. Energy News .

A Labor Saving Way to Monitor Vast Rangelands
by Dennis O'Brien
Las Cruces NM (SPX) Sep 29, 2011

At the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a team of scientists prepares to launch an unmanned aerial vehicle from a catapult. The mission: to survey vegetation on the ground in studies of vegetation changes over time. In the foreground are engineering technician Craig Winters (left) and pilot Dave Thatcher. Other researchers are in the ground control station. Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have found that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), a tool used by the military, may be suitable for keeping an eye on changing land-use patterns across vast tracts of western rangeland.

Ranchers, government agencies and private land managers often need to survey vast, remote rangelands to see how they are being altered by floods, forest fires or other events.

Ground-based surveys can be costly and time-consuming. Satellite imagery is improving, but satellites can't provide the resolution needed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its assessments of millions of acres of federally owned lands, or by private land owners who want to monitor erosion control, the creep of invasive species, or other land-use changes. UAVs allow operators to survey large areas whenever they want, such as immediately after a major rain storm or forest fire.

At the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, N.M., Al Rango, Jeff Herrick and Craig Winters, along with Andrea Laliberte, a New Mexico State University researcher, are studying the potential effectiveness of a 20-pound UAV with a 6-foot wingspan that cruises 700 feet above the earth, collecting digital images.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of improving agricultural sustainability.

UAVs are primarily being studied for their potential to collect enough information about landscape patterns to determine which areas merit closer ground level surveys, according to Laliberte.

In a study partially funded by BLM, the researchers took more than 400 aerial images of 700 acres in the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in southwestern Idaho. They assembled the images into mosaics, determined the percentage of vegetation cover using image-processing techniques and compared the data to information collected with conventional ground-based techniques.

In a second study, they analyzed the classification accuracy of different types of vegetation, such as mesquite and yucca plants, identified by a computer program designed to analyze mosaics assembled from hundreds of images taken during flights over tracts in Idaho and New Mexico.

Findings from the first study were published in Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, and those from the second study were published in Geocarto International.

In both studies, the researchers found the aerial data sufficiently accurate to be comparable to information gathered in ground-based surveys for shrubs, grasses and other plants that can be distinguished by their top canopy layer.

Current federal safety requirements and associated costs limit use of UAVs, but the restrictions may change in the future. This research is designed to ensure strengths and weaknesses of the technology are sufficiently understood regardless of the regulations.

Read more about this research in the September 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Related Links
Bureau of Land Management
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology


Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Germplasm, irrigation management make a difference in corn production
College Station TX (SPX) Sep 29, 2011
Germplasm and stay-green technology utilized by Texas AgriLife Research corn breeders could make growing corn on limited water a greater possibility in the near future, according to AgriLife Research studies. Thomas Marek, AgriLife Research irrigation engineer and superintendent of the North Plains Research Field near Etter, walked through fields of corn this year that showed a stark contr ... read more

Russia may launch its first Earth remote sensing satellite in 2012

Astrotech Subsidiary Wins Contract for NASA Mission

Japanese meteorological firm to launch satellite to track Arctic sea ice

ERS satellite missions complete after 20 years

Raytheon GPS OCX Completes Preliminary Design Review

Hexagon Enhances Satellite-based Positioning Solutions with Locata Local Constellation

Locata Publishes Interface Specifications and Launches New Local Constellation Concept

Locata Unveils World's First GPS-style Indoor Positioning Solution

US, Indonesia sign $30m debt-for-nature swap

Indonesia pledges forest conservation

Managing Future Forests for Water

Publication offers tree-planting tips

Iowa State researchers produce cheap sugars for sustainable biofuel production

JBEI identify new advanced biofuel as an alternative to diesel fuel

Motor fuel from wood and water?

Researchers sequence dark matter of life

Cheap and efficient solar cell made possible by linked nanoparticles

Lessons to be Learned from Nature in Photosynthesis

Copper Film Could Lower Touch Screen, LED and Solar Cell Costs

Nature offers key lessons on harvesting solar power

Natural Power deploys first dual-mode ZephIR wind lidar in India

New energy in search for future wind

Investment blows into India's wind sector

Spain's Gamesa signs deal with Chinese firm

Concern as China firm to buy Australian coal mine

India acquires Australian coal assets

China, India buy up Australian coal field

Mongolia rejects major coal mine deal

S.Africa Dalai Lama ban will be bow to China: rights group

Chinese city hikes taxi fares after strike

China critic fears 'thousands' will vanish under new law

US urges China to respect Tibetans' rights

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement