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Drones, Volume 5, Issue 1 (March 2021) – 23 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): A tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) tracked off Angourie, New South Wales, Australia using drone-based tracking by pilot Dr Andrew Colefax. The shark was found on 18 July 2018 at 13:20 local time (EST) in the vicinity of a whale carcass, which had stranded on the coastal sandy beach. The shark was estimated to be 4.1 m total length, which was determined using drone-based photogrammetry. We visited this site over a number of days and tracked numerous white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) and two tiger sharks. This project was part of an extensive drone program lead by NSW Department of Primary Industries scientist Dr Paul Butcher between 2015 and 2020 to quantify the effectiveness of drones as a tool to minimise the occurrence of shark–human interactions along coastal beaches. This research was completed as part of the New South Wales Governments $16 million Shark Management [...] Read more.
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Technical Note
The Use of UAVs for the Characterization and Analysis of Rocky Coasts
Drones 2021, 5(1), 23; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010023 - 16 Mar 2021
Viewed by 970
Abstract
Rocky coasts represent three quarters of all coastlines worldwide. These areas are part of ecosystems of great ecological value, but their steep configuration and their elevation make field surveys difficult. This fact, together with their lower variation rates, explains the lower numbers of [...] Read more.
Rocky coasts represent three quarters of all coastlines worldwide. These areas are part of ecosystems of great ecological value, but their steep configuration and their elevation make field surveys difficult. This fact, together with their lower variation rates, explains the lower numbers of publications about cliffs and rocky coasts in general compared with those about beach-dune systems. The introduction of UAVs in research, has enormously expanded the possibilities for the study of rocky coasts. Their relative low costs allow for the generation of information with a high level of detail. This information, combined with GIS tools, enables coastal analysis based on Digital Models and high spatial resolution images. This investigation summarizes the main results obtained with the help of UAVs between 2012 and the present day in rocky coastline sections in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. These investigations have particularly focused on monitoring the dynamics of boulder beaches, cliffs, and shore platforms, as well as the structure and function of ecosystems. This work demonstrates the importance of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for coastal studies and their usefulness for improving coastal management. The Galician case was used to explain their importance and the advances in the UAVs’ techniques. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Feature Papers of Drones)
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Article
Quantifying the Effects of Vibration on Medicines in Transit Caused by Fixed-Wing and Multi-Copter Drones
Drones 2021, 5(1), 22; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010022 - 13 Mar 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1310
Abstract
The concept of transporting medical products by drone is gaining a lot of interest amongst the medical and logistics communities. Such innovation has generated several questions, a key one being the potential effects of flight on the stability of medical products. The aims [...] Read more.
The concept of transporting medical products by drone is gaining a lot of interest amongst the medical and logistics communities. Such innovation has generated several questions, a key one being the potential effects of flight on the stability of medical products. The aims of this study were to quantify the vibration present within drone flight, study its effect on the quality of the medical insulin through live flight trials, and compare the effects of vibration from drone flight with traditional road transport. Three trials took place in which insulin ampoules and mock blood stocks were transported to site and flown using industry standard packaging by a fixed-wing or a multi-copter drone. Triaxial vibration measurements were acquired, both in-flight and during road transit, from which overall levels and frequency spectra were derived. British Pharmacopeia quality tests were undertaken in which the UV spectra of the flown insulin samples were compared to controls of known turbidity. In-flight vibration levels in both the drone types exceeded road induced levels by up to a factor of three, and predominant vibration occurred at significantly higher frequencies. Flown samples gave clear insulin solutions that met the British Pharmacopoeia specification, and no aggregation of insulin was detected. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Editorial
Of Course We Fly Unmanned—We’re Women!
