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Drones have been used for environmental monitoring for years now. Drone technology has many possible applications, and new ideas for the future emerge daily.
Park managers call for innovative and cost-effective ways of handling various environmental problems that threaten biodiversity in protected areas. Drones have recently been called upon to revolutionize conservation and have immense potential to evolve and develop better-informed decisions to assist management.
The success of drones can be attributed to their great flexibility to carry different sensors and devices.
The application of drones in environmental monitoring is still a new concept, but one thing is sure: The possibilities are endless. People have been taking numerous ways of curbing human-made activities. Drones have continued to be more widely used to increase efficiency. Drones have proven to be convenient for capturing the whole aerial geological position. They capture the best quality images due to their use of UAV technology.
Nonetheless, they can be challenging to use if you are not an expert. When choosing a drone, it is crucial to choose convenient drones to fly and operate smoothly. It is worth noting that, unlike other drones, those used for environmental monitoring usually charge higher.
This article will look at how drones are being used for environmental monitoring (their current successes and potential future ones) and factors one should consider when choosing a drone for environmental monitoring. We will also look at the features, pros, and cons of the best drone for environmental monitoring and, finally, why drones are becoming commonplace in environmental monitoring.
How drones are being used for environmental monitoring today
Drones and preventing wildfires
In the Iberian Peninsula, wildfires claim thousands of acres of land annually. Prevention and prompt response to avoid repeating years like 2012, where a wildfire burned down an area the size of an entire province, is dire. The Technical University of Madrid has designed a system to automatically detect forest fires using drone technology, reducing the damage’s severity.
According to the researchers, the system is based on algorithms that enable detecting the flames, the area affected, wind direction, and smoke generated by the forest fires. The algorithms are entirely accurate and require little computational capacity, making it possible to tackle real-time issues using autonomous systems such as drones. In effect, we have a system that can detect, monitor, and warn of impending fires, making fire-fighting more efficient.
Drones and climate research
The use of drones in climate research is most possibly one of the pioneering fields in using drones for civilian purposes. In the 1990s, some US universities used unmanned vehicles to measure Arctic ice changes in rugged places. Although not much time has elapsed since then, drones and their capabilities have improved since then. Nowadays, smaller, cheaper, and more autonomous drones have become an essential part of climate change research.
Their many applications enable counting of animal population, detecting changes in seawater temperature, or measuring an ice cap’s thickness. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration work with drones to measure atmospheric events such as tropical storms and winter storms, thus predicting their future behavior.
Drones and the protection of humanity
Among the uses of drones that the scientific field is beginning to uncover, one of them is protecting humankind. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization started using drones in the archipelago for disaster risk reduction in the face of natural disasters. In this case, data is fundamental.
Drones fly over islands studying the landscape and identifying areas most suited for planting protective vegetation, constructing dykes, or even finding the best locations for building shelters for the population.
Drones and wildlife protection
In Kenya, the Mara Elephant project uses drone noise to drive elephants away from areas that are prone to poachers.
There is a project aimed at protecting one of the Peninsula’s most iconic animals in the Iberian Peninsula: the Iberian lynx. For over a year now, two companies have been working together with the local government of Andalucía. The project aims to develop a drone that will allow effective monitoring of the radiofrequency collars with which many feline creatures are fitted.
Drones and curbing deforestation
According to the American Geophysical Union, the effect of industry, agriculture, urbanization, and mining is the destruction of over 26 billion trees annually. This deforestation is linked to pests, hunger, and crises and directly affects the world’s resources. A NASA engineer, Lauren Fletcher, has begun replanting forests worldwide using drones. The goal is to plant 36,000 seeds per day in areas that are difficult to reach, where traditional planting methods cant be used.
Lauren’s company, Biocarbon Engineering, has established a system that analyzes real-time 3D map data and then remotely pilots an army of drones with seeds. The company claims that it will plant at least one million trees per year once it can work at full capacity. To put the figure into perspective, that is about a tenth of Spain’s forest cover.
Drones and ocean protection
Drones are being used to monitor at-risk areas and collect data to end ocean pollution. It is worth noting that not all drones can fly; some swim instead. For example, in the Port of Rotterdam, two new prototypes of unmanned vehicles have been taken to the sea since last September. The prototype AquasmartXL continuously surveys and inspects the ocean to ensure that everything is working smoothly. Simultaneously, the second(Waste Shark) removes surface litter to prevent it from going out to sea or blocking port collectors.
