Innovation Center

Join us to create the next generation of tools to solve problems in the nation's lands, waters and ecosystems.

announcing UAS Workshop!!

March 28-30 2017, NASA Ames Research Center bldg 3, Moffett Field, Mountain View, CA

UAS workshop flyer

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Goals:

  1. Align Federal efforts where advantageous, promote partnerships
  2. Discuss new and emerging capabilities (e.g., payloads, platforms, communications, onboard processing, data processing and integration, data management)
  3. Share current experiences, including lessons learned, and future plans
  4. Explore science opportunities with emerging new tools (High Altitude Long Endurance, Payload Directed Flight)

Format: The meeting will consist of Agency summaries, science reports, panel discussions and topical breakout sessions.

Whom: Federal scientists, engineers, operations and technologists working on UAS or UAS-capable sensors.  Private organizations and academic partners by invitation, U.S. citizenship required.

Why attend: This will be an opportunity to meet the Federal community of users in a relaxed, convivial environment; discuss current and future activities, explore the range of sensors and platforms available for missions; and discuss the next generation of capabilities and the science we could accomplish with them.


UAS Projects

Scroll to 2015 workshop

FY 2016 Funded UAS Proposals

Tracking radio-tagged Asian Carp with Unmanned Aircraft System

Talus and microclimate mapping with UAS and airborne LiDAR to identify mechanisms of mammalian distribution

Utilization of UAS imagery collected near the dates of Landsat overpasses for Dynamic Surface Water Extent Landsat Science Product Assessment

Integration of unmanned aircraft systems and optical flow algorithms for remote sensing of water-surface velocity in rivers

UAS survey of water surface temperatures in the Bad River and Kakagon Sloughs, WI

Reservoir bathymetry from UAS during drawdowns of Fall Creek Lake, Oregon

Effects of Changes in Tamarisk Evapotranspiration on Groundwater at a Southwestern Uranium Mill Tailings Site

High-Resolution Aeromagnetic and Photogrammetric survey of the Mesquite Hills, CA

Data collection at the West Fork mine

Evaluation of UAS photogrammetry and comparison to ground and aerial surveys for monitoring geomorphic condition of fine sediment deposits along the Colorado River

Rapid-response mapping of coastal change

Mapping Channel Dynamics in Inter-dam Deposits

Assessing hydrologic function, plant stress, and success of bottomland restoration using UAS

Enhanced Variable Rate Irrigation using Thermal-Infrared-Imagery Acquired from Unmanned Aerial Systems in Southwest Georgia

Elevation, IR and Visible Data Collection for a Hydrological Study at Farm Creek Marsh, Dorchester County, MD

Mapping coastal cliff morphology and change with unmanned aircraft systems

Identification and mapping of tile drains using thermal infrared imagery: transitioning low-altitude data to satellite-data method

Using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for coastal monitoring in the Everglades– proof of concept

Class I UAVs Designed for Very High Resolution Aeromagnetic Surveys


Tracking radio-tagged Asian Carp with Unmanned Aircraft System

Duane Chapman - Columbia Environmental Research Center, Columbia MO

The ability to track fish such as invasive Asian carp is critical in characterizing their habitat, use and movement, spawning locations, feeding habitats, overwinter refugia, and general movement patterns. We anticipate that a UAS-based approach for tracking fish that are radio-tagged will prove effective and used widely.  The USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center in collaboration with other Midwest USGS Centers is currently using Asian carp implanted with Lotek combined acoustic and radio transmitting (CART) tags to locate schools of Asian carp.  Locating the tagged fish is a time-consuming task, and carp that are in areas inaccessible with the boat and out of range of the receiver simply cannot be located.  The radio tag signals are best sensed from above the target at heights beyond that of the antenna on the boat, and thus a UAS equipped with a receiver (0.8-2.4kg) should be able to sense the radio-tagged fish underwater.  Once fish are located, we will boat to the site to deploy side-scan sonar to assess the population of the school and habitat. UAS sensing of the CART tags will reduce the amount of time it takes to locate tagged Asian carp by boat alone in lakes, streams, rivers, and will be especially useful in backwater and island labyrinths as they expand their range.


Talus and microclimate mapping with UAS and airborne LiDAR to identify mechanisms of mammalian distribution

UAS USGS

Aaron Johnston - Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Bozeman, MT

New approaches to habitat characterization are needed to address questions about ecosystems effectively and cost-efficiently, particularly in montane ecosystems where rapid changes in community assemblages have coincided with recent warming trends. Talus provides unique and essential habitat for several montane species but is inadequately mapped to support studies of ecosystem dynamics. Surface and subsurface temperatures may differ by >30° C within talus which provides important microrefugia for species sensitive to extreme heat such as the American pika (Ochotona princeps). Structure from motion likely describes topography at sufficient resolution to map talus at biologically meaningful scales for pikas and other montane species. We propose to model talus, microclimate, and vegetative characteristics with sensors aboard a UAS for comparison to our measures from airborne LiDAR and the ground. We will assess data requirements and efficiency of alternative data sources for development of GIS layers that describe habitat characteristics important to montane fauna.