Drones 2021, 5(1), 21; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010021 - 12 Mar 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3437
Abstract
Striving to achieve a diverse and inclusive workplace has become a major goal for many organisations around the world [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue She Maps)
Article
Modeling Streamflow and Sediment Loads with a Photogrammetrically Derived UAS Digital Terrain Model: Empirical Evaluation from a Fluvial Aggregate Excavation Operation
Drones 2021, 5(1), 20; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010020 - 12 Mar 2021
Viewed by 840
Abstract
Soil erosion monitoring is a pivotal exercise at macro through micro landscape levels, which directly informs environmental management at diverse spatial and temporal scales. The monitoring of soil erosion can be an arduous task when completed through ground-based surveys and there are uncertainties [...] Read more.
Soil erosion monitoring is a pivotal exercise at macro through micro landscape levels, which directly informs environmental management at diverse spatial and temporal scales. The monitoring of soil erosion can be an arduous task when completed through ground-based surveys and there are uncertainties associated with the use of large-scale medium resolution image-based digital elevation models for estimating erosion rates. LiDAR derived elevation models have proven effective in modeling erosion, but such data proves costly to obtain, process, and analyze. The proliferation of images and other geospatial datasets generated by unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is increasingly able to reveal additional nuances that traditional geospatial datasets were not able to obtain due to the former’s higher spatial resolution. This study evaluated the efficacy of a UAS derived digital terrain model (DTM) to estimate surface flow and sediment loading in a fluvial aggregate excavation operation in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. A nested scale distributed hydrologic flow and sediment loading model was constructed for the UAS point cloud derived DTM. To evaluate the effectiveness of flow and sediment loading generated by the UAS point cloud derived DTM, a LiDAR derived DTM was used for comparison in consonance with several statistical measures of model efficiency. Results demonstrate that the UAS derived DTM can be used in modeling flow and sediment erosion estimation across space in the absence of a LiDAR-based derived DTM. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Feature Papers of Drones)
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Article
An Integrated Spectral–Structural Workflow for Invasive Vegetation Mapping in an Arid Region Using Drones
Drones 2021, 5(1), 19; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010019 - 08 Mar 2021
Viewed by 1370
Abstract
Mapping invasive vegetation species in arid regions is a critical task for managing water resources and understanding threats to ecosystem services. Traditional remote sensing platforms, such as Landsat and MODIS, are ill-suited for distinguishing native and non-native vegetation species in arid regions due [...] Read more.
Mapping invasive vegetation species in arid regions is a critical task for managing water resources and understanding threats to ecosystem services. Traditional remote sensing platforms, such as Landsat and MODIS, are ill-suited for distinguishing native and non-native vegetation species in arid regions due to their large pixels compared to plant sizes. Unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, offer the potential to capture the high spatial resolution imagery needed to differentiate species. However, in order to extract the most benefits from these platforms, there is a need to develop more efficient and effective workflows. This paper presents an integrated spectral–structural workflow for classifying invasive vegetation species in the Lower Salt River region of Arizona, which has been the site of fires and flooding, leading to a proliferation of invasive vegetation species. Visible (RGB) and multispectral images were captured and processed following a typical structure from motion workflow, and the derived datasets were used as inputs in two machine learning classifications—one incorporating only spectral information and one utilizing both spectral data and structural layers (e.g., digital terrain model (DTM) and canopy height model (CHM)). Results show that including structural layers in the classification improved overall accuracy from 80% to 93% compared to the spectral-only model. The most important features for classification were the CHM and DTM, with the blue band and two spectral indices (normalized difference water index (NDWI) and normalized difference salinity index (NDSI)) contributing important spectral information to both models. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones in Geography)
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Technical Note
Operational Study of Drone Spraying Application for the Disinfection of Surfaces against the COVID-19 Pandemic
Drones 2021, 5(1), 18; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010018 - 07 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1496
