Unmanned Airborne Systems (UAS), Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAV), or Drones as commonly referred to, have captured the imagination of people. Their potential applications are almost endless, but are they the most appropriate platform for collection of airborne imagery on vegetation cover and condition.
ArborCarbon scientists have been conducting research on the applications of satellite and airborne multi and hyperspectral imagery for more than 10 years. The variety of platforms carrying the sensing device (e.g. camera) include satellite, fixed-wing plane, helicopter and UAS. The range of sensors attached to these platforms include multispectral and hyperspectral imaging devices. ArborCarbon scientists first started using UAS in projects for capturing airborne imagery over vegetation monitoring sites in 2010 and were the first company in the world to do so for vegetation monitoring to determine the potential impacts of groundwater drawdown and alteration of sheet flow on mulga and riparian communities in Australia.
We are very selective about using UAS platforms for the capture of airborne imagery to measure and monitor vegetation cover and condition, including in precision agriculture and measurement of NDVI, as we have a close understanding of all the factors that affect these measurements. The arrival of many new ‘drone’ platforms and cheap multispectral cameras onto the market has certainly raised the profile of remote sensing and its potential application for precision vegetation management. However, there are many times when there are greater costs associated with acquiring data using these platforms due to mobilisation, limitations on battery life, and processing time.
We encourage anybody looking to use remote sensing for precision vegetation monitoring, whether that be for trees, horticulture, agriculture or turf, to carefully consider the range of platforms and sensors available, and discuss these with people who have an unbiased view.