Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV or Drone) are now often used for filming sports events (such as the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games), and have recently made the news for injuring an athlete in Western Australia, when one crashed into her during a triathlon event. However the most common use of UAVs is surveying for commercial practices (i.e. industrial inspection and land surveys) and education research surveys.
Over the winter Sam Martin (an estimator at Japanese Knotweed Ltd) assembled and fine-tuned a hexacopter UAV, with gimbal mounted HD camera. Sam will fly the UAV on a biodiversity research expedition in Cuba where high definition photography will be used to map the tropical forests. For one of the pre-trip test flights here in the UK we photographed and mapped stands of Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica).
The data gained from the expedition will be passed to the University of Havana and is thought to be the first low altitude high definition mapping of the forests in this area of the country. The data will provide an insight into the diversity of plant and tree species in these forests.
The expedition piggybacks on the annual University of the West of England(UWE) Environmental Sciences and Biology course field trip to Cuba. The UWE trip involves a week of tropical survey techniques of birds, bats and reptiles in the Cuban forest and a week of SCUBA diving to learn survey techniques on coral reefs.