Use of drones in conservation to help manage habitats fight tree & other disease & map invasive plants


Benefits of drone technology in conservation & environmental protection


Experts working in these areas can use drones to monitor woodland, forest, heathland and other valuable habitats to monitor and manage diseases that threaten to wipe out these unique areas.  The Forestry Commission of Scotland, for example, has run a trial project in Carradale on the Kintyre peninsula to map the spread of Phytophthora ramorum, a fungus that has spread from rhododendrons to larch, forcing many estates to fell thousands of trees to try to halt the outbreak.  Drones have made access possible even where the rhododendrons make areas completely inpenetrable.


The high definition cameras available on the latest drones can provide extremely detailed images and help spot the early signs of diseases in trees far better than most traditional methods, including foot patrols, aerial monitoring also means there is less chance of spreading disease throughout a forest and even from forest to forest, which can happen with ground surveys.


Drones have also been used to assess storm damage especially in some of the most inaccessible areas of the country.


Light aircraft have to fly to a 500 ft minimum which makes capturing useful images for conservation difficult.  Helicopters are still useful for large surveys because they can cover the ground faster but costing £1,000 plus an hour, they are an extremely expensive option so for routine monitoring drones are far more suitable for smaller surveys and routine monitoring work.  Plus often drones are able to fly below typical levels of cloud cover especially in some of the terrain needing management.


An example image from a woodland survey looking at the woodland density and for areas of damage from the recent winter weather.

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