Utilization of UAS imagery collected near the dates of Landsat overpasses for Dynamic Surface Water Extent Landsat Science Product Assessment

John Jones - Eastern Geographic Science Center, Reston, VA

A broad spectrum of scientists and resource managers require information on the dynamics of surface water extent, that is, the amount of non-ocean area covered by water through time. Surface water extent both reflects and affects climate, hydrology, land use, ecosystem conditions, ecosystem services and the impact of natural hazards. And information on surface water extent can be used to produce more accurate geospatial data products such as digital hydrography, elevation and land cover. The USGS is developing a dynamic surface water extent (DSWE) Landsat Science Product to support the requirements of the Department of the Interior, their collaborating agencies and the scientific/resource management sectors as a whole.  The uncertainty associated with the DSWE product must be characterized to the greatest extent possible if it is to be properly applied and refined through continued development. The best way to examine DSWE uncertainty is to compare surface water extent estimated by the DSWE against that estimated from higher-resolution image data collected as close to the timing of Landsat satellite overpass as possible (preferably within 1 day of overpass). This is necessary because surface water extent and soil moisture conditions are so transient/dynamic. Better characterization of DSWE uncertainty would be obtained through comparison of imagery collected under a broader range of climatic/land cover conditions. UAS technology provides the opportunity to collect data in a wide variety of environments/conditions at known dates of satellite overpass and when atmospheric conditions allow somewhat clear Landsat image acquisition.  Without imposing data collection specific to this project, we propose to use whatever suitable data are collected by other projects awarded through this program for DSWE product assessment.


Integration of unmanned aircraft systems and optical flow algorithms for remote sensing of water-surface velocity in rivers

Paul Kinzel - National Research Program, Lakewood, CO 

The USGS currently operates about 7,500 stream gages across the United States. The Hydro21 program initiated by USGS over a decade ago sought to develop new techniques for discharge measurement and resulted in several novel approaches. Within the last few years, both Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technology and optical flow algorithms (e.g. Particle Imaging Velocimetry or PIV) have developed to the point where their integration has the potential to provide USGS hydrographers innovative tools for collecting detailed measurements of surface velocity from remote platforms (e.g. UAS).   The goal of this project is to test recently procured UAS quadcopter platforms. We will first evaluate GPS positioning accuracy and precision. The image sequences need to be precisely collected while hovering and staring over a patch of flowing water and then advanced to the next station across the river. We anticipate that high precision will be needed for navigation and to scale the image sequences. The ability of the camera payload to resolve floating debris at various altitudes will also be examined. Finally, we will develop a workflow for PIV processing to provide maps of riverine surface velocity.


UAS survey of water surface temperatures in the Bad River and Kakagon Sloughs, WI

UAS USGS

Andrew Leaf - Wisconsin Water Science Center, Middleton, WI 

The Bad River and Kakagon Sloughs are a coastal wetland complex located in northern Wisconsin, on the south shore of Lake Superior, in the Bad River Indian Reservation. The sloughs contain the largest remaining wild rice beds in the Great Lakes Basin, and are central to the cultural identity of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. They were recently designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance (http://www.ramsar.org/). A better understanding of the water budget in the sloughs is needed to inform management of this valuable resource. Groundwater is known to discharge to the sloughs, but the locations and magnitude of discharge, and the role of groundwater in maintaining the ecological health of the sloughs and the wild rice beds are not well understood. Discharging groundwater is approximately 8 deg C, or about 9-17 deg C less than the average daily water temperature in the Bad River during the months of June and July. Therefore water temperature provides a measurable indicator of groundwater discharge. A boat-based temperature survey is planned for this summer. However, this survey will be limited to areas accessible by the boat, excluding shallow water and areas where emergent vegetation such as the wild rice would be disturbed. A UAS survey with thermal imaging would resolve this access problem, allowing for a more comprehensive investigation of groundwater discharge. Apparent surface temperatures and/or temperature contrasts from the UAS survey could be compared to ground measurements of temperature and groundwater discharge using seepage meters.