In Spain, some companies offer real-time surveillance of the fuel tanks at docks. With flying drones equipped with infrared cameras, the company can control potential gas and oil leaks.
In Murcia, drones are used to monitor potential changes in color in the ocean. Though this has not improved the lagoon’s condition in the Spanish Mediterranean, the control team claims that it will prevent the situation from getting worse.
Factors to consider when choosing a drone for environmental mapping
Battery life- when choosing a drone, it is essential to take keen precautions when it comes to battery life. Some drones don’t even survive thirty minutes. You can opt to choose one that has an extra battery.
You will use a camera- Considering the drone for environmental monitoring; you must choose a drone with good camera quality.
Global positioning system- You should check how you can properly position the drone to ensure a global view.
Thermal sensors- A drone must have thermal sensors to keep an eye on and easily map out the area where any environmental danger occurs.
The three best drones for environmental monitoring
The Yuneec H520 is a commercial-grade folding machine that serves its users’ inspection, surveying, mapping, and search and rescue needs.
👉 Key features
- The drone has a 360°rotation of the camera.
- It has high stability even in strong winds.
- It has a flight time of about 28 minutes.
- It has a speed of 38mph.
- The drone comes with a 4K 30 FPS camera.
- Its control range is about one mile.
- The drone is stable in strong winds.
- The drone’s orange color gives it high visibility.
- The drone is difficult and somewhat scary to use for beginners.
M15 MoVI by Freefly Systems
When determining which drone to use for environmental monitoring, the M5 MoVI is the best choice. It is not only accessible but also has a stabilization feature. It comes with easy instructions, making it very easy to set up.
The drone has carbon rods and is therefore easily balanced over different stabilizers allowing you to capture good quality images. It has two control modes:
- The majestic mode-it is stabilized with operator control via the gimbal base.
- Stabilized– Has a stabilized image with no operator input.
The drone comes with a LiPO battery, LiPO battery charger with leads, dock for C-stand, top handle, M2.5 Hex driver, M3 Hex driver, and a MoVI M15 Hard case.
👉 Key features
- Two batteries and a charger included.
- Enables Wi-Fi pairing with iOS, Android, and PC apps.
- The short recorder remembers the camera position.
- It is designed for hand-held use.
- It keeps horizon level and counteracts drift.
- It supports DSMX and SBUS RC Transmitters.
- The drone has the industry’s leading stabilization technology.
- It has technology that is supportive enough to capture images.
- It captures the best quality images with the right aerial view.
- The drone can be configured and works perfectly with phones.
- The drone offers a wide range of solutions proving useful for all environmental enthusiasts.
- It doesn’t have long battery life. Charging batteries can be risky since it can catch fire.
- The drone isn’t the most reliable as it gets heated and shuts off quickly.
DJI MATRICE 300 RTK
👉 Key features
- The drone comes with an obstacle avoidance feature that keeps the drone safe.
- It has several aerial awareness tools making it one of the safest machines in the sky.
- It comes with a 4K 30 FPS camera.
- Its RTK GPS capability and Airsense ADS-B tech give the best and accurate results for inspection needs.
- The drone has a speed of up to 51.5mph.
- The drone’s control range is about 9.3 miles.
- It has a flight time of 55 minutes.
- The drone gives the most accurate results for inspecting needs.
- Its obstacle avoidance sensors keep the drone safe while flying.
- Though it has many desirable features, the drone is costly.
Why drones are widely used for environmental monitoring today
With their combination of aerial imagery with geolocation data like light detection and ranging, they create more accurate representations of the environment. That is very important for environmental monitoring because more accurate data translates to better-informed decisions.
👉 A study conducted found that drone-derived data is between 43-96% more accurate than human-collected data. Drone technology is, therefore, crucial for gathering accurate, actionable environment information.
Safety and accessibility
Drones have made it possible to gather data without putting humans in harm’s way. In fragile ecosystems, humans can do unintentional damage by disrupting endangered species’ behavior or introducing dangerous pathogens to the environment that can adversely affect wildlife. Drones can also access places that are virtually impossible to access on foot.
When choosing a drone for environmental monitoring, the drone must meet all the requirements. Make sure to determine the battery life and the distance that the drone will cover. The pilot should also clear the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Finally, when you purchase a drone, you should practice caution in every situation.