Environmental monitoring: the turning point of drones

Environmental monitoring: the turning point of drones

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Environmental monitoring revolutionized by 7Kg of drone able to travel at 5 m / s and “observe”. Thing? All that is needed for a good one environmental monitoring: forests, lakes, glaciers, places that were often inaccessible before. At least from above. Born from the collaboration between a leading Italian company in the construction of drones and l’University of Milan-Bicocca, the HyUAV, as this drone for environmental monitoring is called, is one of a kind. The professor of the Department of Environmental and Land Sciences and Earth Sciences,Sergio Cogliati, explains why.

1) Welcome "drone with infrared eyes for environmental monitoring", but what parameters does it monitor?

The drone with the infrared eyes, technically Hyperspectral Unmanned Airborne Veichle (HyUAV), also used for the environmental monitoring, in addition to providing high resolution “aerial” images, it allows to measure the spectral response of small areas in the visible and near-infrared. By analyzing the characteristics of this response in terms of shape and intensity, it is possible to recognize the different types of surfaces and quantify their chemical and physical parameters. For example in the world of environmental monitoring, in particular on vegetation, one of the main applications is the quantification of the content of chlorophyll some plants.

2) How much does an environmental monitoring drone like these weigh? How fast does it fly and what altitude does it reach?

The drone used for the environmental monitoring, Anteos, is produced by the company Aermatic. The aircraft is a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) drone with 4 electric rotors that weighs 7 kg and can carry a maximum load of scientific equipment up to 2Kg. Anteos reaches a maximum speed of 5 m / s. There are no physical and technological limits to the flight altitude, the main limits are dictated by the Italian legislation which does not allow to exceed a maximum altitude of a few tens of meters.

3) In what circumstances, in the field of environmental monitoring, are they particularly useful?

Drones, even in the environmental monitoring as elsewhere, they are a useful tool when a bird's eye view of small areas is required without resorting to aircraft. For example in the field ofprecision agriculture Timely and frequent monitoring of agricultural crops is needed to improve production by optimizing irrigation and fertilization. Drones are also essential for detecting areas that are difficult to access for humans, for example, again for the environmental monitoring, to map the deposition of atmospheric dust on alpine glaciers.

4) How long have they been in use? Are there further possible developments in the field of environmental monitoring?

Drone technology has been in development for more than a decade for military purposes, one of the first civilian uses dates back to the mid-2000s: the NASA used them for mapping large forest fires in California. It is about environmental monitoring also in this case. Today different entities develop drones and offer environmental monitoring using drones in which technology and autonomous flight capabilities evolve day after day: the problem is use in safety.

5) What is the peculiarity of these drones for environmental monitoring compared to others?

L'HyUAV was born from the collaboration between a leading Italian company in the construction of drones and theUniversity of Milan-Bicocca. HyUAV is unique of its kind for two reasons: it is a drone dedicated to professional use, environmental monitoring, and the sensor is capable of providing data that can be used in a variety of applications monitoring agricultural areas, woods and forests and water bodies such as lakes, for example.

6) What is the value of one of these drones so useful for environmental monitoring?

The drone used Anteos is designed and developed according to rigorous aeronautical safety criteria, is authorized by ENAC and the pilots must be trained and certified by ENAC. This process inevitably leads to higher costs. The optical sensors on board of Anteos are of the "low-cost" type (a few miles of euro), then the costs of software applications dedicated to image processing and spectral data.

7) In what other areas, besides environmental monitoring, can drones with infrared sensors be used?

There are numerous applications in the field of environmental monitoring, but as many are addressed to the world of surveillance and / or security in the industrial field and for public safety. Some of these applications concern the inspection of large industrial plants and warehouses in a systematic way with them optical sensors in the infrared.

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