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Addressing Natural Resource Concerns with Drones

Early this year in March, Butler SWCD was awarded an Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF) Mini Grant to purchase a drone to kick start our Aerial Imagery Conservation Education program. This program will utilize drones, also known as small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to educate landowners and farmers on the natural resource concerns found on their property. In addition, it will provide hands-on educational opportunities for children at events to experience technology used for conservation purposes.

Butler SWCD was the first organization selected by OEEF to fund the purchase of drone technology. This unique program will bring a different perspective to land management that we have not seen before. For example, we have the capabilities to capture near infrared (NIR) imagery, which is a range of wavelengths strongly reflected by vegetation. We can use this to detect presence/absence of vegetation or assess vegetation health since healthy and abundant green vegetation has stronger reflectance of NIR. Drones can also provide higher resolution imagery compared to satellite images, seeing that they are flown close to the ground (with a maximum regulated height of 400ft). The adjacent images of the ground can then be ‘stitched’ together to create a high quality map of a property.

Many people do not realize that any drone activity for research or business purposes has to be conducted with a FAA Part 107 certified drone pilot present. Fortunately, our Urban Specialist has her certification and drone experience. If you are a landowner within Butler County and think you would be interested in participating in this program, please contact Madeline Maurer at 513-785-6664.

Coming this November (2019), Butler SWCD will host a UAV Natural Resource Management workshop at the Cincinnati Nature Center. This workshop will help organizations or landowners understand how they can use drone technology to manage their property. Keep an eye out for more details soon.

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