Saving The Planet Using Drones

by Afiq Bahruddin

There are plenty of ways that drones are being used beyond purely commercial operations. Some of them are even doing some good to the planet. Here are five ways drones are saving the environment.

12 years to save the planet? Make it 18 months now; wrote a BBC environment correspondent, Matt McGrath.

McGrath’s article title written last July has since garnered attention everywhere especially in online communities and platforms.

International communities and individuals are now paying their utmost attention in the effort to administer preventive actions to deal with all-time pressing environmental issues.

If you are following Poladrone’s updates and blogs, or just following the trends in UAV industry generally, you would be well informed about the usage of drones across industries such as construction, agriculture and many more.

You might have noticed that drones have been mentioned to be able to aid in environmental preservation efforts. But do you know in what way exactly drones are helping championing the environmental recovery efforts and process?

Find out how researchers and scientists put the practicality of drones to bolster their preservation operations and actions.

Disaster management

Disaster management is basically the function that can be found not only in environmental conservation but also is heavily utilised in SAR operations. While SAR normally involves areas when humans live, disaster management in the context of environmental preservation is to monitor natural disasters such as wildfire, drought and so on.

The Amazon wildfire that happened recently shooked the world because it was happening at a very large scale while continue to spread without any signs of stopping. Wildfires are a common occurrence in Amazon because of farmers clearing lands for agriculture, but losing track or control over the fire spreading can result in a large scale wildfire like the world has just witnessed.

Drones can be used to monitor the hotspots area which is the area that has higher tendencies to be caught in fire (regardless by natural cause or by human incitement).

These hotspots are normally identified by the higher percentage of dry materials (such as dried shrubs and leaves, or forest which is close to agriculture spots that practice forest fire to clear out lands.

Generally speaking, tropical forests are less prone to be caught in fire due to the amount of shade and the high density of living plants compared to forest growing in dry climate.

Nevertheless, these hotspots are normally monitored using both normal camera and thermal camera. Thermal camera can identify specific areas which are really dry or facing drought/dry season and precautions will be taken by authorities to take preventive actions.

In Malaysia, several state forestry departments, such as Sarawak and Pahang, have adopted drones as one of their assets to monitor the forestry area under their jurisdiction more carefully.

Wildlife Momitoring

The other key usage of drones in forestry is to monitor wildlife especially the key species that are facing imminent threat of extinction. Moreover, monitoring can also serve the purpose of tracking animals’ population, determining the animal’s behaviour, and migration routes.

However, drones can be noisy and sometimes bothering and stressing the animals out. As such, to curb the minimal disturbance to the animals so their activities patterns are not messed up.

To overcome this downside of drone usage, scientists and environmentalists had come up with a code of best practices to make sure the supposed behaviour of the animal is not altered when they are observed through drones.

Another reason why drones are chosen to be adopted into conservatism practices is because of the reliable accuracy and that is very useful in forecasting the population of a species.

Furthermore, national parks or forest rangers are using drones to monitor any suspicious activities such as poaching and illegal hunting inside the forest or parks under their watch.

Deforestation and replanting tracking

Another practical use of drones in conservatism is to monitor the deforestation rate in certain area. Precision mapping that is accurate up to centimetres level has to be put into good use such as measuring the rate of forest clearance.

Deforestation is a very serious issue going on (albeit the global deforestation rate has slowed down) and should be observed carefully to not contributing more towards global warming and other serious issues.

Forest replanting is one of the efforts that has been taken by many parties all around the globe to counter deforestation in hope to put a halt or at least reduce the effects of global warming.

In reforestation, drones can be used to measure the progress and the growth rate of the planted trees. Map models like CHM (Canopy Height Model) compared between a period of time (for example a year), can determine the need for further human intervention such as improving irrigation or so on.

Other than monitoring, drones also are suitable for seed distribution.

Replanting and seeds distribution

Seed distribution is extremely important in reforestation efforts. This is due to the fact that drones can easily cover a large area in seed dispersion process. What’s more important is that the dispersal pattern is more even and consistent compared to the manual method.

Evenly distributed seeds will have more rooms to germinate, without having to compete for nutrients and space which will contribute directly to a faster growth rate of the trees.

Spraying drones such as Poladrone’s own PV-15 which can be doubled as seed spreading drone is the ideal type of drones that can be automated for forest restoration.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy would be the best alternative in cutting down reliance on fossil consuming energy. Renewable energy generators such as solar panel farm, geothermal plant, wind turbines and so on are regarded as clean energy sources as little to minimum carbon emission.

The application of drones here would be almost the same in other areas which is the plant/energy plant inspection.

Drone sensors and cameras can easily detect any leakage, fluctuations and damaged areas in plants and generators.

Another application, however, is to help in identifying suitable spots and areas where new renewable energy plants can be built.

Aerial mapping can distinguish the terrain of potential spots and the geographical shape then is analysed to discern the suitability of the area.

Moreover, the ideal spot would require an abundance of renewable energy. For example, to build a wind turbine, you would need to identify areas with strong wind flow, for example, coastal areas and hills.

This can be done using drones that are equipped with wind speed detection such as weather forecasting drones.

Similarly, this kind of drones can be utilised in searching for areas with steady sunlight coverage all-year-round for solar energy farms.

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