N4N Takes Flight For Nature

Reposted from the Nerds For Nature Blog:

[Don’t miss N4N Project Night on Tuesday, Oct. 29 in Oakland]

A new Nerds For Nature working group is on the wing! Flight For Nature is bringing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle enthusiasts and remote imaging, GIS, videography, and other technology experts together with biologists, geologists, and naturalists, to inspire and develop new remote flight applications that benefit ecological research and education. We want to consider and include every possible sort of non-piloted flying machine, from quadcopters to kites to fixed-wing R/C airplanes and beyond.

Initially, we are collaborating with the Western Ecological Research Center (WERC) of the USGS, but we hope that our activities will inspire other efforts, as well. These concepts include HD videography for habitat surveys and educational films, high-resolution photography using various wavelengths and formats for determining vegetation cover and stress, and precision geolocation and range-finding techniques for mapping tidal marsh landforms over time. The coastal areas that WERC monitors are often literally shifting sands, marshlands, salt ponds, river deltas, and so on — they have a lot of work just keeping track of geomorphology, much less living things.
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HD video camera on a quadcopter — image courtesy of KopterVision

The prohibitive expense and potential danger of small fixed-wing manned aircraft for ongoing tracking projects has made this once-standard protocol a rare extravagance. Satellites are too distant to get the resolution they need (centimeter-sized pixels are the tantalizing goal). Tromping through on a regular basis to map out vegetation is time-consuming, tedious work, and disruptive to wildlife habitat.

There’s plenty of uncomfortable news these days about military drones, but like any technology, there is an abundance of more hopeful applications as well. UAVs and drones are no different, and their rapid adoption by researchers will help solve many of these vexing ecology-monitoring problems. Check out ConservationDrones.org to learn about exciting conservation-oriented projects around the world, and visit PublicLab to see some amazing citizen-science balloon and kite mapping and photography efforts.
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Balloon mapping of wetlands near Clayton, NY – via PublicLab

Clearly, the Bay Area is a hub of aeronautic innovation, as well as a locus of conservation research. Flight For Nature, then, is a natural extension of Nerds For Nature’s mission of “bringing together technologists and environmental professionals to collaboratively build awesome tools to understand, protect, and revive the natural world.” Join us and help push forward the state of the nature-flying arts!

Our goals include:

  • Discuss technologies and concepts, while growing the “drones for nature” community.
  • Collaborate on proposals and projects.
  • Collect and share resources, links, and other information on these topics.
  • Plan demonstration flights for a “Nature Nerd Field Day” at the WERC field office on Mare Island, possibly in early December.

We’re working on a Flight For Nature Meetup some time soon, stay tuned for more info. In the mean time,

  • Jump into our group discussion on Project Night (and bring your drone/UAV/pics)
  • Send an email to Ken for more information and to get on the FFN email list

 

Ken McGary

Nerds For Nature Organizer
Flight For Nature facilitator

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