Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Researchers from the University of Worcester have used a state-of-the-art mini helicopter system to conduct a photographic survey of a Chilean river.
This small and lightweight drone, the Draganflyer X6, is known as an 'unmanned aerial system' (UAS) and is capable of collecting very high resolution aerial images. The Worcester research team took the Draganflyer X6 to the San Pedro River in Chile to assist with a major project looking to map endangered river habitats.
Using the Draganflyer they captured hundreds of images of an important shallow habitat on the margin of the river. This area is home to a native fish species which is currently threatened by plans to build a major hydroelectric power dam.
The aerial images have been stitched together using specialist software, to create a very detailed aerial image mosaic and a 3D digital elevation model. The imagery and 3D model will now allow Worcester’s researchers to produce accurate and detailed maps of the river habitat.
This mapping forms part of the PhD work of Amy Woodget and is part of a larger collaborative project between Dr Ian Maddock (Principal Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Worcester) and researchers based at the University of Concepcion, Chile. The wider project aims to improve understanding of the complex relationship between the physical nature of the river and its flow, and how that influences the different species that live within the river.
Dr Maddock said: “The University of Concepcion has an on-going research project on the San Pedro River, where there are currently plans to build a dam. Obviously putting a dam into a river has major impacts on the flow and subsequently the habitats and species.”
The image mosaic and elevation model have been shared with Professor Evelyn Habit, researcher at the University of Concepcion. Prof Habit said: “The imagery and elevation model produced by Dr Maddock and his PhD student using the Draganflyer in our study area will be of great use in defining key habitat patches, their connectivity and distribution, with an extraordinarily high level of detail. This allows us to better understand the habitat availability for our native fish species and to evaluate our future research methods.”
The University of Worcester is one of only a handful of universities to own, and have a licence to fly, the Draganflyer X6. It can be used for a wide range of applications and is currently used for teaching and research at the University of Worcester in a number of different ways. This includes undergraduate modules in Applied Remote Sensing and GIS, and ongoing river science research in the UK and elsewhere.