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Hickerson for assistance in the field, and M. Morrison and The Nature Conservancy for permission to access the field site. This research was supported with funds from a U.
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Premise of the study: Low-elevation surveys with small aerial drones micro—unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] may be used for a wide variety of applications in plant ecology, including mapping vegetation over small- to medium-sized regions.
We provide an overview of methods and procedures for conducting surveys and illustrate some of these applications. Aerial images were obtained by flying a small drone along transects over the area of interest.
Images were used to create a composite image orthomosaic and a digital surface model DSM. Vegetation classification was conducted manually and using an automated routine.
Coverage of an individual species was estimated from aerial images. We created a vegetation map for the entire region from the orthomosaic and DSM, and mapped the density of one species.
Comparison of our manual and automated habitat classification confirmed that our mapping methods were accurate. A species with high contrast to the background matrix allowed adequate estimate of its coverage. The example surveys demonstrate that small aerial drones are capable of gathering large amounts of information on the distribution of vegetation and individual species with minimal impact to sensitive habitats.
Low-elevation aerial surveys have potential for a wide range of applications in plant ecology. Our ability to estimate plant distributions over large areas i. Intensive plant surveys may also result in unacceptable levels of disturbance to sensitive ecosystems due to soil compaction, disruption of soil organic layers, trampling, and vegetation damage.
While remote sensing via satellites provides information on landforms and the general distribution of vegetation types over large areas, it is unlikely to provide adequate spatial or temporal resolution for determining the distributions of individual species or fine-scale differentiation among landscape features and vegetation types.
Moreover, available satellite images may not represent optimal phenological stages for the identification of different species and vegetation types. Manned aircraft and large drone surveys can have increased resolution, but are prohibitively expensive for most investigations and generally do not provide a high enough resolution to assess the distributions and compositions of plant communities.
Utilization of micro—unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs, unmanned aerial systems [UAS], small aerial drones may provide adequate levels of image detail to estimate the distribution of individual plant species or vegetation types over several hectares at a relatively low cost Anderson and Gaston, Our goal in this article is to describe the advantages and limitations of small aerial drone surveys for estimating the distributions of individual plant species and vegetation types at fine spatial scales.
We describe a number of factors researchers should consider for planning aerial drone surveys.
An example is provided to illustrate the application of micro-UAV surveys for the estimation of the distribution and abundances of vegetation types and plant species across a ha area of vernal pool habitat in southern Oregon, USA. METHODS General considerations for data collection with UAVs The prospect of using drones for vegetation sampling is exciting because of the large amount of information that can be collected with minimal effort.
On the other hand, there are many limitations to this approach that should be considered before investing in the equipment necessary to conduct micro-UAV surveys. Researchers should begin by carefully considering whether their goals are a good match for the acquisition of data from aerial images obtained from aerial drones.
Suitable applications include surveys of the distribution and abundance of individual species or vegetation types, and aerial sampling of sensitive habitats or terrain that is difficult to access.
These methods are particularly suitable in cases where researchers wish to develop accurate vegetation maps over moderately large areas i. Conducting aerial surveys using small drones greatly expands the size of the area that can be assessed with minimal disruption of sensitive plants and vegetation.
By obtaining a high density of images, researchers can construct composite images orthomosaic and digital elevation models DEMs. DEMs of elevation differences of the vegetation and landforms over a geographic area are referred to as digital surface models DSMs.
Before engaging in drone usage, researchers should be careful to obtain permission from land owners and managers. Regulations for drone use differ among nations and are constantly in flux in response to new technologies and applications.
Researchers should check with local and federal agencies before engaging in research activities with UAVs.
In the following sections, we discuss some general advantages and limitations of using small drones in ecological research. Equipment considerations The diversity of small drones available for recreational use has increased dramatically sinceand many of these are suitable for research.
Of these, we specifically focus on hovering UAVs with four quadcoptersix hexacopteror eight octocopter propellers because they are the easiest to fly and have a number of features that are advantageous over fixed-wing aircraft for conducting aerial surveys.
These aircraft are extremely stable in flight. They are relatively safe and easy to pilot and can be maneuvered for aerial surveys with a minimal amount of training and experience.Porter’s Generic Competitive Strategies Ritika Tanwar pursue more than one strategy at a time by bringing out a differentiated product at low cost.
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