Reservoir bathymetry from UAS during drawdowns of Fall Creek Lake, Oregon

UAS USGS

Joseph Mangano – Oregon Water Science Center, Portland, OR

Retro-fitting high-head dams to enhance downstream passage of Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed fish species is expensive, but a low-cost approach used at Fall Creek Lake in western Oregon entails a drawdown operation whereby lake levels are lowered so that downstream migrants can pass through the regulating outlet of the dam. Since 2011, annual drawdowns at Fall Creek Lake have yielded successful downstream passage, but have also liberated substantial volumes of sediment that have filled downstream side-channels and sloughs used by native fish with potential impacts to channel capacity in the stream reaches below Fall Creek dam.  The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) hopes to minimize sediment impacts at Fall Creek and potentially apply lessons learned from this site to other dams in the Willamette Valley. In response to this effort, the USGS is engaged in multiple research efforts to inform these decisions. Like a dam removal study, the downstream sediment impacts from the drawdown operation are driven by sediment evacuation within the reservoir.  We seek to understand the processes and rates of reservoir erosion by evaluating changes in reservoir bathymetry using DEM differencing.  A UAS-acquired DEM collected during the winter 2015/2016 drawdown would be compared with lidar from the 2012 drawdown, and would form a basis for continued monitoring of the site.  Developing repeat DEMs of the reservoir bathymetry during the annual drawdown using a camera-equipped UAS presents a unique opportunity to develop and refine this technology for use in other reservoir management and dam removal studies. A UAS-based approach would avoid challenges encountered by researchers at previous project sites (i.e. reservoir size, timing of release, cost for lidar, difficult or unsafe ground conditions).


Effects of Changes in Tamarisk Evapotranspiration on Groundwater at a Southwestern Uranium Mill Tailings Site

Pam Nagler - Sonoran Desert Research Station, Tucson, AZ

The USGS Southwest Biological Science Center (SBSC), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and University of Arizona (UA) propose use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to acquire high-resolution spectral data needed to estimate spatial and temporal variability in evapotranspiration (ET) in southwestern riparian ecosystems dominated by tamarisk (Tamarix spp.).  Tamarisk is a non-native tree that competes with native species for water in riparian corridors of the southwestern U.S.  USGS and DOE need similar data to address different scientific problems, and both have or can acquire unique data that the other needs.  SBSC and UA propose using UAS imagery to acquire the high resolution needed to monitor defoliation and other subtle changes in tamarisk populations. SBSC also needs DOE’s groundwater flow and soil water balance data to evaluate effects of variability in ET on southwestern U.S. water resources in response to tamarisk defoliation and regrowth.  Our methods to estimate the effects of changes in tamarisk populations on water use and GW flow at Cold War legacy waste sites would be enhanced by the acquisition of multi-band or full color imagery acquired using an UAS at DOE sites.  UAS imagery would allow us to monitor changes in tamarisk phenology, fractional greenness, ET, and effects on water resources at these DOE sites. We would correlate our ground information with leaf area index (LAI) and possibly sap flow data; the acquisition of this data could be timed with the Landsat overpass to assist with spatiotemporal scaling techniques.  Our goal is to scale plant water use acquired from UAS imagery to Landsat and/or MODIS to provide a time-series for documenting long-term trends and relationships of ET and GW elevation. 

Jody Waugh, Jody.Waugh@lm.doe.gov
Pamela Nagler, pnagler@usgs.gov


Data collection at the West Fork mine

UAS USGS

Joe Richards - Missouri Water Science Center, Rolla MO

The West Fork mine, approximately 6 miles east of Bunker, Missouri, is an underground lead-zinc mine, and the ore body is located approximately 1,000 feet below the land surface. In April 2014 mine personnel observed a partial mine roof collapse in the vicinity of the mill and tailings pond. Not long after, water began entering the mine and surface features such as sinkholes and cracks began to form at the land surface. Two small sinkholes formed at the toe of the main tailings dam and one sinkhole formed in the crest of the dam of a small overflow pond, which were subsequently repaired. In May-June 2014, additional ground movement occurred and additional cracks and several 20-50 foot diameter sinkholes formed near the toe of the east side of the tailings pond dam. Two settling ponds north of the main tailings pond dam drained. There has been a decline in water levels in monitoring wells in the area and a loss of flow in the river.  Four other sinkholes have appeared in the area: one in the West Fork of the Black River channel, two nearby the river, and one in a pasture near a cemetery on private property. The river channel was rerouted to mitigate the loss of surface water. The most recent ground movement at the site has been in March 2015. Repairs and monitoring have been occurring at the site as safety considerations allow.  The main tailings pond dam has numerous ground cracks that have been visually identified and marked by Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) personnel. There is concern that the land surface in the general area is unstable and that there is a risk of failure of the main tailings pond dam which could expose the West Fork of the Black River to a large volume of heavy metal laden mine tailings and could cause environmental damage for some distance downstream from the site. At the request of the MDNR, the USGS made a reconnaissance of the site with MDNR representatives on June 25, 2014 to determine the feasibility of conducting detailed ground-based LiDAR scans of the area for the purpose of assisting the MDNR in identifying ground movement over time as part of their assessment of the main tailings dam stability. Because the area has been closed to vehicular traffic and because of the risk of ground instability to instrumentation and personnel, it was determined that the ground-based LiDAR scanning was unfeasible at that time.  Collection of high-resolution images and elevation data from a UAS would provide much needed information to the MDNR without needlessly risking personnel and equipment in a potentially unstable area


Evaluation of UAS photogrammetry and comparison to ground and aerial surveys for monitoring geomorphic condition of fine sediment deposits along the Colorado River

UAS USGS

Joel Sankey, Daniel Buscombe, Paul Grams - Southwest Biological Science Center and Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, Flagstaff, AZ 

At the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC), we are looking for affordable and efficient alternatives and augmentations to our current approaches to monitoring the geomorphic condition of sandbars, terraces and other fine-sediment deposits along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon region, Arizona. We use topographic change detection to monitor erosion and deposition of fine-grained fluvial sandbars and terraces. In-channel sandbars typically aggrade during periodic controlled floods from Glen Canyon Dam and erode during intervening dam operations. Terraces erode by gullying and aeolian (wind) processes. Monitoring is currently accomplished with a combination of topographic survey methods including conventional total station, ground-based lidar, and lidar and digital photogrammetry from manned aerial platforms.  We are specifically interested in using structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry using imagery collected from UAV platforms to derive DEMs of our study areas along the river. This will be a less expensive and more efficient approach to acquire digital topographic data from near-nadir perspectives at greater spatial extent than ground-based lidar, and less expensive at comparable resolution to aerial lidar and/or automated digital photogrammetry. It will require fewer technicians on the ground and result in less site disturbance by trampling than conventional surveys and ground-based lidar. We propose that the USGS UAS program acquire data at monitoring sites on the Colorado River in Glen Canyon and produce DEMs for us to evaluate relative to our current data for monitoring topographic change. If through the proposed proof of concept demonstration by the USGS UAS program, the UAS-based SfM method proves to be complementary to, better, more affordable, or more efficient than our current methods, this would allow us to adopt the method within our operations at GCMRC and in conjunction with the USGS UAS program. In addition to monitoring terraces and fine-sediment deposits along the Colorado River in Glen Canyon, we have active sandbar, riparian, and cultural resource monitoring programs that extend from Glen Canyon Dam downriver through Grand Canyon to Lake Mead that would be poised to adopt affordable and efficient UAS monitoring.

Contact: Joel B. Sankey (jsankey@usgs.gov; 928-556-7289)


Rapid-response mapping of coastal change

UAS USGS

Chris Sherwood - Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, Woods Hole, MA

The Coastal and Marine Geology Program conducts research to monitor and assess coastal hazards and changes in landscape, land use, and ecosystems. This research includes mapping of offshore and coastal bathymetry, topography, geology, and habitat. Coastal hazards are assessed using these data with statistical and process-based models.  Coastal change is episodic. Significant changes in the beach and nearshore regions; erosion of dunes, bluffs, and cliffs; overwash; inlet formation; and changes in habitat occur in a matter of hours during storms. Major geomorphic changes occur with (at best) 24 to 48 hours advance notice, often after long periods of relatively slow change.  Prediction of storm impact in coastal regions requires accurate and up-to-date maps of coastal morphology on land (bluff or dune height, beach slope and width) and in the water (nearshore bars and shoals, offshore bathymetry). Evaluation of geomorphic response models requires accurate maps of the same features immediately after the events, before anthropogenic or natural fair weather processes modify the storm-related changes. Thus, the ability to map before and after infrequent but significant events is critically important.  Structure-from-motion (sfm) is a new but proven technique for making high-resolution maps from multiple photographic images. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) provide the ability to acquire these images and map coastal features quickly, safely, and inexpensively, on short notice and with minimal impact.  The advantages of sfm mapping with UAS provide a compelling case for its use by the USGS Coastal and Marine geology program. We propose to conduct a proof-of-concept survey of a segment of a dynamic and vulnerable coastline in that includes beaches, dunes, bluffs, and wetlands. This survey will provide the USGS and landowners with a high-resolution topographic digital elevation map, a digital surface model, and an orthophotomosaic to compare with previous maps and orthophotos and to serve as a baseline for comparison with future surveys. It will also provide an opportunity to test the mapping technology and evaluate its potential for assessing vegetation cover and habit, mapping details in wetlands such as small channels and mosquito ditches, and measuring the faces of steep bluffs.


