round pictures of electronics, telescope, and drone with MSGC logo


Pilot program open now - see below. Full program starts in the 2024-2025 Academic Year. 


MSGC is offering an opportunity to our smaller Affiliate Campuses (not including MSU, UM, or Tech) to help them increase NASA-related capabilities and develop programming in one of three different areas: electronics, astronomy, and unmanned aerial systems (UAS or more commonly know as drones). The intent is for smaller Affiliate Institutions to develop or improve STEM programming on their campuses to either enrich existing curriculum or create new initiatives for students. There will be 4 teams/campuses of 4 members selected to participate in each Campus Development, which provides necessary supplies and training. 

There will be a Campus Development in each of the three areas in the 2024 - 2025 Academic Year with a pilot of the UAS in spring of 2024. MSGC hopes to spread the opportunities among many campuses; each institution should not plan to participate in more than one Campus Development. MSGC will provide travel expenses from the participants home campus to the host campus that include mileage reimbursement, hotel, and meals. 


Please see the following information regarding participation.


Each small Affiliate Institution can apply for any one of the three areas and select 4 individuals to attend one campus development. Each team must include at least 2 faculty or staff members. The team can include a maximum of two students. You can give one alternative person to replace a listed team member in case of emergencies. 

There will be 4 teams/campuses of 4 members selected to participate in each Campus Development. 


Each opportunity will take place over two weekends, a Saturday and Sunday, for a total of four days.  


This opportunity requires cost-share per NASA regulations by each participating campus. Cost share must be non-federal; purchases can be from another grant only if it has a non-federal source. 

  • Electronic cost-share: Each campus must purchase an Altium printed circuit board (PCB) software license and have a dedciated area for students to use the supplies. 
  • Astronomy cost-share: Each campus must have a designated area established for a telescope and install a telescope mount there.
  • UAS cost-share: Each campus must purchase or supply a drone. The cost-share value must be at least $1,250. 

MSGC Will Provide

  • Travel expenses from the home campus to the host campus that include mileage reimbursement, hotel, and meals. Ride sharing will be required. 
  • Qualified Instructor: MSGC will pay for an experienced instructor, who will travel to the host campus for training.
  • Necessary equipment and supplies that are not covered in the cost-share.
    • Electronics: Microscope, oscilloscope, soldering station, stock items, and a 3D printer. 
    • Astronomy: Advanced telescope and eyepieces.
    • UAS: Sensors, two 107 Pilot license fees at $175 each, and shared licenses for the Pix4D image processing software.


Each opportunity will take place on a host campus selected from the awarded applicants. We will do our best to take into account traveling distances. 


Application: one person from an Affiliate Campus must submit an application via Submittable that includes:

  • An indication that if they are the MSGC Affiliate Representative, they have discussed this opportunity with the STEM faculty on their campus. If they are not the Affiliate Representative, they must indicate that they discussed their application with the STEM faculty and MSGC Affiliate Representative for their campus and they (the Rep) are aware they are submitting an application. 
  • A description of how this Campus Development opportunity will help the proposed team enhance STEM education on their campus.
  • A description of what project(s) the campus would initiate, including a timeline and detailed roles for the team members. If other community or government partners will be included, a description illustrating the interface between the campus and partner(s). 
  • An analysis of campus strengths, weakness, what opportunities attending this Campus Development would afford, and what challenges might have to be planed for or around. 
  • A sustainability Plan, indicating an outline of how the campus is planning on supporting the initiative detailed above.
  • A letter of support from a senior person on campus (President, Provost, Dean, etc) that signifies the administration is supportive of the above project and sustainability plan.

six people stand outside watching an instructor demonstrate a drone controller

April 2024 Pilot Campus Development: UAS

Unmanned Aerial Systems, or more commonly referred to as drones, is a rising technology that been around for quite sometime. They have a vast array of applications such as emergency response, wildlife conservation, agriculture, weather forecasting, water treatment, geological surveying, land management, aircraft maintenance, education, and space missions. 


propellerIn partnership with the University of Montana's Autonomous Aerial Systems Office (AASO), MSGC is sponsoring and coordinating a pilot of the Campus Development opportunities. 

The program is designed to prepare trainees to pass the FAA’s Small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rule (Part 107) test to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate as well as to train participants to do basic UAS-GIS analysis.

