News

Marine Debris Detection with UAS, Machine Learning, and Polarimetric Imaging

Article and Figures Provided By Project Team: NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (MDP), and Oregon State University (OSU)

Kenneth Vierra 0 259 Article rating: No rating

Marine debris, human-made material that is discarded or abandoned into the marine environment, is a pervasive problem plaguing shorelines around the world. Marine debris poses serious threats to wildlife, degrades coastal and marine environments, and can negatively impact the Blue Economy (e.g., tourism, shipping, and fisheries).  NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (MDP), as the U.S. Federal lead for assessment, prevention, and removal of debris, works with partners across the Nation  to conduct debris shoreline surveys to identify debris accumulations, locations, and sources as part of the Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project (MDMAP).  Data from these surveys have been used to assess spatial and temporal trends in shoreline debris, inform behavior change campaigns focusing on specific items and assess the effectiveness of legislation targeting specific items. In this project, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), NOAA’s MDP, and Oregon State University (OSU) partnered to investigate three emerging technologies with the potential to transform how marine debris shoreline surveys are conducted: uncrewed aircraft systems (UxS), machine learning, and polarimetric imaging (PI) cameras.    

This innovative technology and corresponding operations were funded and supported by the OAR Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (UxSRTO).

First Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) UAS Mission to Map and Count Penguins in Antarctica

Article and Figures Provided By: Trevor Joyce and Jefferson Hinke

Kenneth Vierra 0 1263 Article rating: 5.0

A key mission of the Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD) at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) is to develop an understanding of how an international krill fishery operating in Antarctic waters may impact other Antarctic wildlife that consume the main target of this fishery: Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Three species of brush-tailed penguins (Pygocelis spp.) nesting in the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula primarily or exclusively consume Antarctic krill. Over the last three decades AERD scientists have monitored the number of penguin chicks raised each year by Adelie (Pygocelis adeliae), Gentoo (Pygocelis papua), and Chinstrap (Pygocelis antarcticus) penguin as one important indicator of how these populations are responding to natural variability and to the impacts of the krill fishery.


During this project Dr. Trevor Joyce, a contractor affiliated with the SWFSC’s Marine Mammal and Turtle Division, and Dr. Jefferson Hinke from AERD flew a series of Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) missions at AERD’s Copacabana Field Camp on King George Island, Antarctica (62.178°S, 58.446°W) using the FireFly6 Pro fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS. The purpose of these flights was to collect very high-resolution aerial images (0.7-1.2 cm ground sampling resolution) of the penguin colonies in order to count the number of penguin chicks produced in the current breeding season.

NOAA GML Scientists Successfully Test the “High-Altitude Operational Returning Uncrewed System” Glider with AirCore Science Package to 75,000 feet MSL

Article and Figures Provided By: Colm Sweeney and Bianca Baier

Kenneth Vierra 0 1335 Article rating: 4.0

Recent flight testing of the “High-altitude Operational Returning Uncrewed System” (HORUS) at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and Edwards Air Force Base, California between May 13-25, 2021 marks a huge success within NOAA. Scientists from NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML) and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) tested the ability to launch and recover the uncrewed HORUS glider and its AirCore science payload with operations up to 75,000 ft above mean sea level (MSL). The reusable platform and AirCore instrument ascended into the upper atmosphere, attached to a balloon before being released. It then collected air samples vertically from 72,000 ft MSL down to a predetermined landing spot during its remotely controlled, designed, spiraling descent. Reaching speeds of more than 200 knots at the beginning of the glide phase, HORUS was able to make up for the downwind drift caused by the 60+ knot wind speeds it had encountered around 40,000 feet MSL during its earlier balloon ascent. The successful testing brings the NOAA/OMAO Uncrewed Systems Operation Center (UxSOC) funded; and NOAA/OAR Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (UxSRTO) supported HORUS development to a Readiness Level of 8. This marks an exciting opportunity for many other NOAA atmospheric research stakeholders because HORUS enables the deployment and retrieval of high-value, balloon-borne packages from a designated launch and recovery location, even when strong mid-level wind conditions can be expected.  With the HORUS, scientists can much more efficiently collect critical, higher-accuracy atmospheric measurements from all over the world to help improve weather and climate models, which have been limited until now because of the inability to effectively retrieve and reuse valuable sensor packages in areas where conditions and a lack of such technology have prohibited the realization of this novel concept.

Advances in Monitoring Restoration of Juvenile Salmon Habitat with Drones

Article and Figures Provided By: G. Curtis Roegner (NMFS)

Kenneth Vierra 0 1616 Article rating: 5.0

Juvenile Pacific salmon rely on functioning wetlands for food and shelter as they migrate to the sea. In the Pacific Northwest, most wetland habitats have been lost or severely impacted, necessitating widespread restoration programs enacted to improve connectivity between water systems and reestablish native vegetation. Programs may include varied ecological engineering solutions, but all require monitoring to assess effectiveness. Until recently, assessments have lacked spatial and temporal resolution and have been time-consuming and expensive. 

 

With funding and logistical support from the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (USRTO), scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have developed integrated remote sensing protocols using Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (drones), advanced instrumentation, and image analysis methods that together facilitate a broad habitat assessment capability. 

UAS Characterization of High Wind Damage to Vegetation and Rural Area Assessments

Article and Figures Provided By: Melissa Wagner (NSSL/CIMM)

Kenneth Vierra 0 1784 Article rating: No rating

Damage assessments provide insight into the occurrence, intensity, and distribution of tornadoes and other high-wind events. Current ground survey and satellite assessments, however, are restricted by available resources (e.g., personnel, time, and cost), accessibility, technological limitations, and damage indicators used to infer storm intensity. These assessments can be especially challenging in rural areas because storm damage is frequently underestimated due to the inability to detect vegetation stress, limited vegetation damage indicators, and low population density. In these sparsely populated areas, storm damage is often underreported and consequently affects severe storm climatology and our understanding of risk. Underestimating this risk can have serious implications on hazard monitoring as well as disaster preparedness and recovery in rural areas. With the help of the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (USRTO), scientists from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory in collaboration with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies are working on developing an uncrewed aircraft system (UAS)-based approach to better characterize high-wind damage to vegetation and in rural areas to improve disaster response and recovery.

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