6 Questions Drones Are Answering About Climate Change

June 27, 2017 10:34 AM
Parrot drone

After a climate innovation grant announcement last December, Pix4D and Parrot received more than 250 proposals from researchers across the globe. This month, the two companies announce they have selected six projects, based on novelty, scientific merit and team experience.

Here is a brief look at the projects:

1. 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,” according to Christopher Field, professor of biology and environmental earth science at Stanford University.

2. The role of climate in modulating wildlife extinctions in African drylands.

Robert Pringle, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, says his team will measure woody plant biomass, phenology, water stress, canopy architecture and other data that he says is impossible to measure with existing satellite technology. The drones will supplement the program’s regular long-term monitoring program with regularly occurring low-altitude surveys.

3. Growth dynamics of the lichen fields of the Central Namib Desert.

“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 vigor and growth of the lichen fields,” according to Gillian Maggs-Kolling, executive director of the Gobabeb Research and Training Centre in Namibia. “These data could inform land management practices in the uranium-rich Central Namib Desert.”

4. Using drones to monitor grassland responses to shifting climate and restoration.

Using a multispectral camera will significantly reduce the team’s workload because they will no longer need to overlay images by hand to calculate NDVI or other measurements, according to Holly Jones, assistant professor of biological sciences at Northern Illinois University.

“This grant will scale our pilot project and look at how restoration interacts with climate and allows us to help managers forecast what that will mean for future prairie restorations,” she says.

5. Monitoring insect pest impacts in Mediterranean forests.

By flying a drone and collecting multispectral imagery, researcher Lluis Brotons with Spain’s InForest JRU hopes to dodge current constraints of satellite and RGB imagery.

“Multispectral data allows a much better comparison across images taken in different locations and times,” he says.

6. Climate-driven greening of the Siberian Arctic.

“This grant offers huge advantages: discrete spectral bands, direct measures of incoming solar radiation, integrated IMU data, integrated GPS data, streamlined workflow,” according to Jeffrey Kerby with Germany’s Institute for Arctic Studies.

Kerby says integrated hardware and software allows for a more efficient look into understanding how vegetation responds to climate change in the Arctic.

All grant recipients received a Parrot Disco-Pro AG drone with a Parrot Sequoia multispectral sensor, along with a one-year Pix4D software license and additional training to assist their research.

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