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SWCD Expands Aerial Conservation Program

Since 2019 Butler SWCD has employed the use of drones as a tool for conservation. Our first drone, a DJI Phantom 4 Pro was paid for through a grant by the Ohio EPA Environmental Education Fund Grant. Originally purchased to conduct invasive species surveys and identify populations of amur honeysuckle though the use of the onboard Near Infrared sensor, we soon learned that the applications were endless. Promotional videos to help improve the quality of the Districts YouTube videos, determining crop stress, and stream surveys are just a few of the additional applications we discovered.

Through a drone training course offered by Purdue Extension, SWCD staff were able to gain the knowledge necessary in preparation of taking the FAA exam and obtaining their license to operate a drone. Thanks to this educational opportunity Butler SWCD now has two licensed pilots on staff, with goals to add at least one more. Multiple pilots are important due to increasing workload and a new exciting partnership with the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Districts and the USDA. Soon SWCD pilots will be traversing the state conducting aerial surveys on conservation projects.

Due to this partnership and increased workload the Butler SWCD board of supervisors approved the purchase of a new DJI Mavic3 equipped with sub inch accuracy photographic survey equipment. This means topographic surveys can be done faster and more efficiently without sacrificing accuracy. In the past, it was necessary to lug heavy survey equipment into the field, sometimes requiring the use of an off road vehicle. With a drone we can operate in most weather and field conditions without having to enter a field.

The future of drone technology is bright and Butler SWCD looks forward to exploring the possibilities of this new addition to our toolbox.



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