City Trees

January/February 2017

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18 City Trees Municipal arboriculture will soon have an important new tool as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, also Remotely Piloted Aircraft/ RPAs, drones) take to the skies. This article will briefly explain how UAVs can be used for remote sensing of urban forests for risk assess - ment, visual inspections, pest detection, inventory data enhance- ment, and rapid response after disasters, among other tasks. Introduction The UAV revolution is here. UAVs are increasingly being used to inspect wind turbines, communication towers, utility and pipeline corridors, and other infrastructure. UAVs are often faster and safer than human inspection. One climber can inspect three or four wind turbines a day, but a UAV can inspect two turbines an hour, at a fraction of the cost, at no risk to human safety. Fortunately for municipal forestry, UAVs are increasingly being used for agricultural imaging and spray operations, which directly transfer to urban for - estry. Arborists are in the early stages of UAV adoption at this time. Today, there are two main types of UAV aircraft: fixed-wing and rotor-wing (photo above). Fixed-wing aircraft often resemble larger piloted aircraft, but also can look like flying wings. Fixed- wing aircraft generally have the longest flight times and thus cover more ground. A mission of 45-60 minutes per battery is Remote Sensing and Assessment of Urban Forests with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles By Dan Staley, Principal of Analemma Resources LLC, Aurora, Colorado typical. Rotor-wing aircraft are commonly configured with four, six, or eight rotors. Rotor-wing aircraft can hover in place and are preferred for many types of infrastructure inspection as well as imagery and cinematography. A mission of 20 minutes per bat- tery is typical. A third type of aircraft that flies as a fixed wing but has vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities was recently introduced and soon should be familiar to many foresters. The limiting factor for all three types of aircraft is current battery technology that restricts flight times. New developments in batter- ies and fuels that promise to significantly increase flight times from minutes to hours are being watched closely by the UAV industry. The UAV revolution is made possible by several intersecting factors. Computing power is no longer an obstacle, allowing collection and processing of vast amounts of data (the entire process is often called "Big Data"). Materials technology allows lighter, stronger airframes and components. Optics and sensors get more sophisticated and accurate, smaller, and less expen- sive every year. Lastly, electronic components are undergoing rapid miniaturization and UAV componentry is currently near the cutting edge of the technology. Lastly, almost all UAVs have advanced electronics such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that allow precisely pro- The two main types of UAVs in 2016, rotor-wing (photo courtesy author) and fixed-wing (courtesy PrecisionHawk).

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