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to maximize the cleanliness of outside public services and the need to disinfect these areas to reduce the virus transmission. This work evaluates the possibilities of using unmanned aircraft systems for disinfection tasks in these aeras. [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to maximize the cleanliness of outside public services and the need to disinfect these areas to reduce the virus transmission. This work evaluates the possibilities of using unmanned aircraft systems for disinfection tasks in these aeras. The operational study focuses on evaluating the static and dynamic behavior, as well as the influence of the flying height, mission speed and flow of spraying. The most recommended height for correct spraying with the drone system under study is 3.0 m. The dynamic test shows that the lower height, 3.0 m, also provides the most adequate spraying footprint, achieving 2.2 m for a speed of 0.5 m/s. The operational behavior is evaluated on three different scenarios, a skatepark with an area around 882.7 m2, an outdoor gym with an area around 545.0 m2 and a multisport court with an area around 2025.7 m2. The cleaning time evaluates the flying duration, battery change and tank refill and results in 41 min for the skatepark (5 tank refills and 2 battery changes), 28.6 min for the outdoor gym (3 tank refills and 2 battery changes) and 96.4 min for the multisport court (11 tank refills and 5 battery changes). Each battery change and each tank refill are estimated to take 4 min each, with a drone autonomy of 7 min. The technology appears competitive compared to other forms of cleaning based, for example, on human operators. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Article
Drone Swarms in Fire Suppression Activities: A Conceptual Framework
Drones 2021, 5(1), 17; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010017 - 07 Mar 2021
Viewed by 1725
Abstract
The recent huge technological development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can provide breakthrough means of fighting wildland fires. We propose an innovative forest firefighting system based on the use of a swarm of hundreds of UAVs able to generate a continuous flow of [...] Read more.
The recent huge technological development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can provide breakthrough means of fighting wildland fires. We propose an innovative forest firefighting system based on the use of a swarm of hundreds of UAVs able to generate a continuous flow of extinguishing liquid on the fire front, simulating the effect of rain. Automatic battery replacement and extinguishing liquid refill ensure the continuity of the action. We illustrate the validity of the approach in Mediterranean scrub first computing the critical water flow rate according to the main factors involved in the evolution of a fire, then estimating the number of linear meters of active fire front that can be extinguished depending on the number of drones available and the amount of extinguishing fluid carried. A fire propagation cellular automata model is also employed to study the evolution of the fire. Simulation results suggest that the proposed system can provide the flow of water required to fight low-intensity and limited extent fires or to support current forest firefighting techniques. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue UAV Application for Wildfire Detection, Prevention and Management)
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Article
Safety Enhancement of UAVs from the Signal Processing’s Perspectives: A Bird’s Eye View
Drones 2021, 5(1), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones5010016 - 26 Feb 2021
Viewed by 834
Abstract
Unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) or drones have gained popularity in recent years. However, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is still hesitant to open up the national air space (NAS) to UAVs due to safety concerns because UAVs have several orders of magnitude [...] Read more.
Unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) or drones have gained popularity in recent years. However, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is still hesitant to open up the national air space (NAS) to UAVs due to safety concerns because UAVs have several orders of magnitude of more accidents than manned aircraft. To limit the scope in this paper, we focus on large, heavy, and expensive UAVs that can be used for cargo transfer and search and rescue operations, not small radio-controlled toy drones. We first present a general architecture for enhancing the safety of UAVs. We then illustrate how signal processing technologies can help enhance the safety of UAVs. In particular, we provide a bird’s eye view of the application of signal processing algorithms on condition-based maintenance, structural health monitoring, fault diagnostics, and fault mitigation, which all play critical roles in UAV safety. Some practical applications are used to illustrate the importance of the various algorithms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Feature Papers of Drones)
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Article
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Wildland Fires: Sensing, Perception, Cooperation and Assistance
Drones 2021, 5(1), 15; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010015 - 22 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1305
Abstract
Wildfires represent a significant natural risk causing economic losses, human death and environmental damage. In recent years, the world has seen an increase in fire intensity and frequency. Research has been conducted towards the development of dedicated solutions for wildland fire assistance and [...] Read more.
