A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Andrew Suggitt, based in the ESI, on Penryn Campus, recently led a research project close to Penhale on the Lizard. Along with his team, Andrew was investigating the effectiveness of an up and coming monitoring technique. This monitoring makes use of the vehicles mentioned earlier, known as UAVs. A UAV is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, and is used to survey land from above with the use of cameras.

I don't doubt you have heard of drones before, often used by the army to study troop deployments or topographical features of an area. In a similar vein, ecological researchers have recently started assessing the potential for use of drones in carrying out aerial surveys of ecosystems. The advantage of a UAV drone is that it can cover a much larger area than a person on the ground is capable of in the same amount of time. Another benefit is that it can enable researchers to study previously inaccessible areas, as they can simply fly over.

SurveyHowever as with all new techniques, it is necessary to test the process extensively to ensure it is reliable. What Andrew and his team were looking at in particular is the level of accuracy obtainable through UAV surveys. To do this they carried out human vegetation surveys in precisely located points, and compared the findings to those found through the UAV survey data. While the study hasn't been finalised and published, its findings could have a major impact on the level of use of UAVs in survey work. If it is found the technique is suitably accurate surveys, which previously took, weeks could be done in days. In turn this could lead to much larger survey projects, greatly enhancing our knowledge of the current environment around us.

So while the Lizard is a tranquil, laid back part of the country don't forget that there may be cutting edge research being carried out not 5 miles from where you're sat with a Roskillys ice cream.

Published: Oct 2014Author: Owen Greenwood, Masters by Research Student and Teaching Support Lab Technician