Drones offer significant humanitarian benefits in disaster relief, rescue operations, and scientific research of all kinds. As the technology has evolved, the uses for drones in research are continually expanding. Now mapping and photogrammetry experts Pix4D, along with French drone manufacturer Parrot, have announced the winners of their climate innovation grant. The grant is designed “to help foster innovation around the impact of global climate change.”
The unique data-gathering capabilities of drones make them a useful new tool in efforts to mitigate climate change. Pix4D and Parrot chose 6 winners from over 250 proposals. “We selected six projects, chosen on novelty, scientific merit, and team experience,” says the announcement. “We also considered advanced degrees, formal association with educational organizations or institutions, and a strong record of climate change research.”
The Winning Projects
Winners are based in the U.S., Europe, and the African continent.
Robert M. Pringle, and Assistant Professor at Princeton University, won for his proposal to evaluate the role of climate in modulating wildlife extinctions in African drylands. “We want to use drone-based ecological monitoring to incorporate regular low-altitude image surveys of our plots into our regular long-term monitoring program,” says Pringle. “Specifically, we want to measure woody-plant biomass, phenology, water stress, net aboveground productivity, and canopy architecture. All of which are impossible to measure with current satellite technology and the best available ground-based methods are exceedingly time-consuming and frustratingly imprecise to boot.”
Dr. Chris Field of Stanford University plans to work on drone-based detection of grassland phenology, productivity, and composition in relation to climate. “Our goal is to use a drone-mounted camera and multispectral sensor to map and monitor temporal and spatial variation in grassland in order to understand the role of climate variation in driving changes in grassland composition,” says Field. “Specifically we propose to examine the extent to which changes in grassland composition—such as the balance of grasses vs forbs, annuals vs perennials, and invasive vs native species—are due to weather and microclimate-driven changes in phenology and/or productivity.”
Gillian Maggs-Kölling of the Gobabeb Research and Training Centre in Namibia will study lichen fields in the desert. “Lichens are small, highly complex organisms… They occur across vast expanses of desert plains and are often difficult to access. Crustose lichens… especially cannot be discerned from the surrounding matrix of desert gravel. This makes conventional RGB-photography, in particular aerial RGB-photography, totally unsuitable for monitoring lichen growth,” says Maggs-Kölling. “…Our long-term goal would be to try and model productivity of the lichen-fields based on the multi-spectral bands (specifically the near-infrared and red edge bands), and in this way monitor the vigour and growth of the lichen fields. These data could inform land management practices in the uranium-rich Central Namib Desert.“
Holly P. Jones of Northern Illinois University will use drones to monitor grassland responses to shifting climate and restoration. “A multispectral camera will significantly reduce our workload because we would no longer have to overlay these images by hand to calculate NDVI and other measurements,” says Jones. “This grant will scale our pilot-project and look at how restoration interacts with climate and allow us to help managers forecast what that will mean for future prairie restorations.”
Lluís Brotons of InForest JRU in Spain will monitor insect pest impacts in Mediterranean forests. “We want to quantitatively assess the impact of the pine processionary moth on pine forests at the forest stand scale (10-100 ha),” says Brotons. “Satellite imagery has strong constraints on the quantity and quality of information. RGB imagery may not be adequate to conduct impact assessment across space and time. Multispectral data (i.e. infrared) allows a much better comparison across images taken in different locations and times.”
Jeffrey Kerby of Dartmouth College in Germany, is working on “Climate-driven greening of the Siberian Arctic: Multispectral sensors on UAVs bridge ground to satellite scaling challenges.” “Multispectral data will allow for direct radiometric comparisons with vegetation change patterns captured by satellite data. This grant offers huge advantages: discrete spectral bands, direct measures of incoming solar radiation, integrated IMU data, integrated GPS data, streamlined workflow,” says Kerby. “This integrated system (camera + software) allows for easier exploration of the relationship between spectral and structural influences on scaling the effects of how vegetation responds to climate change in the Arctic.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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