Wildfires represent a significant natural risk causing economic losses, human death and environmental damage. In recent years, the world has seen an increase in fire intensity and frequency. Research has been conducted towards the development of dedicated solutions for wildland fire assistance and fighting. Systems were proposed for the remote detection and tracking of fires. These systems have shown improvements in the area of efficient data collection and fire characterization within small-scale environments. However, wildland fires cover large areas making some of the proposed ground-based systems unsuitable for optimal coverage. To tackle this limitation, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) were proposed. UAVs have proven to be useful due to their maneuverability, allowing for the implementation of remote sensing, allocation strategies and task planning. They can provide a low-cost alternative for the prevention, detection and real-time support of firefighting. In this paper, previous works related to the use of UAV in wildland fires are reviewed. Onboard sensor instruments, fire perception algorithms and coordination strategies are considered. In addition, some of the recent frameworks proposing the use of both aerial vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) for a more efficient wildland firefighting strategy at a larger scale are presented. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Feature Papers of Drones)
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Article
Drone-Monitoring: Improving the Detectability of Threatened Marine Megafauna
Drones 2021, 5(1), 14; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010014 - 20 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1371
Abstract
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs; or drones) are an emerging tool to provide a safer, cheaper, and quieter alternative to traditional methods of studying marine megafauna in a natural environment. The UFES Nectology Laboratory team developed a drone-monitoring to assess the impacts on megafauna [...] Read more.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs; or drones) are an emerging tool to provide a safer, cheaper, and quieter alternative to traditional methods of studying marine megafauna in a natural environment. The UFES Nectology Laboratory team developed a drone-monitoring to assess the impacts on megafauna related to the Fundão dam mining tailings disaster in the Southeast Brazilian coast. We have developed a systematic pattern to optimize the available resources by covering the largest possible area. The fauna observer can monitor the environment from a privileged angle with virtual reality and subsequently analyzes each video captured in 4k, allowing to deepening behavioral ecology knowledge. Applying the drone-monitoring method, we have observed an increasing detectability by adjusting the camera angle, height, orientation, and speed of the UAV; which saved time and resources for monitoring turtles, sea birds, large fish, and especially small cetaceans efficiently and comparably. Full article
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Article
A Quickly Deployed and UAS-Based Logistics Network for Delivery of Critical Medical Goods during Healthcare System Stress Periods: A Real Use Case in Valencia (Spain)
Drones 2021, 5(1), 13; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010013 - 17 Feb 2021
Viewed by 1344
Abstract
On the one hand, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) have experienced great applicability surge in the recent years, arising as a promising technology with a wide field of use. On the other hand, healthcare, a critical system in modern society, is subject to a [...] Read more.
On the one hand, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) have experienced great applicability surge in the recent years, arising as a promising technology with a wide field of use. On the other hand, healthcare, a critical system in modern society, is subject to a heavy and unexpected pressure in the case of situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This article aims to leverage the flexibility of UASs as complementary support for healthcare logistic systems when under high-stress conditions, via quick deployment of an air delivery network. We have defined a logistics network model and created three scenarios based on the model and current needs in Valencia (Spain). Flight tests have been performed in these scenarios, which include urban areas and controlled airspace. Operations complied with requirements derived from the application of Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) methodology, recently adopted by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Flights were successful, being able to swiftly deliver medical goods without requiring any dedicated infrastructure. However, a moderate number of contingencies took place during the tests, mainly related to control link quality and Air Traffic Management (ATM) integration, forcing the use of dedicated procedures to cope with them. Although additional development is required to ensure the safety of large-scale automated operations, the use of UASs as part of logistic networks is a feasible means to support existing structures, especially in situations in dire need. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Review
Going Batty: The Challenges and Opportunities of Using Drones to Monitor the Behaviour and Habitat Use of Rays
Drones 2021, 5(1), 12; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010012 - 02 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2092
Abstract
The way an animal behaves in its habitat provides insight into its ecological role. As such, collecting robust, accurate datasets in a time-efficient manner is an ever-present pressure for the field of behavioural ecology. Faced with the shortcomings and physical limitations of traditional [...] Read more.
The way an animal behaves in its habitat provides insight into its ecological role. As such, collecting robust, accurate datasets in a time-efficient manner is an ever-present pressure for the field of behavioural ecology. Faced with the shortcomings and physical limitations of traditional ground-based data collection techniques, particularly in marine studies, drones offer a low-cost and efficient approach for collecting data in a range of coastal environments. Despite drones being widely used to monitor a range of marine animals, they currently remain underutilised in ray research. The innovative application of drones in environmental and ecological studies has presented novel opportunities in animal observation and habitat assessment, although this emerging field faces substantial challenges. As we consider the possibility to monitor rays using drones, we face challenges related to local aviation regulations, the weather and environment, as well as sensor and platform limitations. Promising solutions continue to be developed, however, growing the potential for drone-based monitoring of behaviour and habitat use of rays. While the barriers to enter this field may appear daunting for researchers with little experience with drones, the technology is becoming increasingly accessible, helping ray researchers obtain a wide range of highly useful data. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Editorial
Acknowledgment to Reviewers of Drones in 2020
Drones 2021, 5(1), 11; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010011 - 29 Jan 2021
Viewed by 802
Abstract
Peer review is the driving force of journal development, and reviewers are gatekeepers who ensure that Drones maintains its standards for the high quality of its published papers [...] Full article
Article
StratoTrans: Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) 4G Communication Framework Applied on the Monitoring of Road Traffic and Linear Infrastructure
Drones 2021, 5(1), 10; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010010 - 28 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1333
Abstract
This study provides an operational solution to directly connect drones to internet by means of 4G telecommunications and exploit drone acquired data, including telemetry and imagery but focusing on video transmission. The novelty of this work is the application of 4G connection to [...] Read more.
This study provides an operational solution to directly connect drones to internet by means of 4G telecommunications and exploit drone acquired data, including telemetry and imagery but focusing on video transmission. The novelty of this work is the application of 4G connection to link the drone directly to a data server where video (in this case to monitor road traffic) and imagery (in the case of linear infrastructures) are processed. However, this framework is appliable to any other monitoring purpose where the goal is to send real-time video or imagery to the headquarters where the drone data is processed, analyzed, and exploited. We describe a general framework and analyze some key points, such as the hardware to use, the data stream, and the network coverage, but also the complete resulting implementation of the applied unmanned aerial system (UAS) communication system through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) featuring a long-range telemetry high-capacity video link (up to 15 Mbps, 720 p video at 30 fps with 250 ms of latency). The application results in the real-time exploitation of the video, obtaining key information for traffic managers such as vehicle tracking, vehicle classification, speed estimation, and roundabout in-out matrices. The imagery downloads and storage is also performed thorough internet, although the Structure from Motion postprocessing is not real-time due to photogrammetric workflows. In conclusion, we describe a real-case application of drone connection to internet thorough 4G network, but it can be adapted to other applications. Although 5G will -in time- surpass 4G capacities, the described framework can enhance drone performance and facilitate paths for upgrading the connection of on-board devices to the 5G network. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Feature Papers of Drones)
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Article
Ears in the Sky: Potential of Drones for the Bioacoustic Monitoring of Birds and Bats
Drones 2021, 5(1), 9; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010009 - 26 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1417
Abstract
In the context of global biodiversity loss, wildlife population monitoring is a major challenge. Some innovative techniques such as the use of drones—also called unmanned aerial vehicle/system (UAV/UAS)—offer promising opportunities. The potential of UAS-based wildlife census using high-resolution imagery is now well established [...] Read more.
