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UAVs for alien plant species detection and monitoring

GISAT contributes to the development and establishing of new innovative methodology for early detection and monitoring of selected invasive plant species using UAV remote sensing methods.

Plant invasions represent a serious threat to modern changing landscapes. They have devastating economic impacts, affect human health, and threaten biodiversity and ecosystem functionality. Despite the growing worldwide efforts to control and eradicate invasive species, their menace and abundance grows. This leads to growing research interest in this field. New techniques of fast and precise monitoring providing information on the spatial structure of invasions are needed in order to implement efficient management strategies

The project aims at developing innovative methods of mapping invasive plant species by using purposely designed unmanned aircraft (UAV). The methodology will be tested on two herb and two tree invasive species: giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), knotweed (Fallopia japonica; F. sachalinensis; and F. bohemica), tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). All selected species belong to the hundred most aggressive invaders according to the European database of invasive species DAISIE.

The goal is to establish fast, repeatable and efficient computer-assisted method of timely monitoring, reducing the costs of extensive field campaigns. For finding the best detection algorithm various classification approaches (object-, pixel-based and hybrid) are tested. Thanks to its flexibility and low cost, UAV enables assessing the effect of phenological stage and spatial resolution, and is most suitable for monitoring the efficiency of eradication efforts. However, several challenges exist in UAV application, such as geometrical and radiometric distortions, high amount of data to be processed and legal constrains for the UAV flight missions over urban areas (often highly invaded).

Developed methodology will be applicable in both monitoring of existing invasions and early detection of invasion onset, i.e. in a phase when eradication measures are significantly more effective and less expensive compared to later stages of invasion. Resulting combination of UAV data acquisition and semi-automatic image exploitation procedures will serve as a base of a new service bringing the monitoring results to customers (invasive species researchers, management practitioners and policy makers) in fast and effective manner.

The project team is formed by three partners, Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences (project lead), Institute for Aerospace Engineering of Brno University of Technology and Gisat.

The project is funded through the ALFA programme run by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic. The programme aims to support applied research and experimental development especially in the field of advanced technologies, materials and systems, energy resources and the protection and creation of the environment and the sustainable development of transport.

Gisat provides wide range of geoinformation services based on Earth Observation technology. It focuses on operational application of satellite mapping to monitor various aspects of our environment and development of dedicated web based platforms for geoinformation analysis and assessment
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