It’s important to preserve our environment. For one, landscapes support livelihoods¹ plus they have personal and spiritual meanings for many, being places of pilgrimage and celebration. But, let’s not forget what they provide in the way of awesome places to escape the humdrum, reenergize and capture awe-inspiring and uplifting views of the world around us.
Environmental engineers and scientific researchers, as well as enthusiasts and community members, are using drones in ways to help protect the environment. Long range drones offer non-intrusive, and a safer and faster option for surveying Earthscapes compared with other means. They are also more affordable and can offer a higher resolution in imagery than that captured by satellites.
101 ways drones are making a difference
These include current and potential uses. The applications are wide and varied with data collection mostly depending on cameras that can range from GoPros to thermal or infra-red spectrum types suited to drone use.
Education and awareness
- Helping with the detection and mapping of plastic debris on the world’s beaches. You can help in this whether or not you own a drone (via The Plastic Tide).
- Assessing coastal erosion.
- Capturing the dynamics of Himalayan glaciers.
- Mapping river change in the wild areas.
- Viewing change from a distance, rather than trampling or fragmenting natural habitat.
- Taking photo shoots rather than killing wild animals.
- Taking only photos away from natural places.
- Saving on fossil fuels with parcel delivery.
- Researching and monitoring wildlife.
- Educating others, e.g. see the movie Expedition Happiness:
Monitoring and assessments
- Monitoring the extent of invasive weeds.
- Gauge the invasion of feral animals.
- Monitoring illegal fishing or whaling.
- Assessing damage from storm events, like hurricanes.
- Gauging the extent of floods.
- Assessing the impacts of earthquakes.
- Helping in beach replenishment projects.
- Collecting data for terrain modeling.
- Obtaining volcano crater shoots.
- Capturing lava flows.
- Coastline shoots.
- Mapping geomorphological changes.
- Capturing extent of algal blooms.
- Biomass estimation of the world’s forests.
- Health analysis of the world’s forests.
- Ascertain soil characteristics using a non-visible camera spectrum.
- Counting trees.
- Evaluating seal populations.
- Understanding penguin populations.
- Replanting of vegetation via seed dispersal.
Surveillance and compliance
- Surveillance to detect flames and smoke from forest fires.
- Detection of gas and oil leaks at shipping docks.
- Monitoring changes in marshes and lagoons.
- Helping to prevent the killing of elephants for ivory (e.g. Mara Elephant Project).
- Locating and tracking endangered species, e.g. the Iberian Lynx.
- Monitoring restoration work in tropical forests ².
- Measuring atmospheric events to sense hazards, e.g. NOAA.
- Predicting agricultural damage from climate change events ³.
- Identifying areas suitable for building shelters.
- Identifying suitable areas for planting vegetation buffers.
- Collecting data for efficient use of aquifers.
- Monitoring illegal taking of water resources.
- Monitoring for water pollution from factories.
- Monitoring for illegal releases from mines.
- Monitoring for illegal logging.
- Collecting data for sustainable food production.
- Collecting data for beekeeping.
- Helping with needed fencing repairs to keep feral animals out of protected areas.
- Monitoring of dolphin slaughter.
- Tracking migrating whales.
Providing access like never before
- Providing food and water drops for endangered animal species suffering drought conditions.
- Researching species of remote islands without intruding and potentially.
- Enabling habitat assessment in remote areas.
- Improving species detection in wilderness areas.
- Reducing the time it takes in biodiversity assessments.
- Identifying potential impacts of pipelines.
- Assessing rehabilitation of mines and quarries.
- Improving inventory assessments of mines.
- Collecting metrics to help improve sustainable crop yields.
- Gauging pest encroachment.
- Expediting fire risk mapping.
- Operate in places that are otherwise inaccessible.
- Monitoring industry compliance with regulations.
- Inform on environmental impact assessments.
- Access remote, inaccessible and difficult terrain.
- Mapping of hiking trails.
- Mapping of firefighting tracks.
- Mapping of fire breaks.
- Surveying bird nests in the high tree canopy.
- Early detection of contaminated flows.
- Time-comparisons of coastlines.
- Data for improving digital elevation models.
- Large scale project evaluations.
- Detecting water stress in plants using multi-spectral and infra-red photography.
- Monitoring insect damage of plants to help reduce pesticide use.
- Monitoring of flood plumes and impact on coastal areas.
- Gauging of industrial accidents and effects of restoration.
- Monitoring of dredging activities and resulting plumes.
- Monitoring beach renourishment projects.
- Collecting water samples for testing.
Safe and fast inspections of renewables
- Inspect hydro-electric dam walls for potential impacts.
- Inspecting solar farms for optimum operations.
- Helping plan and build solar farms.
- Tracking of invisible gases from industrial emissions (see Aeromon).
- Finding poachers at night to reduce extinction of Rhino populations (see Air Shepherd).
- Inspecting sewers for leakages.
- Map out ancient peat bogs.
- Carry equipment such as wind gauges and humidity sensors to collect climate data.
- Map inaccessible rainforests of the Congo to help with ecological issues.
- Inspect wind turbines and send back real-time footage.
- Collecting soil samples for testing.
- Monitor seabirds on remote islands and headlands.
- Counting green turtles in Indonesia.
- Tracking poachers in Brazil.
- Test for infectious diseases in water resources in hard to get at places.
- Saving on fossil fuels by replacing agricultural machinery.
- Spraying fertilizers on crops in a more targetted way.
- Capturing imagery of wheat fertilization projects.
- Researching and monitoring coral reefs.
- Researching and monitoring mangroves from a safe position.
- Using thermal cameras to measure temperature changes in the ocean.
Let’s face it, Earth existed before we evolved and will continue regardless of whether we inhabit it or not. So, to save the Earth just means saving our ‘living quarters’. Ways to help save the Earth in this way include reducing wastage, practicing ecologically sustainable ways, and conserving our precious resources.
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