In the context of global biodiversity loss, wildlife population monitoring is a major challenge. Some innovative techniques such as the use of drones—also called unmanned aerial vehicle/system (UAV/UAS)—offer promising opportunities. The potential of UAS-based wildlife census using high-resolution imagery is now well established for terrestrial mammals or birds that can be seen on images. Nevertheless, the ability of UASs to detect non-conspicuous species, such as small birds below the forest canopy, remains an open question. This issue can be solved with bioacoustics for acoustically active species such as bats and birds. In this context, UASs represent an interesting solution that could be deployed on a larger scale, at lower risk for the operator, and over hard-to-reach locations, such as forest canopies or complex topographies, when compared with traditional protocols (fixed location recorders placed or handled by human operators). In this context, this study proposes a methodological framework to assess the potential of UASs in bioacoustic surveys for birds and bats, using low-cost audible and ultrasound recorders mounted on a low-cost quadcopter UAS (DJI Phantom 3 Pro). The proposed methodological workflow can be straightforwardly replicated in other contexts to test the impact of other UAS bioacoustic recording platforms in relation to the targeted species and the specific UAS design. This protocol allows one to evaluate the sensitivity of UAS approaches through the estimate of the effective detection radius for the different species investigated at several flight heights. The results of this study suggest a strong potential for the bioacoustic monitoring of birds but are more contrasted for bat recordings, mainly due to quadcopter noise (i.e., electronic speed controller (ESC) noise) but also, in a certain manner, to the experimental design (use of a directional speaker with limited call intensity). Technical developments, such as the use of a winch to safely extent the distance between the UAS and the recorder during UAS sound recordings or the development of an innovative platform, such as a plane–blimp hybrid UAS, should make it possible to solve these issues. Full article
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Review
The Drone Revolution of Shark Science: A Review
Drones 2021, 5(1), 8; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010008 - 21 Jan 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 4223
Abstract
Over the past decade, drones have become a popular tool for wildlife management and research. Drones have shown significant value for animals that were often difficult or dangerous to study using traditional survey methods. In the past five years drone technology has become [...] Read more.
Over the past decade, drones have become a popular tool for wildlife management and research. Drones have shown significant value for animals that were often difficult or dangerous to study using traditional survey methods. In the past five years drone technology has become commonplace for shark research with their use above, and more recently, below the water helping to minimise knowledge gaps about these cryptic species. Drones have enhanced our understanding of shark behaviour and are critically important tools, not only due to the importance and conservation of the animals in the ecosystem, but to also help minimise dangerous encounters with humans. To provide some guidance for their future use in relation to sharks, this review provides an overview of how drones are currently used with critical context for shark monitoring. We show how drones have been used to fill knowledge gaps around fundamental shark behaviours or movements, social interactions, and predation across multiple species and scenarios. We further detail the advancement in technology across sensors, automation, and artificial intelligence that are improving our abilities in data collection and analysis and opening opportunities for shark-related beach safety. An investigation of the shark-based research potential for underwater drones (ROV/AUV) is also provided. Finally, this review provides baseline observations that have been pioneered for shark research and recommendations for how drones might be used to enhance our knowledge in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Article
The Methodological Aspects of Constructing a High-Resolution DEM of Large Territories Using Low-Cost UAVs on the Example of the Sarycum Aeolian Complex, Dagestan, Russia
Drones 2021, 5(1), 7; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010007 - 19 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1455
Abstract
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have long been well established as a reliable way to construct highly accurate, up-to-date digital elevation models (DEM). However, the territories which were modeled by the results of UAV surveys can be characterized as very local. This paper presents [...] Read more.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have long been well established as a reliable way to construct highly accurate, up-to-date digital elevation models (DEM). However, the territories which were modeled by the results of UAV surveys can be characterized as very local. This paper presents the results of surveying the Sarycum area of the Dagestan Nature Reserve of Russia with an area of 15 sq. km using a DJI Phantom 4 UAV, as well as the methodological recommendations for conducting work on such a large territory. As a result of this work, a DEM with 0.5 m resolution as well as an ultrahigh resolution orthophotoplane were obtained for the first time for this territory, which make it possible to assess the dynamics of aeolian processes at a qualitatively different level. Full article
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Article
A Citizen Science Unmanned Aerial System Data Acquisition Protocol and Deep Learning Techniques for the Automatic Detection and Mapping of Marine Litter Concentrations in the Coastal Zone
Drones 2021, 5(1), 6; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010006 - 18 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2278
Abstract
Marine litter (ML) accumulation in the coastal zone has been recognized as a major problem in our time, as it can dramatically affect the environment, marine ecosystems, and coastal communities. Existing monitoring methods fail to respond to the spatiotemporal changes and dynamics of [...] Read more.
