Drone Chronicles

If you are an avid reader of the flog, you may remember hearing about a drone joining Team Echinacea in the summer of 2017. Here’s some information about what happened with the drone, and where we stand now.

Prior to the summer of 2017, I applied for and received a Research Grant from Northwestern University to fund a study of floral resources along the roadsides in Douglas County, MN. As part of my research proposal, I planned to use the drone to take photos along roadsides to quantify the floral resources available for pollinators. The first few days I was working with the drone I was hopeful it would provide useful for answering that research question. I was able to get an overhead view encompassing all of p1, and to see some beautiful views of Douglas County.

This is what p1 looks like from above today!

Douglas County, views above p1

But, as time went on, and my trials for surveying roadsides began, I realized the images produced by the drone were not going to be high enough resolution to identify different species and get accurate estimates of flower cover for the different species. This proved to be a frustrating realization, but didn’t prevent me from obtaining measures (by hand) of roadside flowering communities each week for the rest of the summer. In summation, I do not recommend the use of the drone for images where high resolution is critical. Although experts in the world of drones had thought my research questions would be adequately answerable with the resolution offered in the drone I purchased, my experience has taught me that for fine scale work- such as identifying plants and their cover- drones must have higher quality resolution capabilities to provide useful metrics. If, however, the goal is to quantify plant cover generally, estimate the percent bare ground, or look at the overall amount of green in the landscape, drone images at this quality would provide useful.



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