For decades aircraft and spacecraft technologies have been leveraged in agriculture. For aircraft applications, aerial crop dusting might come to mind, and I include spacecraft technologies for at least two roles that they play: for one they are used for remote sensing in a variety of applications, some of which collect information on environmental conditions that impact agriculture as well as collecting information on soil or vegetation health on farmland; secondly they are used indirectly to assist in navigation of other survey tools and automated fertilizer or pesticide application systems. With the proliferation of unpiloted aircraft systems (UASs), or “drones”, these technologies have been added to tools that can be leveraged in agriculture. While they have been adopted at different rates and in different ways for agriculture in different parts of the world in the past couple of decades, there seems to be a definitive niche for their use in some way or another in agriculture, though that niche varies depending on the geological region and what kind of agriculture they are being used to support.
Agricultural applications of drones are not my own focus area, but for some of my colleagues it is the primary focus of how they think about leveraging drones, and certainly I have not been entirely absent from using UAS and survey tools in support of agricultural applications. While I could talk in detail about any number of theses agriculture-related projects, in this article I want to give a brief overview of how different teams at UMass have leveraged more advanced survey tools like UAS and RTK GNSS in support of their work.Continue reading “UAS Agriculture Applications: Selected Agricultural Research Projects from the last 6 Years”
How and why lake volumes change over time remains a largely unknown question globally. Factors such as precipitation, water table height, evaporation, and human impacts such as lake level drawdown can impact lake volumes over time, potentially resulting in changes in water supply and lentic ecosystems. To learn more about changes in lake volumes at a global scale, the project “Lake Observations by Citizen Scientists and Satellites” (LOCSS) pairs satellite imagery, which can detect lake area over time, with simple lake gauges that everyday citizens can read and collect data from. With the changes in height read from the lake gauge paired with the changes in lake surface area, we can better assess changes in lake volume over time. Continue reading “Validating Water Surface Elevation for a Citizen Science Project in New Hampshire”
It is well known that sea level is rising and will cause significant shoreline adjustments around the globe. This makes the art of measuring sea level a critical skill for coastal scientists. For precise and accurate measurements, not only it is necessary to understand the functionality of the instruments we use, but also the reference frame to which all our measurements are fixed to, better known as datums. Fortunately, high end technology such as Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) can help us measure elevation up to 2 cm precision. This high level of precision requires complex processes. Thankfully, there is instrumentation capable of reaching high precision within a short period of time – the Trimble® R10 GNSS system.
At the UMass Amherst campus we regularly use UAS to conduct surveys of key infrastructure; whether it be to monitor and document stages of new construction on campus or to survey and inspect existing infrastructure. One of our more recent additions to our array of capabilities is the capacity to develop thermal orthomosaics from long-wave infrared (LWIR) imagery. This can help us map heat sources and thermodynamic processes of buried infrastructure, or look at heat loss in structures.
When you walk around in public spaces carrying a Trimble R10 RTK over your shoulder, you get asked a lot of questions!
For the past two summers, myself and a group of researches have used the Trimble R10 to take location and elevation measurements of landscape features in salt marshes throughout Massachusetts. Sometimes we are at Audobon sites sharing space with birders, sometimes we are near roads or in what seems like someone’s backyard, and sometimes we are just off of someone’s favorite walking path. Regardless of who we cross paths with – birder, driver, homeowner, or hiker – we always get asked about the R10 because it looks so sleek yet complex! Sometimes we are asked “What are you doing?” or “What is that?” or our favorite, “Are you making a movie?!”.