Mapping Channel Dynamics in Inter-dam Deposits

UAS USGS

Katherine Skalak - National Research Program, Reston, VA

The Missouri River has a long history of anthropogenic modification with considerable impacts on riparian ecology, channel form, and sediment dynamics. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Missouri River basin experienced several massive dam-building efforts for irrigation, flood control, and the generation of hydroelectric power, resulting in ~1/3 of the river being inundated by reservoirs. These reservoir water levels have extremely high fluctuation rates resulting in significant (100+ km) changes in the location of the active delta. These changes operate on daily, seasonal, and decadal cycles. Reservoir fluctuations combined with upstream dam influences has created a newly emergent landform that is both geomorphically distinct, ecologically valuable, and can affect flooding, ice jams, reservoir sedimentation, and navigation. Yet, despite their importance, the formation and dynamics of deltas are poorly understood as access to sites is hampered by quicksand, shallow water, and shifting channels. Similarly, remote sensing platforms often have gaps over these areas as reservoir levels fluctuate. This results in land surfaces alternating between being inundated during high water levels and being concealed by quickly growing, thick vegetation soon after water level retreats. UAS’s ability to quickly and locally deploy presents a unique opportunity to collect rapidly shifting elevation data to help reconstruct channel location and understand sediment dynamics on these newly prevalent landforms.


Assessing hydrologic function, plant stress, and success of bottomland restoration using UAS

Matthew Struckhoff - Columbia Environmental Research Center, Columbia, MO

Midwest bottomland sites are being restored to hardwood forests via various methods. Assessment of success following restoration to forested conditions requires rapid, short-term assessment tools that can indicate long-term trajectory based on short-term community development. High-resolution aerial photography at critical times enables monitoring of individual planted stems to assess mortality and varying success according to modeled and measured abiotic factors. At three sites in NE Indiana during 2016, this project seeks to:

  1. test the efficacy of high-resolution data to monitor individual stem survival
  2. relate species’ stem survival to hydrology for sites characterized by short-duration flow events
  3. identify photogrammetric indicators of plant stress associated with short-duration flow events
  4. validate modeled hydrology (extent and duration of flooding) using high-resolution aerial photographs
  5. identify photogrammetric indicators of above-ground carbon stocking with ground validation

UAS allow data acquisition coincident with short-duration floods, and can be used with vegetation indices (NDVI, GRVI, RVI, etc.) to assess plant response to these events. For flashy streams, satellite-based data often fails to capture sites during floods when plant physiological response is likely to be most profound. Satellite data may also fail to detect the extent of flooding, limiting our ability to relate stress to the specific hydrologic attributes (extent, depth, duration). Tethered aerial sensors may be functional during early stages of restoration, but will not be functional in full-canopied forests. The greatest logistic obstacle for UAS deployment in support of this project will be anticipating storm events likely to induce flooding in sufficient time to allow travel and equipment preparation.  We will use time-targeted UAS-derived data to validate modeled hydrology during short-lived floods, and simultaneously provide information about plant stress relating to these events. We will use high-resolution multispectral imagery combined with individual stem mapping to detect individual species’ responses to flood events in relation to the depth and duration of flooding on various soil types. UAS-derived data will be paired with site-specific hydrologic data collected on the ground to enable validation of flood-extent modeling based on local river stage and assessment of groundwater-plant condition relationships. UAS-derived data will be complemented by ground-measured climatic data (radiation index, temperature, humidity, etc.) to relate plant stress to climatic conditions. For non-flooding periods, UAS data and structure-from-motion derived products will be compared to estimates of carbon-load derived from plot data to determine if photogrammetric methods are appropriate for estimating carbon sequestration on restored sites.


Enhanced Variable Rate Irrigation using Thermal-Infrared-Imagery Acquired from Unmanned Aerial Systems in Southwest Georgia

UAS USGS

Lynn Torak - South Atlantic Water Science Center, Norcross, GA

Ongoing, multi-year drought has stunted agricultural production in the West and Southwest, placing the burden on the Southeast to produce an increasing share of the Nation’s and world’s food supply. Although groundwater pumping replaced most river-water losses resulting from drought in the West, anticipated doubling of previous years’ pumping rates threatens aquifer depletion as the drought extends underground to include the Nation’s subsurface water supply. Variable rate irrigation, or VRI, isa tool of precision agriculture that optimizes irrigation water applicationbased on data from an array of in-situ soil-moisture and temperature sensors buried in the agricultural field along with calculations of local evapotranspirationMost fields are not uniform due to natural variations in soil type or topography, although center-pivot irrigation systems still apply a singular rate across the field without regard to these variations. Researchers at The University of Georgia's Stripling Irrigation Research Park (SIRP) in Camilla, Georgia, have developed a VRI system for implementing advanced irrigation scheduling and have tested its water-saving efficiency on irrigating a variety of crops. They have shown that VRI-assisted irrigation can save up to 15 percent of applied water compared to non-VRI-assisted irrigation. Thermal infrared (TIR) imagery acquired from unmanned aerial systems (UAS) can facilitate optimizing VRI-assisted agricultural irrigation by defining a continuum of soil-moisture conditions within agricultural fields. Precision irrigation integrating VRI systems with UAS-TIR imagery that identifies soil-moisture variations would simultaneously enhance agricultural production, conserve water and energy resources, and improve profitability and quality of life in the farming community. We propose to collect UAS-TIR imagery over agricultural fields at the SIRP and neighboring instrumented fields. Thermal imagery will be calibrated to in-situ sensor data to provide total-field characterization of soil-moisture and to inform VRI implementation. Metered volumes of irrigation water applied to the instrumented and TIR-imaged agricultural fields will enable assessment of water savings related to UAS-TIR assisted VRI irrigation. The controlled agricultural-research environment at the SIRP represents an ideal setting for this UAS application and VRI enhancement.


