Download a PDF containing all abstracts from the conference.

J.1-5: Applications of sUAS in the Northeastern United States forested environment

Presented by Gary Macy - Email: gjmacy@syr.edu

Small Unmanned Aerial Services (sUAS) offer great potential as a utility to survey waterfowl and their habitats. Benefits include increased observational angle and field of view from the aerial perspective, and resulting potential for increased detection. sUAS also offers increased survey area coverage where foot or boat travel is logistically difficult (e.g., bogs). Given the current visual line of sight (VLOS) rules in U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations part 107, forested wetlands may be the most challenging habitat to employ sUAS for waterfowl research. Trees can obstruct an sUAS operators VLOS with the aircraft (i.e., legal and safety issues), and requires surveys be conducted at elevations above treetops (~ 34 meters above ground level (AGL) in northern New York) which can reduce image clarity. Prior research suggests waterfowl react little to a rotary wing sUAS at elevations greater than 45 meters AGL. Until 2018, there were no consumer grade unmanned aircraft platform and sensor combinations capable of reliably detecting and identifying species and gender for waterfowl with similar coloration at these altitudes (e.g., American black duck [Anas rubripes] bill color between sexes). We aimed to use sUAS to survey beaver-modified wetlands for American black ducks and other waterfowl species that breed in and migrate through forested wetlands in eastern North America. We used basic photogrammetric formulas, ground-image resolution recommendations from prior research, product specifications, and testing of available lesser aircraft-sensor combinations to determine that recent (2018) advances in consumer grade sUAS technologies would be sufficient to detect and identify species and gender from greater than 34 meters AGL. Preliminary results from testing during the spring migration 2019 suggest our aircraft-sensor platform and approach method are capable of detecting and identifying species and gender for at least 14 species of waterfowl while still maintaining VLOS and with few apparent disturbance behaviors observed.
Session: Eastern Mallards & Brown Ducks (Friday, August 30,13:20 to 15:00)