Marine litter (ML) accumulation in the coastal zone has been recognized as a major problem in our time, as it can dramatically affect the environment, marine ecosystems, and coastal communities. Existing monitoring methods fail to respond to the spatiotemporal changes and dynamics of ML concentrations. Recent works showed that unmanned aerial systems (UAS), along with computer vision methods, provide a feasible alternative for ML monitoring. In this context, we proposed a citizen science UAS data acquisition and annotation protocol combined with deep learning techniques for the automatic detection and mapping of ML concentrations in the coastal zone. Five convolutional neural networks (CNNs) were trained to classify UAS image tiles into two classes: (a) litter and (b) no litter. Testing the CCNs’ generalization ability to an unseen dataset, we found that the VVG19 CNN returned an overall accuracy of 77.6% and an f-score of 77.42%. ML density maps were created using the automated classification results. They were compared with those produced by a manual screening classification proving our approach’s geographical transferability to new and unknown beaches. Although ML recognition is still a challenging task, this study provides evidence about the feasibility of using a citizen science UAS-based monitoring method in combination with deep learning techniques for the quantification of the ML load in the coastal zone using density maps. Full article
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Article
Quantifying Waterfowl Numbers: Comparison of Drone and Ground-Based Survey Methods for Surveying Waterfowl on Artificial Waterbodies
Drones 2021, 5(1), 5; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010005 - 13 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1322
Abstract
Drones are becoming a common method for surveying wildlife as they offer an aerial perspective of the landscape. For waterbirds in particular, drones can overcome challenges associated with surveying locations not accessible on foot. With the rapid uptake of drone technology for bird [...] Read more.
Drones are becoming a common method for surveying wildlife as they offer an aerial perspective of the landscape. For waterbirds in particular, drones can overcome challenges associated with surveying locations not accessible on foot. With the rapid uptake of drone technology for bird surveys, there is a need to compare and calibrate new technologies with existing survey methods. We compared waterfowl counts derived from ground- and drone-based survey methods. We sought to determine if group size and waterbody size influenced the difference between counts of non-nesting waterfowl and if detection of species varied between survey methods. Surveys of waterfowl were carried out at constructed irrigation dams and wastewater treatment ponds throughout the Riverina region of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Data were analyzed using Bayesian multilevel models (BMLM) with weakly informative priors. Overall, drone-derived counts of waterfowl were greater (+36%) than ground counts using a spotting scope (β_ground= 0.64 [0.62–0.66], (R2 = 0.973)). Ground counts also tended to underestimate the size of groups. Waterbody size had an effect on comparative counts, with ground counts being proportionally less than drone counts (mean = 0.74). The number of species identified in each waterbody type was similar regardless of survey method. Drone-derived counts are more accurate compared to traditional ground counts, but drones do have some drawbacks including initial equipment costs and time-consuming image or photo processing. Future surveys should consider using drones for more accurately surveying waterbirds, especially when large groups of birds are present on larger waterbodies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Article
Automated Agave Detection and Counting Using a Convolutional Neural Network and Unmanned Aerial Systems
Drones 2021, 5(1), 4; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010004 - 01 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1333
Abstract
We present an automatic agave detection method for counting plants based on aerial data from a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). Our objective is to autonomously count the number of agave plants in an area to aid management of the yield. An orthomosaic is [...] Read more.
We present an automatic agave detection method for counting plants based on aerial data from a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). Our objective is to autonomously count the number of agave plants in an area to aid management of the yield. An orthomosaic is obtained from agave plantations, which is then used to create a database. This database is in turn used to train a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). The proposed method is based on computer image processing, and the CNN increases the detection performance of the approach. The main contribution of the present paper is to propose a method for agave plant detection with a high level of precision. In order to test the proposed method in a real agave plantation, we develop a UAV platform, which is equipped with several sensors to reach accurate counting. Therefore, our prototype can safely track a desired path to detect and count agave plants. For comparison purposes, we perform the same application using a simpler algorithm. The result shows that our proposed algorithm has better performance reaching an F1 score of 0.96 as opposed to 0.57 for the Haar algorithm. The obtained experimental results suggest that the proposed algorithm is robust and has considerable potential to help farmers manage agave agroecosystems. Full article
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Article
TomoSim: A Tomographic Simulator for Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy
Drones 2021, 5(1), 3; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010003 - 29 Dec 2020
Viewed by 1226
Abstract
TomoSim comes as part of project ATMOS, a miniaturised Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) tomographic atmospheric evaluation device, designed to fit a small drone. During the development of the project, it became necessary to write a simulation tool for system validation. TomoSim is [...] Read more.