The program will cover the following topics:

  • Regulations relating to UAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operations
  • Airspace classification and flight restrictions affecting UAS operations
  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on UAS performance
  • UAS loading and performance
  • Emergency procedures, Crew resource management, Radio communication procedures
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Airport operations and aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures
  • Operation at night and over people
  • Basic photogrametry, maping images into GIS tools. 


Instructional Dates: April 13-14 and April 20-21, 2024.


Submit applications for our first pilot Campus Development in Submittable. Any incomplete applications will not be considered. Applications are due by February 14th, 2024 at 5pm MST. We'll notify teams by February 19th. 

UAS equipment and software

Please see the recommended equipment below. 

UAS w/Built in Cameras Description Category Flight Time Cost Country of manufacture
DJI Mavic 3 Pro

48 megapixel (MP) red, green, blue (RGB) camera, capable of obstacle avoidance and automated flight, 5.1k resolution video at 50 frames per second (fps). 


Best available for lowest price 30 minutes $3,000 China
Autel Evo II Pro 6K Rugged Bundle V3

20 megapixel RGB 6k resolution video. Obstacle avoidance, automated flight. RGB + thermal available for about $9000


Lowest price 25 minutes $2,000 China
Skydio 2+ Enterprise 12 MP camera, 4k 60fps video. UAS Capable of indoor and outdoor photogrammetry. Very good obstacle avoidance and target tracking. Very good at autonomous 3D modeling of things like bridges and towers.  Best available US-made for lowest price, indoor/outdoor survey 20 minutes $3,000 US
Software Description Category Cost Country of manufacture
ArcGIS Pro 

Many campuses already have access to ArcGIS Pro. Within ArcGIS Pro, there are tools available like the orthomosaic wizard that can do 3D photogrammetry processing. 


US Software, most likely already accessible on your campus Multiple seats available in MUS system US
Pix4D Mapper

MSGC will be purchasing this academic software (25 seats) to be shared between multiple campuses. But if you want to buy it for your campus the pricing is $3000 for 25 permanent seats (with about $1000/yr maintenance fee for upgrades and customer service). 


User friendly, good compatibility with free autonomous flight planning software Pix4D Capture MSGC shared software, can purchase separately, $3000 for 25 permanent academic licenses  Switzerland
Agisoft Metashape

If you want just a few licenses Metashape is probably the cheapest educational (and commercial) option. It is $550 for each permanent seat. There are some capabilities that may be even better than Pix4D such as civil engineering applications and the ability to create 3D models from just 2 photos. PC based option only. 


Least expensive on a per seat basis $550/seat Russia
Drone Deploy

This is one of the more expensive licenses on the market, but still popular. It is a strictly cloud based software available with a monthly/yearly subscription.


Relatively expensive cloud based software $4000/seat/yr US

Free open-source software. May take a bit of programming and more development to get up and running.


Free software Free US

You can create 3D models without ground control that might be accurate within about 25cm (10in), which may be totally acceptable in some applications. Often though there are large distortions especially at the edges of surveys or on different sides of a river, etc. You can prevent these distortions and obtain cm-level accuracy 3D models using relatively inexpensive UAS and GNSS systems with ground control. 

Check to see if your school have GNSS equipment available to borrow and what type/model of GNSS system and antenna it is. The older GNSS equipment is only accurate to 1-3 meters and there are some pitfalls to avoid purchasing (relatively inexpensive) equipment that may not be very accurate in many remote parts of MT.  You can get away with just purchasing one GNSS system but to be most effective with you time you might consider purchasing 2 systems, 1 to use as base station and 1 to use as a rover.

GNSS Description Category Flight Time Cost Country of manufacture
Emlid Reach RS2+ GNSS Receiver This receiver is capable of cm-level accuracy as long as you are within 100km of a base station. The accuracy declines by a "rule of thumb" 1cm per 10km from a base station. Make sure that you do not purchase less expensive models ( ie. RS or RX) because they may only be accurate within 10km from a base station. Same goes for many other systems on the market (ie Bad Elf, Arrow, etc.). Unit is about $2500 but you want to include accessories like a tripod, 2m range pole, tablet or phone holder, so total is about $3000 per unit. Best available for lowest price 8 hours on one battery is probable $3000/unit China


Please contact us for questions or more details at