MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR ARID RANGELANDS
Location: Range Management Research
Title: Development of an operational UAV / remote sensing capability for rangeland management
Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: March 15, 2008
Publication Date: April 7, 2008
Citation: Rango, A., Laliberte, A., Herrick, J.E., Winters, C., Havstad, K.M. 2008 Development of an operational UAV / remote sensing capability for rangeland management. In: Proceedings of the 23rd Bristol International Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAVs) Conference, April 7-9, 2008, Bristol, UK. 9 pp. CDROM.
Rangeland comprises approximately 70% of the Earth’s land surface area. Much of this vast space is in very remote areas with difficult access. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have great potential for rangeland management applications. UAVs have several advantages over satellites and piloted aircraft: they can be deployed quickly and repeatedly; they are less costly and safer than piloted aircraft; they are flexible in terms of flying height and timing of missions; and they can obtain imagery at sub-decimeter resolution. This hyperspatial imagery allows for observation of individual plants, patches, gaps, and patterns over the landscape not previously possible. Our experiments have shown that this capability, from an off-the-shelf small-UAV is directly applicable to operational agency needs for evaluating rangeland health. At the Jornada Experimental Range in southern New Mexico, USA, ongoing research is aimed at determining the utility of UAVs for rangeland mapping and monitoring. For use by operational agencies to carry out their mandated responsibilities, various requirements must be met: an affordable and reliable platform; a capability for autonomous, low altitude flights; takeoff and landing in minimal size and rugged areas; and an easily applied data analysis methodology. There are a number of image processing and orthorectification challenges; image distortion associated with inexpensive, consumer grade digital cameras; difficulty of detecting sufficient ground-control points in small area photos; accuracy of exterior information (X.Y,Z, roll, pitch, and heading); and the large number of images that can be collected.