During the next four weeks, Michigan TechUniversity will conduct a series of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or “drone” flights over the Hiawatha National Forest on Stonington (Wedens Bay area) and Garden (Ogontz Bay area) Peninsulas. The Federal Aviation Administration-approved flights, which began this week, will gather information to assess the health and condition of the National Forest’s Great Lakes coastal wetlands.
“The U.S. Forest Service is excited to partner with Michigan Tech to gather data and imagery that will help the nation maintain healthy Great Lakes ecosystems,” said Jim Ozenberger, a Soil, Water and Landscape Ecologist with the Hiawatha National Forest.
The data gathered will be utilized to maintain habitat for near-shore fisheries of the Great Lakes, habitats for migrating birds, water quality and hydrologic functioning. In addition, the information will be useful for management of non-native, invasive species such as non-native phragmites, coastal wetland ecological types as well as topographic features such as roads, bridges and levies.
“This is a new application of technology, so these flights will also serve as a “proof-of-concept” test of the technology, data transfer and analysis,” states Curtis Edson, Assistant Professor of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems at Michigan Tech.
After this year’s flights are complete, the flight logistics and process will be reviewed and refined so that in future years the project can be expanded to address the remainder of the National Forest’s Great Lakes coastline.