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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR ARID RANGELANDS

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Application of high resolution images from unmanned aerial vehicles for hydrology and range science

Authors
item Rango, Albert
item Vivoni, Enrique -
item Anderson, Cody -
item Pierini, Nolie -
item Sarapalli, Srikanth -
item Laliberte, Andrea -

Submitted to: American Geophysical Union
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 14, 2012
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: A common problem in many natural resource disciplines is the lack of high-enough spatial resolution images that can be used for monitoring and modeling purposes. Advances have been made in the utilization of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in hydrology and rangeland science. By utilizing low flight altitudes and velocities, UAVs are able to produce high resolution (5 cm) images as well as stereo coverage (with 75% forward overlap and 40% sidelap) to extract digital elevation models (DEM). Another advantage of flying at low altitude is that the potential problems of atmospheric haze obscuration are eliminated. Both small fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft have been used in our experiments over two rangeland areas in the Jornada Experimental Range in southern New Mexico and the Santa Rita Experimental Range in southern Arizona. The fixed-wing UAV has a digital camera in the wing and six-band multispectral camera in the nose, while the rotary-wing UAV carries a digital camera as payload. Because we have been acquiring imagery for several years, there are now > 31,000 photos at one of the study sites, and 177 mosaics over rangeland areas have been constructed. Using the DEM obtained from the imagery we have determined the actual catchment areas of three watersheds and compared these to previous estimates. At one site, the UAV-derived watershed area is 4.67 ha which is 22% smaller compared to a manual survey using a GPS unit obtained several years ago. This difference can be significant in constructing a watershed model of the site. From a vegetation species classification, we also determined that two of the shrub types in this small watershed(mesquite and creosote with 6.47 % and 5.82% cover, respectively) grow in similar locations(flat upland areas with deep soils), whereas the most predominant shrub(mariola with 11.9% cover) inhabits hillslopes near stream channels(with steep shallow soils). The positioning of these individual shrubs throughout the catchment using UAV image classifications is required as input to detailed watershed modeling. There are multiple advantages to UAVs for use in hydrology and rangeland science, including that coverage is less expensive while just as accurate as conventional ground measurements. The UAV guidance systems can also guarantee returning to the same location for change detection analysis. UAV capabilities also have advantages over manned aircraft because they are safer, less expensive, and can respond in a timelier manner to new flight requests. As a result, the use of UAVs for watershed and rangeland monitoring and modeling is a rapidly expanding civil application in natural resources.A common problem in many natural resource disciplines is the lack of high-enough spatial resolution images that can be used for monitoring and modeling purposes. Advances have been made in the utilization of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in hydrology and rangeland science. By utilizing low flight altitudes and velocities, UAVs are able to produce high resolution (5 cm) images as well as stereo coverage (with 75% forward overlap and 40% sidelap) to extract digital elevation models (DEM). Another advantage of flying at low altitude is that the potential problems of atmospheric haze obscuration are eliminated. Both small fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft have been used in our experiments over two rangeland areas in the Jornada Experimental Range in southern New Mexico and the Santa Rita Experimental Range in southern Arizona. The fixed-wing UAV has a digital camera in the wing and six-band multispectral camera in the nose, while the rotary-wing UAV carries a digital camera as payload. Because we have been acquiring imagery for several years, there are now > 31,000 photos at one of the study sites, and 177 mosaics over rangeland areas have been constructed. Using the DEM obtained from the imagery we have determined the actual catchment areas of three watersheds and compared these to previous estimates. At one site, the UAV-derived watershed area is 4.67 ha which is 22% smaller compared to a manual survey using a GPS unit obtained several years ago. This difference can be significant in constructing a watershed model of the site. From a vegetation species classification, we also determined that two of the shrub types in this small watershed(mesquite and creosote with 6.47 % and 5.82% cover, respectively) grow in similar locations(flat upland areas with deep soils), whereas the most predominant shrub(mariola with 11.9% cover) inhabits hillslopes near stream channels(with steep shallow soils). The positioning of these individual shrubs throughout the catchment using UAV image classifications is required as input to detailed watershed modeling. There are multiple advantages to UAVs for use in hydrology and rangeland science, including that coverage is less expensive while just as accurate as conventional ground measurements. The UAV guidance systems can also guarantee returning to the same location for change detection analysis. UAV capabilities also have advantages over manned aircraft because they are safer, less expensive, and can respond in a timelier manner to new flight requests. As a result, the use of UAVs for watershed and rangeland monitoring and modeling is a rapidly expanding civil application in natural resources.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014