reconnaissance notes. While all of this was going on, a visitor from Trinity University joined us in the field. Taylor Stakes, from the marketing team at Trinity, was dispatched to record our work, so he trogged along-side us, snapping pics and filming us working. The entire day was spent in this way. Afterwards, in camp, Taylor joined us for a delicious pasta dinner. As the pasta roiled and broiled, we all received a structural geology lesson from Ben. We learned all about the nuances of geologic terms, which tend to be extremely specific, scientific, and precise. Hopefully, tomorrow, we can use some of these new terms in the field, as we examine our next site.

Field Tip of the Day:

“Remove Before Flight”- Drones are sensitive pieces of equipment, so make sure that when you chuck them as hard as you can, you aim well. You might only get once chance at a good take-off.