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Tuesday 24 June 2014

Students view the environment through drones

Environment and geography students from Southampton Solent University will be honing their piloting skills and taking to the skies with unmanned aerial vehicle technology, popularly known as drones, this autumn.

Having moved beyond the realms of military stealth, unmanned aircrafts have become hugely popular in commercial industries – from crop dusting to cinematic filming – and their use can open up a whole new range of possibilities in environmental surveying.

Realising their potential, the environment and geography team at the University’s Technology School has invested in four lightweight (380g) Parrot AR drones, equipped with GPS units.

“Environmental and geography scientists are currently using aerial images taken by using expensive flyovers with light aircraft, or even satellites. However, monitoring rapid environmental change requires a more responsive, flexible and cheap technology,” said Laurie Wright, lecturer of environmental sciences at Southampton Solent University.

“Parrot drones are especially useful in difficult to access environments, and can be used to gather essential information and data in a variety of situations such as the monitoring of landslips; mudflats erosion; occupancy of nest boxes; monitoring pollution incidents; and archaeological assessments,” he continued.

Students will be able to make highly accurate and detailed maps of rapidly changing environments cheaply and quickly.  With a heavier payload, they will also be able to map vegetation types and create highly accurate digital terrain maps – a significant part of assessing environmental impact, and an area of the sector many graduates go on to work in.”

“This is part of a wider push to introduce our environmental students to the cutting edge technology that is becoming commonplace in the environment sector.” says Laurie. “We are equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in the industry.”