Elevation, IR and Visible Data Collection for a Hydrological Study at Farm Creek Marsh, Dorchester County, MD

UAS USGS


Charles Walker - MD-DE-DC Water Science Center, Baltimore MD

Farm Creek Marsh, located in Dorchester County, MD, was once considered prime habitat for the Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) and the Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus). However, in the past few years, the habitat has deteriorated due to what appears to be increased frequency, duration, and magnitude of inundation. Concerned with restoring the habitat of the Virginia Rail and Saltmarsh Sparrow, Audubon Maryland-DC would like to create an engineered solution to decrease the amount of inundation at the site.  Therefore, the USGS MD-DE-DC Water Science Center is currently collecting a variety of hydrologic data that will assist in the design of a remedy for the increased inundation.  Fine scale elevation data is crucial in understanding the micro-watersheds that appear to be having an effect on inundation at the site.  Along with elevation mapping, it would also be beneficial to gain an understanding of potential groundwater/surface water interactions at the site.  This could be accomplished by using TIR photography.  Finally, high-resolution aerial photography will help in the mapping of the current vegetation at the site, with hopes of remapping in the years to come, particularly after any remediation has occurred to reduce inundation.  In 2014, Quality Level 2 LIDAR Data was obtained for Dorchester County, MD.  In addition, there are a number of points in the AOI that have been leveled in using RTK-GPS.  The addition of point cloud elevation data collected by UAS would allow for the evaluation of a third type of elevation data that could be used for this type of project.  One of the known issues for marsh elevation data is in regards to vegetation.  Perhaps with the high-resolution imagery collected by UAS, vegetation types can be mapped and factored into the final elevation product.  This would be a great opportunity to compare different elevation sets and make recommendations on what data is necessary for this type of project.


Mapping coastal cliff morphology and change with unmanned aircraft systems

UAS SUSG


Jonathan A Warrick - Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, Santa Cruz, CA

Coastal cliff erosion can be hazardous to people and infrastructure, yet these erosion processes are not well understood because they are episodic and difficult to observe. The coast of California is especially prone to cliff erosion, and modern erosion rates of these cliffs averaged ~0.3 m/yr over a 70-year aerial photo record. The cliff failures dictating these long-term rates commonly occur during storms, like those accentuated by El Niño winters along the California coast, when waves actively attack the cliff base and face.  Modern techniques to measure and understand cliff erosion commonly use digital elevation models (DEMs) derived from lidar. Unfortunately, these lidar data often provide an incomplete view of cliff geometry and failure mechanisms. For example, although terrestrial lidar may provide high data densities on the cliff face, these techniques can be used only where the coastal geometry allows access to good scanning positions, which generally occur on the fronting beach.  Unfortunately, many cliff-backed coasts do not have fronting beaches with adequate accessibility. Aerial lidar, in contrast, generally provides limited information about the cliff face owing to shadows of no data on steep and overhanging slopes.  There is great potential to improve coastal cliff studies with UAS-based aerial photography used with digital photogrammetry from Structure-from-Motion (SfM).  We propose to collect UAS-based aerial photography from California coastal cliffs near the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC) to evaluate the optimal flight and camera parameters to accurately map these steep landforms, so that cliffs can be comprehensively and routinely mapped with UAS.  The Santa Cruz region is optimal owing to its steep cliffs, high rates of cliff erosion, and close proximity to the staff and resources of PCMSC. PCMSC is well versed and experienced in the use of SfM having partnered with a multi-year airplane-based SfM program to document sediment erosion from the world’s largest dam removal project on the Elwha River, Washington, and with the successful use of SfM with historical aerial photos, land-based DSLR photos, and underwater cameras and video. The proposed UAS work has been designed to: (i) develop best practices for cliff imaging surveys, and (ii) provide the first of many georeferenced 3D surveys of to build a better understanding of cliff change and erosional processes. Once optimal strategies are developed we intend to extend these mapping techniques to longer stretches of coast with regular flights as part of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program’s (CMGP’s) mission to better understand coastal hazards.  It is our hypothesis that UAS-based mapping can become a primary technique for mapping and understanding coastal change along the shorelines of the USA.


