Drones for Ecology: New Sampling Tools for Personal Remote Sensing of Ecosystems
Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 4:30 PM-6:30 PM
Exhibit Hall, Baltimore Convention Center
Jonathan P. Dandois, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Dawn M. Browning, USDA Agricultural Research Service
Remote sensing has greatly enhanced our ability to observe and characterize the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of ecosystems, often providing measurements at extents and frequencies not practical or possible with field-based techniques alone. Recent technological advancements have brought remote sensing technology back down to earth and closer to home for field scientists. Remote sensing with consumer digital cameras attached to towers or low flying hobbyist aircraft (kites, balloons, and remote controlled airplanes, helicopters, and multirotors, ‘drones’) is enabling observations of ecosystems in ways never before possible. This includes on-demand three-dimensional (3D) mapping of landscapes to characterize landscape pattern and structure as well as forest canopy structure. The high spatial resolution of remote sensing images collected with these techniques (i.e., pixel size, 1 – 10 cm), enables description of individual plants for detailed surveys of landscape configuration. The relative ease and low-cost with which drones can be deployed enables high-frequency observations for describing ecosystem dynamics at temporal scales ranging from weeks to years and over extents ranging from a small plot (25 m x 25 m) to 10’s and 100’s of hectares. Ultimately, drones provide ecologists with a ‘personal remote sensing sampling tool’, a piece of field equipment that can be used for measuring the properties of field sampling sites with a birds-eye-view. This poster session brings together researchers working with drones over a range of applications and environments, including for landscape ecology and design, rangeland management, and forest ecology within urban, forest, and rangeland landscapes in Temperate, Sub-tropical, and Arid regions. Posters in this session will provide all ESA members with a chance to see both what might be possible with personal remote sensing from drones and how the work is actually carried out.