Using unmanned aerial vehicles for rangelands: Current applications and future potentials

TitleUsing unmanned aerial vehicles for rangelands: Current applications and future potentials
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsRango A., Laliberte AS, Steele C, Herrick JE, Bestelmeyer BT, Schmugge T.J, Roanhorse A., Jenkins V.
JournalEnvironmental Practice
Date PublishedSeptember 1, 200
ARIS Log Number189175
Keywordshigh resoluiton, photographs, rangeland applications, remediation treatment, UAV

High resolution aerial photographs have important rangeland applications such as monitoring vegetation change, developing grazing strategies, determining rangeland health, and assessing remediation treatment effectiveness. Acquisition of high resolution images by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has certain advantages over piloted aircraft missions including lower cost, improved safety, flexibility in mission planning, and closer proximity to the target. Different levels of remote sensing data can be combined to provide more comprehensive information: 15-30m resolution imaging from space-borne sensors for determining uniform landscape units; <1m satellite or aircraft data to assess the pattern of ecological states in an area of interest; 5cm UAV images to measure gap and patch sizes as well as percent bare soil and vegetation ground cover; and <1cm ground-based boom photography for ground truth or reference data. Two parallel tracks of investigation are necessary: one which emphasizes the utilization of the most technically advanced sensors for research and a second which emphasizes minimizing costs and maximizing simplicity for monitoring purposes. We envisage that in the future, resource management agencies, rangeland consultants, and private land managers should be able to use small, lightweight UAVs to satisfy their need for acquiring improved data at a reasonable cost and for making appropriate management decisions.