TomoSim comes as part of project ATMOS, a miniaturised Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) tomographic atmospheric evaluation device, designed to fit a small drone. During the development of the project, it became necessary to write a simulation tool for system validation. TomoSim is the answer to this problem. The software has two main goals: to mathematically validate the tomographic acquisition method; and to allow some adjustments to the system before reaching final product stages. This measurement strategy was based on a drone performing a sequential trajectory and gathering projections arranged in fan beams, before using some classical tomographic methods to reconstruct a spectral image. The team tested three different reconstruction algorithms, all of which were able to produce an image, validating the team’s initial assumptions regarding the trajectory and acquisition strategy. All algorithms were assessed on their computational performance and their ability for reconstructing spectral “images”, using two phantoms, one of which custom made for this purpose. In the end, the team was also able to uncover certain limitations of the TomoSim approach that should be addressed before the final stages of the system. Full article
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Article
Inter-UAV Routing Scheme Testbeds
Drones 2021, 5(1), 2; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010002 - 28 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1684
Abstract
With the development of more advanced and efficient control algorithms and communication architectures, UAVs and networks thereof (swarms) now find applications in nearly all possible environments and scenarios. There exist numerous schemes which accommodate routing for such networks, many of which are specifically [...] Read more.
With the development of more advanced and efficient control algorithms and communication architectures, UAVs and networks thereof (swarms) now find applications in nearly all possible environments and scenarios. There exist numerous schemes which accommodate routing for such networks, many of which are specifically designed for distinct use-cases. Validation and evaluation of routing schemes is implemented for the most part using simulation software. This approach is however incapable of considering real-life noise, radio propagation models, channel bit error rate and signal-to-noise ratio. Most importantly, existing frameworks or simulation software cannot sense physical-layer related information regarding power consumption which an increasing number of routing protocols utilize as a metric. The work presented in this paper contributes to the analysis of already existing routing scheme evaluation frameworks and testbeds and proposes an efficient, universal and standardized hardware testbed. Additionally, three interface modes aimed at evaluation under different scenarios are provided. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Feature Papers of Drones)
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Article
Spatio-Temporal Change Monitoring of Outside Manure Piles Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Images
Drones 2021, 5(1), 1; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/drones5010001 - 23 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 951
Abstract
Water quality deterioration due to outdoor loading of livestock manure requires efficient management of outside manure piles (OMPs). This study was designed to investigate OMPs using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for efficient management of non-point source pollution in agricultural areas. A UAV was [...] Read more.
Water quality deterioration due to outdoor loading of livestock manure requires efficient management of outside manure piles (OMPs). This study was designed to investigate OMPs using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for efficient management of non-point source pollution in agricultural areas. A UAV was used to acquire image data, and the distribution and cover installation status of OMPs were identified through ortho-images; the volumes of OMP were calculated using digital surface model (DSM). UAV- and terrestrial laser scanning (TLS)-derived DSMs were compared for identifying the accuracy of calculated volumes. The average volume accuracy was 92.45%. From April to October, excluding July, the monthly average volumes of OMPs in the study site ranged from 64.89 m3 to 149.69 m3. Among the 28 OMPs investigated, 18 were located near streams or agricultural waterways. Establishing priority management areas among the OMP sites distributed in a basin is possible using spatial analysis, and it is expected that the application of UAV technology will contribute to the efficient management of OMPs and other non-point source pollutants. Full article
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