Multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UVAs) and high-resolution compact digital cameras: a promising new method for monitoring changes to surface karst resources

Carolyn Ramsey, Paul A. Griffiths, Timothy R. Stokes



In the course of doctoral research, the authors required a quick and accurate means of documenting the real-time state of surface karst features at a variety of scales in remote and challenging field conditions. The main difficulty was finding an aerial platform that was 1) consistently effective; 2) versatile; and 3) relatively inexpensive. High resolution vertical images obtained during recreational use of a small multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) seemed to have the potential to answer this need. Using five case studies, the authors examine the potential of these images for mapping, documenting, and monitoring changes to surface karst resources following forestry-related activities in the coastal temperate rainforest of British Columbia (B.C.). Possible applications, strengths and limitations of this technology are discussed. The authors conclude that mini quadcopter UAVs equipped with high-resolution compact digital cameras are a promising and cost-effective new tool for karst scientists and karst managers.

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