Nicholls Geomatics Program Gets High-Tech Donation

NEI Donation and MOU signing for Geomatics 2014

THIBODAUX — Nicholls State University geomatics students will have access to the latest advancements in surveying technology with the donation of a high-tech unmanned aerial vehicle by Lafayette-based Navigation Electronics Inc. (NEI), a GPS and GIS equipment provider.

The donation, valued at $70,000, includes the Trimble UX5 unmanned aerial vehicle, optical sensors, image processing software and training. The lightweight 5.5-pound model is capable of flying up to 16,404 feet and travels up to 50 mph.

Geomatics program head Dr. Balaji Ramachandran said the department uses unmanned aerial vehicles for various projects such as mapping Louisiana’s coastlines, monitoring infrastructure and studying flares on oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Interest in using unmanned aerial vehicles for these types of projects has increased because they’re much safer and less expensive than hiring a traditional pilot.

“We want students in the Nicholls’ geomatics program to be exposed to the latest technology, allowing them to have the best future job placement,” said William Poche, owner and vice president of sales at NEI.

This is the latest donation from NEI, which has also gifted the geomatics program with high-precision survey-grade global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers and software worth $150,000. The Harold C. “Charlie” Poche Jr. Laser Scanning Laboratory, housed in Nicholls’ geomatics program, is named for the former NEI owner and president, who died in 2000.

For more information about the Nicholls geomatics program, visit

CUTLINE: Lafayette-based Navigation Electronics Inc. (NEI) donated a high tech unmanned aerial vehicle to Nicholls State University’s geomatics program on Monday, March 17. Back row, from left: Nicholls Executive Vice President Larry Howell; Kelli Poche Guidry, owner and director of operations at NEI; William Poche, owner and vice president of sales at NEI; Dr. Balaji Ramachandran, head of the Nicholls geomatics program; Dr. Laynie Barrilleaux, Nicholls vice president of academic affairs; Dr. John Doucet, dean of the Nicholls College of Arts and Sciences; and Debi Benoit, Nicholls director of research and sponsored programs. Front row, from left: Barbara Poche, owner and president of NEI and Dr. Bruce Murphy, president of Nicholls.

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