Learning how to operate a drone safely, one can easily track wildfires, count wildlife, map plants, and acquire a variety of scientific data.
Fremont, CA: Drones, also known as remotely piloted aircraft systems or unmanned aerial vehicles/systems, have transformed the way present-day scientists are working. Apart from the general use, they are serving as a tool for scientists to observe, measure, and monitor the natural environment.
The commercial investments done into the drone market in the last ten years has been exceptional. It is estimated that the global market of the drone could reach over $40 billion by 2024, which in turn lead to more technological advancement in the industry, making the drones more smaller, faster, smarter, safer, and easier to fly.
To date, drones have been instrumental for various purposes like improving forest inventory methods, mapping fire methods, characterizing forest regeneration, mapping native plant species, and many more. To add more to this list, The Integrated Remote Sensing Studio (IRSS) at the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Forestry has been researching other innovative applications of drones. Here we talk about how drones can be used for ecological research applications.
Various aspects of ecological research include flying the drones above forest canopy for longer durations, capturing detailed imagery and video of the concerned vegetation, identifying and counting wildlife, and improving ecological understanding. These aspects have made research easy and feasible as information can be collected without any human interference in the fragile ecosystem like that of rare species present in Arctic environments.
For understanding the impacts of climate change, it is vital to observe how environments are changing over time. The availability of inexpensive and easy-to-deploy drones has made it possible to deploy repeated flights over the same area to notice how the vegetation patterns change with the environment.
The physical structure of vegetation is described by the digital photogrammetric techniques that convert imagery into 3D data. High-tech sensor options like near-infrared or thermal can capture what we can't see with the naked eye. Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) shoots pulses of light, which helps researchers create a 3D representation of vegetation areas.
Keeping the above advantages in mind, drone technology is undoubtedly will be influential in the coming future with its novel applications. Ecological researchers must thank the drone technology for bringing in such a simplified process and detailed data in the research.
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