Helping others has always been important to University of Georgia (UGA) graduate student Andrew Knight. But it wasn’t until he began his college education that Knight realized he could use geospatial intelligence to help people on a larger scale.

“I became interested in the idea of combining humanitarian needs and geoscience when my professor at James Madison University (JMU) during undergrad introduced us to the mapping of disease spread. It made perfect sense to combine my geospatial interests with my desire to give back.”

Andrew Knight is the 2017 recipient of USGIF’s Ken Miller Scholarship for Advanced Remote Sensing Applications. This $10,000 scholarship is offered in partnership with USGIF Organizational Member Riverside Research, and is awarded to a master’s degree candidate studying remote sensing and planning to enter the defense, intelligence, or homeland security workforce. Knight is the second person to earn this prestigious award.

“I have always known I wanted to work with the environment in some form but also I have a huge love for technology,” Knight said. “I found that geosciences were a good fit for me because it allows me opportunities to conduct field work, use cutting-edge technology, and apply concepts broadly.”

Knight is president of UGA’s student chapter of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. He also volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and is a member of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Honor Society.

For his thesis, Knight aims to combine machine learning with the detection of landmine and unexploded ordinance-like targets using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and image analysis. He is developing a low-cost method using remotely piloted quadcopters to capture imagery of plastic targets representing landmines hidden in a test minefield.

“This project has allowed me to present to my peers and become a reference in my subfield while bringing high-impact, transformative geospatial technologies to my university,” Knight said. “I am thankful for being awarded the [USGIF Scholarship] as it supports my thesis work by helping me to purchase a UAS and complete my drone pilot certificate. Additionally, the scholarship will permit me to invest in higher quality materials that will be used in my field research for more accurate findings. I also hope to travel to conferences to share my results with the geospatial community.”

Knight currently works at UGA’s Center for Geospatial Research as a research assistant.

“I have really enjoyed working at the center because it is an opportunity for me to put the remote sensing skills I have learned into practice,” Knight said. “The people I work with continually push me to do my best.”

One of the projects Knight has contributed to at the center is an augmented reality system called the Sandbox/Tangible Landscape, which projects geographic information systems onto a malleable surface to create a unique 3D immersion and geo-visualization experience.

After receiving the Ken Miller scholarship, Knight plans to attend USGIF’s GEOINT 2018 Symposium in Tampa, Fla., in April 2018. USGIF scholarship winners annually receive free registration for USGIF’s Symposium.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to attend the GEOINT Symposium as I will be able to share ideas and collaborate with other professionals within the tradecraft,” Knight said. “This symposium will broaden my understanding of the GEOINT field while I learn about the different research opportunities within academia, government, and private industry.”

After he completes his master’s degree in geography, Knight hopes to work in a research laboratory or pursue his education further with a Ph.D.

Photo Credit: Andrew Knight

Return to feature story: The Next Generation of GEOINTers

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Posted by Lindsay Tilton Mitchell