Developing and Maintaining a Community of Interest Dedicated to the Potential Uses of Near Remote Sensing and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Technologies within the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to Reduce Costs and Add Technical Capacity

Project ID: 3823
Principal Investigator: Douglas Clark
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2015, 2016 and 2017
Keywords: near remote sensing, unmanned aerial systems

Research Question

This R&D project seeks to provide coordination for near remote sensing and UAS activities in Reclamation and a clearinghouse for related information. Near remote sensing (high resolution cameras) and unmanned aerial technologies are now very successfully moving from the military to DOI. (See: http://rmgsc.cr.usgs.gov/UAS/completedMissions.shtml?current=3). It is desirable that research and development of water resources applications of these technologies occur in a coordinated fashion to maximize investments and to avoid duplication. The overall goal of this effort is to build and maintain a community of interest in Reclamation for the exploration of the potential uses of near remote sensing and unmanned aerial vehicle technologies to advance Reclamation's mission. The project will coordinate efforts bureau-wide to learn what niches these new technologies can fill. What technologies are currently available to Reclamation? What FAA and DOI regulations govern the use of UAS? What training requirements exist for the use of UAS? How can we best pair people willing to research these technologies with those who have a need for the data they produce? How can we coordinate research and development efforts?

Need and Benefit

The environment is a complex, dynamic, continuum and our understanding of this system relies primarily on quantitative observations. Satellite platforms may be insufficient and inadequate for many Reclamation applications, yielding, as they do, regional scale images with limited temporal and visual resolution. Satellite based observations are also hindered by static sensor capabilities, weather conditions, and acquisition cycles that are often measured in days or weeks.

In addition, gaps exist in data that must be aquired over the isolated, scarcely populated, harsh, and often volatile land and water areas managed by Reclamation. Manned aircraft flights can be problematic due to long flight durations, unpredictable weather, environmental hazards, day and night data requirements, and associated operating costs. Over-flights are effective, but their costs limit frequency and image post-processing is difficult. An observation system that is adaptive fill many of the gaps above has become possible with advances new observational and UAS technology.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) such as kites, balloons, blimps, and aircraft, and near remote sensing high-resolution camera networks, giga-pixel time-lapse cameras, and wireless sensor arrays are offering real-time data transmission. These technologies have the advantage of being generally small and cost effective. In addition, UAS are generally not run-way dependent. Finally, they offer multispectral imagery with quick turn-around.

Traditional land and boat surveys are effective tools at the micro-scale, but it is difficult to conduct extensive surveys over wide areas and these surveys are typically limited to ground-level sampling. These surveys are also expensive, short in duration, logistically challenging, focus on relatively small areas, and generally occur only once in a season or even less often. As an alternative, gigavision gigapixel (GP) time-lapse camera systems offer multi-billion pixel imaging system offer resolution of 1 pixel / cm over 7 hectares approximately 600 million times the resolution of MODIS and can monitor every plant within a large area. Results can be transferred to Google Earth. They can also yield a time-lapse history for long term ecosystem, agriculture, stream, or other monitoring.

Near remote-sensing and UAV technologies are particularly useful for roles which have been called dull, dirty, or dangerous (DDD). Extended surveillance can be a dulling experience for aircrews, with many hours of watching without relief and has been known to lead to loss of concentration and, thus, mission effectiveness. Near remote sensing technologies with high resolution color video, low light level TV, thermal imaging cameras or radar scanning, can be more effective as well has less costly to deploy and operate in such roles. Ground-based operators can be readily relieved in a shift-work pattern.

Near remote sensing and UAS technologies are frequently useful in covert roles, for instance, in policing operations. Finally, they are often useful in environmentally critical roles. They frequently cause less environmental disturbance or pollution than manned aircraft, for instance.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Developing and Maintaining a Community of Interest Dedicated to the Potential Uses of Near Remote Sensing and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Technologies within the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to Reduce Costs and Add Technical Capacity (final, PDF, 309KB)
By Jakeb Prickett
Research Product completed on September 30, 2017

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

Developing and Maintaining a Community of Interest Dedicated to the Potential Uses of Near Remote Sensing and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Technologies within the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to Reduce Costs and Add Technical Capacity (final, PDF, 309KB)
By Jakeb Prickett
Research Product completed on September 30, 2017

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.


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Last Updated: 4/4/17