Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Amazon drones: The latest weapon in combatting climate change

Date:
November 21, 2013
Source:
Wake Forest University
Summary:
A flying, insect-like robot will give an unprecedented look at Peru’s tropical cloud forest, one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems and a key indicator of global climate change.

Graduate biology student Max Messinger flies a robotic drone equipped with a visible light camera on the campus of Wake Forest University.
Credit: Will Ferguson/Wake Forest University

As U.N. climate talks continue in Warsaw, soon a flying, insect-like robot developed by scientists at Wake Forest University will give an unprecedented look at Peru's tropical cloud forest, one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems and a key indicator of global climate change.

Related Articles


A research team led by conservation biologist Miles Silman will launch two different drones to conduct climate research in the region, giving a never-before-seen bird's eye view of one of the most difficult locations in the world to study.

The drones will allow researchers to gather thermal data down to a few centimeters and visible light data down to the sub centimeter level, a big improvement over current satellite capabilities.

"This will allow us for the first time to see how individual canopies are functioning on a landscape level to fix carbon and release oxygen and water," said Max Messinger, a biology graduate student who worked with chemistry lab manager Marcus Wright to assemble and test the drones. "Once we build a better understanding of why the forest is behaving in a certain way we can start making decisions about how do we conserve this region and ensure that it continues to function."

Messenger will present on canopy leaf temperature data collected by a drone at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco Dec. 9-13.

Researchers received funding from the National Science Foundation and Wake Forest's Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability

Drones Deliver a Bird's Eye View

One of the researchers' robots, a copter drone, relies on eight small propeller units and is capable of flying at 15 mph for up to 20 minutes at a time. It can be equipped with either a conventional visible light or thermal imaging camera to gather data on everything from leaf and flower characteristics to temperature readings and animal behavior.

"We will utilize its hover capability to take off from small tree-fall gaps in the rainforest and observe things like monkeys feeding or something like that for an extended period of time," Messinger said.

Their second robot resembles a small airplane. Launched like a javelin, it uses a single electric motor and propeller to fly up to 50 mph for over an hour.

"We can map much more territory with the plane because it can fly three times farther," Messinger said. "The drawback is that it can't carry the fancier sensors we use on the copter."

Both robots are capable of taking pictures of an object from multiple viewpoints. They then use that data to build three-dimensional models that can be studied in the lab. "It works in a way that is really quite similar to how a human uses their eyes," he said.

Rather than relying on a human operator, the drones fly autonomously, using global positioning data, compass coordinates and onboard stabilization systems.

"We plug all of that info into our mission planning software, which generates the flight plan and sends it to the aircraft," Messinger said. "It is then as simple as launching it, flipping a switch and waiting for it to finish."

Drone Data Provides New Insight

To date, data about the forest canopy composed of 390 billion trees is hard to come by.

Silman, who has spent his career conducting research in the tropics, said data is currently collected via remote satellite sensing or manually from the ground or a crane.

"While there is satellite data on temperature and thermal distribution in the Amazon going back to the early 1970s, it doesn't provide the resolution necessary to build the detailed models we need," Silman said. "The only other alternative is to rent out a helicopter, which is far too expensive for any kind of continuous observation."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wake Forest University. "Amazon drones: The latest weapon in combatting climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131121091203.htm>.
Wake Forest University. (2013, November 21). Amazon drones: The latest weapon in combatting climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131121091203.htm
Wake Forest University. "Amazon drones: The latest weapon in combatting climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131121091203.htm (accessed April 21, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Searching For The Loch Ness Monster? Try Google Street View

Searching For The Loch Ness Monster? Try Google Street View

Newsy (Apr. 21, 2015) For the anniversary of the notorious "Surgeon&apos;s Photo" of the Loch Ness monster, Google used Street View to let those online join the search. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 20, 2015) An ultra-realistic humanoid robot called &apos;Han&apos; recognises and interprets people&apos;s facial expressions and can even hold simple conversations. Developers Hanson Robotics hope androids like Han could have uses in hospitality and health care industries where face-to-face communication is vital. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drones and Health Apps at Santiago's "Robotics Day"

Drones and Health Apps at Santiago's "Robotics Day"

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) Latin American robotics experts gather in Santiago, Chile for "Robotics Day". Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japan Humanoid Robot Receives Customers at Department Store

Japan Humanoid Robot Receives Customers at Department Store

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) She can smile, she can sing and she can give you guidance at one of the most upscale department stores in Tokyo...a female-looking humanoid makes her debut as a receptionist Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins