On the Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Environmental Monitoring


Environmental monitoring plays a central role in diagnosing climate and management impacts on natural and agricultural systems, enhancing the understanding hydrological processes, optimizing the allocation and distribution of water resources, and assessing, forecasting and even preventing natural disasters. Nowadays, most monitoring and data collection systems are based upon a combination of ground-based measurements, manned airborne sensors or satellite observations. These data are utilized in describing both small and large scale processes, but have spatiotemporal constraints inherent to each respective collection system. Bridging the unique spatial and temporal divides that limit current monitoring platforms is key to improving our understanding of environmental systems. In this context, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) have considerable potential to radically evolve environmental monitoring. UAS-mounted sensors offer an extraordinary opportunity to bridge the existing gap between field observations and traditional air- and space-borne remote sensing, by providing not just high spatial detail over relatively large areas in a cost effective way, but as importantly providing an entirely new capacity for enhanced temporal retrieval. As well as showcasing recent advances in the field, there is also a need to identify and understand the potential limitations of UAS technology. For these platforms to reach their monitoring potential, a wide spectrum of unresolved issues and applications specific challenges require focused community attention. Indeed, to leverage the full potential of UAS-based approaches, sensing technologies, measurement protocols, post-processing techniques, retrieval algorithms and evaluations techniques need to be harmonized. In this context, a network of scientists is currently cooperating within the framework of a COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action named “Harmonious”. The intention of “Harmonious” is to promote monitoring strategies, establish harmonized monitoring practices, and transfer most recent advances on UAS methodologies to others within a global network.