Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles/Systems, also known as drones, offer an unprecedented opportunity to obtain high-resolution photos resulting in precise highly detailed maps.
With these “flying cameras” we can literally get a birds eye view of the islands and surrounding reefs, allowing us to accurately quantify vegetation cover, reef extent, ocean debris, and many other parameters. We take many hundreds of photos over each island and seam them together, using software generously donated by Drone Deploy, to make one large, high-resolution orthomosaic map of the entire island.
If a picture is like a thousand words, each orthomosaic created is like a thousand data points. Each year we fly and create a new map enabling us to compare to previous years and visualize precisely how things have changed.
For years now satellites have provided this type of remote sensing, but their resolution was on the order of a few meters for the very best and pass overhead at their schedule only.
Now with our UAVs we can get centimeter resolution and are able to fly on our own schedule. This allows us to obtain data on the schedule of the project and the community needs rather than when a satellite happens to be passing by.
We thank Drone Deploy for their generous donation of mapping software
The first application for these maps will be in quantifying the impacts of removing invasive rats and monitor lizards from Loosiep Island (a project in collaboration with Island Conservation). We will be looking at changes in vegetation, nesting birds, the reestablishment of gardening on the island and the resultant changes in the fringing reef.