News

2015-10-02

Unmanned Aircraft in Canadian Wildlife Study
In a portion of Manitoba, Canada, so remote you have to fly in by helicopter, a research team led by the University of North Dakota and the American Museum of Natural History spent the summer in the polar bear capital of the world deploying the latest tool – Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) — in a nearly five-decade-old ecological study.


As part of the “Hudson Bay Project,” a collaborative research program that includes partners from the U.S. and Canada, the group conducted nearly 90 test flights from Wapusk National Park to show that UAS can be used to study non-invasively the overabundant geese in the region and their impact on the tundra landscape. In addition to combining effectiveness and efficiency, the single unmanned aircraft used by the team generated more than 80,000 detailed images last June and July—UAS studies are also safer than foot surveys that put researchers at risk of encounters with bears.
“This technology has propelled us well into the 21st century,” said Robert Rockwell, a research associate in the Museum’s Department of Ornithology and a senior scientist of the Hudson Bay Project. Rockwell, who has been counting geese in the area since the late 1960s, teamed up last year with UND biologists Susan Ellis-Felege, Robert Newman, Chris Felege, UAS expert Michael Corcoran, and students Andrew Barnas and Sam Hervey to explore the use of UAS at the remote Canadian camp.

“We have been able to enhance and extend our geographical coverage, and to do it in a way that precludes potential disturbances of the very ecosystem we are studying,” Rockwell said. “It also helps us avoid confrontation with the ever-present bears, the region’s top predators. The first year’s operations were a grand success by any measure, and I look forward to expanding our efforts in 2016 and beyond.”

The team is the first to be given permits to develop UAS technology in a national park in Canada. The new tool allows freedom to monitor the ecosystem from the air and greatly extends the range of monitoring activity, providing the kind of view and access previously only afforded by helicopters, but with much less noise and expense. The researchers’ vehicle of choice is a 5.5-pound Styrofoam flyer that launches via catapult and is programed to follow transects while taking photos at one-second intervals. The imagery is then stitched together to form a picture of the ground below. From about 250 feet up, the aircraft’s belly camera clearly captures snow geese (blue and white varieties) and their goslings, different types of vegetation and damaged areas, and other bird species like sandhill cranes, tundra swans, bald eagles, and herring gulls.

To gauge how the local wildlife responds as the aircraft flies nearby, the researchers placed video cameras near goose and eider duck nests. They found that the animals generally ignored the aircraft, even when in close proximity to the launch sites.
“Once we’re set up, the birds didn’t seem to pay attention to the aircraft,” said Ellis-Felege. “But to confirm nesting bird responses, we are now reviewing camera footage and sound recordings from the nests to determine if they show any responses to this small aircraft flying above them.”

That is important not only to the nature of the work, but also to the park managers and the indigenous people who have a “don’t touch and don’t disturb” philosophy, said Rockwell. “Using UAS allows us to respect those wishes and cultural considerations,” he said.

Before starting the study, the team underwent extensive training to receive a Special Flight Operations Certificate. The flights are conducted through the approval of both Parks Canada and Transport Canada.

“Flight crews, including the biologists, initially received factory training that instructed them how to professionally operate the air vehicle, and they continue to build their science and aviation skills as the project moves forward,” Corcoran said.
The technology does have limitations: the vehicle must be in sight at all times during flight, so helicopters are still necessary to transport the equipment to areas of interest that are far away from the electric-fence-protected camp. But based on their initial tests, the researchers expect that UAS will be extremely beneficial in learning more about nesting and nest failure in the region—an increasingly important topic as the changing Arctic climate is causing bears to consume alternative food sources like geese and their eggs.

Unmanned aircrafts also could be used to study the area’s predators by identifying “day beds,” flattened grass areas that mark where polar and grizzly bears rested on land. Researchers can then go on targeted field trips to collect hair left in the beds for genetic testing that provides details about the local population.

Funding for the study was provided by the North Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, UND College of Arts and Sciences, UND Office of the Provost, Parks Canada and Wapusk National Park, the Central and Mississippi Flyway Councils, the Arctic Goose Joint Venture, and Anne Via.


Region:  USA and Canada
Contry:  Canada
Category:  UAV


Camcopter in Canadian Ice-Breaking Operations

2016-04-19
Camcopter in Canadian Ice-Breaking Operations
At the end of March 2016 at Fogo Island in Canada, Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) successfully demonstrated its capabilities to a host of dignitaries from the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy, Transport Canada, the Canadian National Research Council and the University of Alaska in partnership with the Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“Flying Saucer” Drone Use Sound Waves to Battle Blazes

2016-04-17
“Flying Saucer” Drone Use Sound Waves to Battle Blazes
A Canadian inventor is fanning the flames of innovation with a new concept that could revolutionize UAV firefighting technology.

Mussel farmers to test drones against sea ducks

2015-11-11
Mussel farmers to test drones against sea ducks

The P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance will test drones later this month as a method of keeping sea ducks off their mussel socks.

'World's fastest' 3-D printed drone takes flight

2015-11-10
'World's fastest' 3-D printed drone takes flight

What is believed to be world's first jet-powered 3-D printed drone, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour, was on display for the first time at the Dubai Airshow on Monday.

Researchers turn a swarm of drones into a physical hologram

2015-11-07
Researchers turn a swarm of drones into a physical hologram
The augmented reality interface in Minority Report was futuristic, but what it lacked were objects that you could physically touch, according to researchers from Queens University. The problem is that the film's virtual interface floats in mid-air, and physical objects tend to be ground-bound. 

NAV Canada CEO: ‘Jail time’ needed for reckless UAV operators

2015-10-10
NAV Canada CEO: ‘Jail time’ needed for reckless UAV operators

Recreational users operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) near airports should be subject to criminal penalties, NAV Canada president and CEO John Crichton said.

Drone attacks frighten geese away from Petrie Island

2013-08-21
Drone attacks frighten geese away from Petrie Island
OTTAWA — Fed up with geese fouling the grass and water at its Petrie Island beaches, the city government is calling in drone strikes.

STaFF® : The drone to save life and forest

2013-08-09
STaFF® : The drone to save life and forest
Fly-n-Sense designs and sells compact UAV based systems operating in autonomous or assisted mode, via a ground control station.

Phoenix Aerial Systems Develops Worlds Smallest Commercial Unmanned Aerial LiDAR Platform

2013-08-01
Phoenix Aerial Systems Develops Worlds Smallest Commercial Unmanned Aerial LiDAR Platform
Phoenix Aerial Systems, a leading manufacturer of unmanned aerial platforms, announced today that they have successfully developed and demonstrated the world’s smallest and lightest UAV LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) platform available.

Aeryon Labs Announces the Aeryon SkyRanger sUAS

2013-05-23
Aeryon Labs Announces the Aeryon SkyRanger sUAS
Aeryon Labs (www.aeryon.com) launches the Aeryon SkyRanger™ small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS). This new Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) system features an all-new airframe and integrated design