Unoccupied Aircraft Systems (UAS) for Marine Ecosystem Restoration
Frontiers in Marine Science
Assessing, implementing and monitoring ecosystem restoration can be a labor intensive process, often short term (<3 years), and potentially destructive to the habitat. Advances in remote sensing technology are generating rapid, non-destructive methods for siting, executing and monitoring restoration efforts, particularly in fragile marine environments. Unoccupied aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, are a highly flexible method for accessing and remote sensing ecosystems with on-demand
... s, greater resolution than sensors from satellites and occupied aircraft, and the ability to cover large areas quickly. With the variety of platforms and payloads available, UASs are providing a suite of tools for conservation practitioners to properly plan marine ecosystem restoration projects and evaluate their success. Both conventional and specialized sensors coupled with image processing techniques can be used to gauge impact to and recovery of entire ecological communities. For example, high-resolution, multispectral imaging allows for discernment of population changes across trophic levels, concurrent with the discrimination of species (including rare) across a landscape, and detection of vegetation stress. Structure from Motion photogrammetric processing provides centimeter-scale three-dimensional models of habitat structure to measure ecologically significant aspects like rugosity and assess their change through time. Water quality around a broad impacted area can be remotely monitored via a number of payloads before and after restoration. Additionally, specially designed payloads can be used to manually disperse seeds or materials for restoration applications without disturbing the habitat. UASs have increasing potential to reduce the costs (both time and money) associated with restoration efforts, making site assessment and long-term, broad-scale monitoring more achievable. Here we present a review of the applications of UASs in marine ecosystem restoration with an overview of the special considerations of using this technology in the marine environment.