Identification and mapping of tile drains using thermal infrared imagery: transitioning low-altitude data to satellite-data method

UAS USGS

Tanja Williamson – Indiana-Kentucky Water Science Center, Louisville, KY

Tile-drain installation has increased substantially since 2010 and has the potential to significantly change local water-budgets, leading to groundwater depletion, increased nutrient and sediment pollution, and changes to both the ecological and the human environment. However, very few counties in the U.S. regulate tile-drain installation and therefore the density and location for most of the tile drains in the U.S. is unknown.
Our objective is to use UAS to combine infrared and visible technology in order to map tile drains at established USGS study sites where ground truthing can occur. In addition, a digital surface model (DSM) of wetland features will be produced using Structure from Motion. This will:
1. Provide additional data for these sites in terms of the density and integration of tile drains with other agricultural management and connectivity of these drains to preserved, restored, and constructed wetlands. Each of these sites has a history of water quality and ecological work that would benefit from a better understanding of the tile-drain network.
2. Provide a validation set than can be extended to satellite imagery in order to refine the “signature” of tile-drained landscapes and reconstruct the expansion of tile drainage since 2000. This in turn will enable a better understanding of how changes in tile-drain density are related to changes in streamflow, water-quality, and evapotranspiration patterns.   Acquiring UAS imagery from select field sites will help transition hydrologic investigations from these individual field sites to a regional and national representation of how tile drains affect hydrologic budgets, streamflow, and water quality on a seasonal to a decadal time scale.


Using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for coastal monitoring in the Everglades– proof of concept

Scott Wilson - National Wetland Research Center, Lafayette, LA

Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) are listed as threatened. Despite statewide monitoring efforts on mainland Florida beaches to map and enumerate nesting effort for loggerheads, very little focus has been on sampling nesting females on beaches in Everglades National Park (ENP) due to their remote location. Therefore, we currently lack information on the impacts of sea level rise on nest success rates of the historically important Cape Sable sea turtle rookery, once thought to be among the largest remaining rookeries for the species, and one that may be least impacted by humans and development.  The American crocodile, once listed as endangered due to habitat loss and low nest numbers, was down-listed to threatened after a recent increase in population numbers and numbers of nests. The number of nests has increased in ENP from 11 in 1978 to a high of 117 in 2014, with a maximum of 138 in 2008. Most of the nesting increase in ENP can be attributed to the Cape Sable nesting area, where the majority of nests were on canal banks created more than 40 years ago, but where conditions were recently improved by the construction of plugs.  This field trial can show proof of concept for an alternative and cost-effective manner for monitoring nesting for these two threatened species in the remote and ecologically important Cape Sable area. In addition, we have observed nests of Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) on Cape Sable beaches. This brackish-water turtle is rare, but long-term, in-water sampling of terrapins in the Big Sable Creek complex to the north of the Cape Sable beaches appear to be stable. This field trial will be conducted to include nesting sites of terrapins, which may be visible in high-resolution aerial photography.  Additionally, it may also be possible to collect information on beach erosion that would benefit the NPS and the USGS coastal programs.  By testing a cost-effective method to locate and monitor nests on the remote Cape beaches within ENP, the proposed work addresses DOI science needs towards understanding impacts of sea level rise on threatened species, and relates directly to two of the USGS Science Strategy themes: (1) Understanding Ecosystems and Predicting Ecosystem Change; and (2) Climate Variability and Change. 


Class I UAVs Designed for Very High Resolution Aeromagnetic Surveys

Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
Contact: Geoffrey Phelps, USGS, gphelps@usgs.gov
Jeff Johnston, Mark Prouty, Rahul Mhaskar, Geometrics
John Spritzer, NASA/University of California at Santa Cruz
Bruce Quirk, Jeff Sloan, John Vogel, Jeff Sanders, David Miller, USGS
Lance Brady, BLM

The problem and the opportunity:

Geologic maps are datasets central to our understanding of the earth’s surface and subsurface. However, limited surface and subsurface data leads to significant interpretation of the geology on the part of the author for portions of virtually all geologic maps. Aeromagnetic data is an important source of data that helps constrain these interpretations and can shed light on subsurface geology. For example, in support of fault hazards, aeromagnetic data can delineate the trace of a fault in the subsurface. Or for mineral assessments, it can help determine the location of ore-bearing bodies or rocks associated with them. For hydrologic studies, aeromagnetic data can help determine the extent of a subsurface volcanic aquifer. For geomorphology investigations, high-resolution aeromagnetic data can be used to delineate sediment transport in cases where there is a distinction between magnetic and non-magnetic sediment sources.

Aeromagnetic data is superior to ground magnetic data because the data density per square area is much higher, producing space-filling maps rather than discrete profile lines. It is also less affected by anthropogenic sources such as surface debris or built structures, and therefore less noisy.

