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Earth Conservation with a Unique Sky View

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The global celebration of Earth Day sparks a variety of activities throughout the month of April, from recycling to water consumption, tree planting to carpooling. But what about when it comes to a more large-scale conservation effort? One of the tools scientists are using to monitor a variety of conservation efforts around the globe is aerial imagery.

The eye-in-the-sky capture of ground information provides visual data that scientists can more reliably use to monitor areas of new growth, deterioration over a period of time, and where viable opportunities may exist to save current resources.

But it’s not just being used for more typical natural landscapes; aerial imagery is also a big player in urban conservation as well. Consider the level of detail required to address metropolitan sustainability with recreational space, improved air and water quality, or even green building construction. With aerial imagery, conservation efforts can reach new heights on a variety of fronts.

Popular capture techniques

Depending on the size and location of the area being monitored, there are a few ways that scientists and conservationists alike can obtain visual data of a location:

Type Benefits Challenges
Satellite
Access readily available with
common platform – low to no cost.
Quick, simple to navigate.
Global coverage.
Frequency of data capture.
Atmospheric elements blocking
views.
Fewer angles captured.

Aerial (fixed-wing)

Higher resolution (up to 4x greater
than satellite).
Increased data capture (2-3x per
year).
Imagery integrates with popular
data sources (ArcGIS, AutoCAD,
etc).
Vertical, panorama, oblique, 3D
views.
Aerial coverage varies.
3D focused on urban areas.
Drone
Higher resolution imagery.
Ability to get closer to area of
interest.
Multiple angles (vertical, oblique,
3D) captured, especially in video.
Photography not as rich as video
capture.
Must be in relative proximity to
area of interest.
LiDAR
High accuracy of data – higher
sample density.
Elevation data easier to obtain in
dense canopy.
More expensive aerial imagery
option.
Output datasets very large.
Complex and time-intensive
processing.


Which method works best?

So which method would provide the best outcome? In the end, any method that helps with conservation is a benefit for all. Whether tracking the growth of eelgrass in Rhode Island, mapping the biodiversity of the Amazon Basin, or monitoring urban tree canopies, having an eye-in-the-sky is a clear advantage. More information means better data for decision making, which in turn could impact improved conservation for our planet, now and in the future.

For more Earth Day tips, check out https://www.earthday.org for additional information.

RhodeIsland_NearmapNapatree Point, Rhode Island - captured October 16, 2018

AkronOH_NearmapAkron, OH - captured September 20, 2018

 
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