However, aeromagnetic data is typically limited by aircraft capabilities. Because the magnetic signal decays with distance from the target, detail is lost as the distance of the magnetic sensor from the target increases. Fixed wing crafts are limited to approximately 1000 feet or higher, and while helicopters can fly at lower altitudes, they are often cost-prohibitive.

Class 1 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles – the platform) are small enough to fly at altitudes < 1000 ft, and are now being integrated into the scientific mission of many projects in the USGS. However, payloads (scientific instruments) have so far been limited to imagery sensors. Magnetic sensors have not been considered because they are too heavy and require too much power for a Class 1 UAV.

A new class of magnetic sensors is being developed by Geometrics. These sensors require less power than their predecessors and are light enough to be part of a Class 1 UAV payload. The combination of platform and payload will be capable of increasing the resolution of aeromagnetic data by an order of magnitude. Furthermore, the use of a UAV allows for precise repeat surveys, and novel surveys that are too dull or dangerous for manned aircraft to fly. Local high-resolution aeromagnetic surveys will become much less expensive than their manned counterparts, and quicker to deploy.

Local high-resolution aeromagnetic surveys promise to increase our understanding of near-surface geology, including delineation of faults, ore bodies, aquifers, and sediment transport.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

Build an aeromagnetic payload on a class 1 UAV platform capable of conducting high-resolution aeromagnetic surveys, and conduct a survey in an area currently under study for Quaternary fault activity.


2015 Presentations

Note: Most presentations are password protected, request access from the IC Director.

Tuesday  
Welcome Welcome (8.2 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey - Associate Director, Natural Hazards
David Applegate
Unmanned Aircraft Program How to develop & sustain successful UAS programs for enhanced science, safety, and savings (13.2 MB)
DOI Office of Aviation Services
Mark Bathrick
UAS USGS National UAS Project Office scientific research and applications overview, (landslides, natural hazards, thermal seeps) (12 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Jeff Sloan
UAS USGS Evaluation of the Raven, a small UAS for population estimates of Sandhill Cranes, detecting Greater Sage-grouse and mapping marsh breeding bird habitat (5 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Leanne Hanson & Chris Holmquist-Johnson
UAS USGS Evaluation of TIR sensors (6 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Chris Holmquist-Johnson
UAS USGS Measuring shrinking glaciers from airborne platforms (32 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Matt Bachmann
UAS USGS Unmanned aerial and sea-surface vehicles for mapping coastal change (9 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Chris Sherwood
UAS USGS Application of a small UAS for mapping and monitoring informal diamond mining in West Africa (5.6 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Pete Chirico
UAS USGS Processing UAS imagery using Agisoft Photoscan (9 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Mark Bauer
UAS USGS The development of standards for compact imaging spectrometers (2.6 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Terry Slonecker
UAS USGS USGS UAS data management - opportunities and challenges (2.1 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Ryan Longhenry
Wednesday  
  Welcome
U. S. Forest Service
Everett Hinkley
UAS USGS UAS applications in the Pacific Region (14 MB)
U. S. Geological Survey
Gordon Tribble & Ryan Perroy
UAS USGS Customizing UAS platforms for the Federal mission: Volcano hazards example (3 MB)
NASA Ames
Robert Dahlgren
UAS USGS Unmanned Aerial Systems in the BLM: Issues and applications (7 MB)
Bureau of Land Management
Matt Bobo
UAS USGS Public private partnerships (P3) for UAS operations (2 MB)
Cherokee Nation Technologies
JC Coffey
UAS USGS USACE coastal mapping sUAS research & development (5 MB)
U. S. Army Corps of Engineers
Kate Brodie
UAS USGS The University of Florida Unmanned Aircraft Systems research program: An update on selected natural resources applications and lessons learned (254 MB)
University of Florida
Matt Burgess
  Fluid lensing algorithms: UAS mapping of bathymetry and coral communities
NASA Ames
Steve Hipskind
UAS USGS UAS in resource management applications: Opportunities and challenges (3.1 MB)
U. S. Forest Service
Everett Hinkley
UAS USGS DOI UAS Strategy: Pilot approval/certification, aircraft acquisition and access to the National Airspace System (1 MB)
DOI Office of Aviation Services
Brad Koeckeritz
Thursday  
UAS USGS Case studies and lessons learned from UAS missions flown for scientific research (6 MB)
National Park Service
Mike Story
UAS USGS UAS in support of NASA science and aeronautics research (5 MB)
NASA Ames
Matt Fladeland
UAS USGS Overview of NOAA UAS Activities (1.3 MB)
NOAA
Robbie Hood
UAS USGS UAS applications in emission sampling (1.5 MB)
Environmental Protection Agency
Brian Gullett
UAS USGS USGS UAS Workshop (40 MB)
National Forest Service
Mike Scheuermann

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